Welcome to Part 3 of our blog series on strategies for building and executing a winning transformation program. In the first blog post, we discussed the importance of engaging and empowering frontline managers in your transformation. Our second blog post discusses the importance of building a good program roadmap and iterating on that plan throughout your transformation. In our final post, we’ll discuss the importance of investing in change management to enable successful transformation.

No matter what kind of transformation journey you are embarking on – process redesign, IT modernization, an advanced analytics platform, a digital transformation, workforce changes, or something else – we’d be willing to bet that the success of your project requires people transformation. In our experience, the people changes are often more difficult than the process or technology changes. They’re also the most important.

So, in our experience helping organizations drive successful transformation efforts, we focus a lot of time and energy on change management. While there’s all sorts of dense academic books and methodologies about change management, we like to keep it simple and follow three guidelines for managing change: engage employees early & understand the why, leverage the right tools, and communicate profusely.

Engage Employees Early & Understand the “Why”

As discussed in our first blog post, one key tactic to get employee buy-in is to engage frontline managers and employees early in your transformation journey. Ask them for their ideas and input, actually listen to them, and incorporate their ideas into your plan. This will go a long way in building your change coalition. While you may be able to involve a small number of them in your transformation planning, you’re still likely to have hundreds or thousands of other employees who aren’t intimately involved in developing the plan. For those team members, you have an important job in the first 90 days of your transformation, and that is to engage with them.

More specifically, you should seek to achieve two key things when engaging with employees early in a transformation project:

  1. Communicate the vision and reasons – No one likes to change for the sake of change, so your first job is to communicate the transformation vision and the reasons for the change. Explain the internal challenges, changing market conditions, technology disruption, or other factors driving the change. Sell the vision and create a sense of urgency about the project.
  2. Figure out if they’re bought in or resistant to the changes and understand why – Through in-person conversations, manager feedback, engagement surveys, or other mediums, figure out who your project promoters and resisters are. More importantly, seek to understand why they feel that way. Change resisters are sometimes branded as “bad apples,” but they may be resisting for very logical reasons such as:
    • Lack of awareness of why a change is needed
    • Impact on current job role
    • Organization’s past performance with change
    • Lack of visible support and commitment from managers
    • Fear of job loss

Understanding why employees are resisting the transformation will help you address their concerns. You can tailor your communications plan, roll-out strategy, and training approach to meet employees where they are in their personal change journey.

Leverage the Right Tools

In addition to engaging early, it is critical to have a robust change management plan in place. To set your project up for success and help drive employee buy-in , we recommend adopting a proven change methodology (we like Prosci’s ADKAR model), and developing and using at least four key tools:

  1. Change Playbook – The change playbook articulates the desired change and is tailored to the specific project effort. The playbook defines the vision and scope of the desired change, documents the change approach and tools, lays out the sponsorship model, and identifies the resources responsible for facilitating the change and their relationship to the project teams.
  2. Stakeholder Analysis – The stakeholder assessment identifies the groups and individuals affected by the change and gauges their support of the initiative as well as their influence or power over the success of the project. The assessment documents how the project will impact their work from a people, processes, and technology perspective.
  3. Readiness Assessment – The readiness assessment uses a series of questions and weighted scores to gauge how prepared and willing groups or individuals are to make the desired change. This can highlight specific resistance and/or adoption risks to the project which should be actively managed with a tailored communication plan.
  4. Communication Plan – The communication plan documents the overall communication strategy for the project. It defines the tools, methods, frequency, content, and audiences for all project messaging. The intent of the communication plan is to drive transparency and build alignment and support for sustainable change.

The key with all these tools is to keep it simple – don’t get bogged down in the academic side of things; use common sense, think about how this will affect employees, and implement simple strategies to help support them through the changes.

Communicate Profusely

Last, but certainly not least, communicate profusely. Identify key audiences for project messaging, determine the objectives for your communications, and define the tools, methods, and frequency of all messaging. Remember that communication is a two-way street: you must give your employees an avenue for providing feedback and asking questions. And don’t be afraid to get creative – if your whole communication plan relies on email, you’re probably not going to succeed.

So what does a good communications plan look like? We encourage our clients to think about five key objectives when building out the transformation strategy for a transformation project:

  1. Address the questions on the minds of the stakeholders.
    • What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?
    • Is there a risk if we don’t change?
    • What are the reasons driving this change?
  2. Communicate key messages multiple times to ensure they are being heard but use caution not to overload the audience.
  3. Use a variety of communication tools (face to face whenever possible) and ensure the audience has a vehicle for giving feedback.
  4. Continuously monitor the effectiveness of communications; be willing to adjust if the desired results are not being achieved.
  5. Utilize executive leadership and direct supervisors to communicate change messages whenever possible.

If you engage with your employees in the right way, develop and use the right tools, and communicate profusely, you will dramatically increase the probability of your project’s success.

Learn more about Sense Corp and our transformation capabilities at www.sensecorp.com.

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