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Change Management Learning Center - managing change library


 

A Thirst for Change Leadership - the debate continues

Debated by Jeff Hiatt, Tim Creasey, Melissa Dutmers, Dr. James Johnson and Adrienne Boyd

Read the introduction to the debate to learn more about this panel and their background.

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Jeff Hiatt

Tim Creasey

Melissa Dutmers

Dr. James Johnson

Adrienne Boyd

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Round 4 - The most effective change management strategies

In this fourth debate, the panel will discuss different options and methods for managing change.

 

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Jeff Hiatt

For this debate we will be discussing the various options and methods through which managers and change agents can manage change.  I have compiled a top-10 list that summarizes the most common change management strategies based on Prosci's research with more than 700 organizations over a four year period. These change management areas represent the most commonly applied methods. The panelists have been instructed to avoid jumping to the answer that all 10 are important. They have been asked to select and be an advocate for the most important or impacting strategy for managing change. The top-ten are:

  1. Change readiness assessments (assessing employees and managers in areas such as culture and values, past changes, employee readiness and resistance)
  2. Communications (includes communication planning and communication activities)
  3. Training (education and training programs to build skills and knowledge)
  4. Executive sponsorship (the visible actions by business leaders)
  5. Incentive and reward programs (ranging from small incentive programs to compensation changes)
  6. Employee feedback (enabling employees to openly share their thoughts and feelings about the change)
  7. Supervisor's direct coaching to employees (helping individual employees through the change process)
  8. Resistance management (tactics for systematically managing resistance)
  9. Sacrificial lamb (visibly removing a key manager that is an obstacle to change)
  10. Employee participation (involving employees in the design of the change)

 

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Dr. James Johnson (JJ)

Having managed people at all levels of the organization, I believe that the group that has the toughest job in change management is the front-line supervisors.

From the front-line supervisors' perspective, they are at the bottom of the food chain. They must carry their employees kicking and screaming into the new environment. It can appear as change for change's sake or the next "flavor of the month." Their change management techniques run the spectrum from:

A. bargain with the employees to make the change with little or no resistance

B. tell the employees to "go with the flow" and that in a couple weeks, "this too shall pass"

C. send them to training

D. threaten the employees if there is any resistance

 

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Adrienne Boyd

I think supervisors have more options than that.  I am an advocate for beginning with readiness assessments and I believe they are the most important of the top-ten.  Change assessments allow change agents to prepare for change by understanding which employees are going to need bargaining, training, incentives or other special interventions.  They allow supervisors to be proactive in their planning.  Readiness assessments can even be applied to all levels - from front line to top executives. They tell an organization what communications each individual needs.  They tell who to communicate with, what to communicate, when communication is needed, and how much communication and persuasion is needed for each individual.  

 

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Dr. James Johnson (JJ)

I would be concerned about over rating the value and role of readiness assessments. They are a common tool used by outside consultants to become familiar with the culture and the organization. However, 80% of what is learned with readiness assessments is already known by experienced managers inside the business. As I was saying before, supervisors play the key role. The list I provided was not intended to be the final list. Unfortunately, these are the typical activities of supervisors that lack change management training. If supervisors are properly equipped to manage change, they can become change advocates and role models. They will find ways to not only help employees through the transition, but to involve employees in the process thereby building ownership for the change.

 

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Melissa Dutmers

Each change initiative is different, therefore I would say the first step change agents must take is to review this "top 10" list and use judgement on which tactics will most likely render positive results. From my own personal experience, I believe executive sponsorship is a must. Change leaders must show alignment with senior management's business objectives. Gaining executive sponsorship is the first step to verify that the change you are trying to implement aligns well with your senior management's business objectives. Alignment, alignment, alignment.

Second, using every vehicle possible to communicate about the change and how the change will affect people in the organization makes sense. If people don't know "what" the change is and "why" it's being implemented, then "how" to implement the change is a mute point.  Finally, back your words up by behaviors and actions that support the change. Reward the right behaviors. If you're saying one thing, and your behaviors and actions are sending a different message - you will lose credibility.

 

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Jeff Hiatt

I appreciate the emphasis on communicating with employees. However, a common mistake that I encounter with change management teams is when they equate change management with communications. They rush to share information about the change, including putting their CEO or business leader out in front of employees to deliver the initial messages. Teams often follow this initial flurry of communications with a newsletter or email announcements. These first steps are not wrong. On the contrary, they are critical. Unfortunately, many teams believe that this is the bulk of their change management responsibility. What is missing here is a context for what results are achieved with these initial activities, and what is yet to be achieved in the change management process.

In other words, what goal was achieved with these communications, and what still needs to be accomplished to successfully manage the change. It is like taking a cruise. When you arrive at the ship to depart, information is provided to you about the departure time. Later on, the captain comes on the loud speaker, talks about the journey ahead and tells all passengers to "get on board, the ship is departing soon." Right before departure, a final announcement is made for all to board the ship. Anchors are pulled up and tie lines are released. All of these verbal and visual messages signal that the ship is ready to leave. These type of communications are like early management communications about change at work. However, like the cruise, these communications simply launch the ship. The journey has just begun -- the fun, storms and challenges all lie ahead. This is why a structured process for change management is necessary to implement the right strategies from this top-ten list at the right time.

 

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Tim Creasey

In response to the above comments, I have one question. This is a question that one of my professors frequently asks: "Towards what end?" The notion is that while all of these tools may be important, you as a change agent must first answer "towards what end?" Regarding assessments, they may provide you insight into where you are, but before spending the time and money, be sure to answer "towards what end?". How are you going to use the assessments to support your change efforts? Communication is the same way. While communication is critical to successful change, before sending an email or posting an announcement, be sure to answer "towards what end?". I think Jeff's comments are right on target - some managers rush communications without understanding their role in the larger picture of change management. They lack a change management framework overall.

So, which of the top-10 do I think is the most important? I would have to go with #7, supervisor's direct coaching. My logic is this:

1) the 'end' for change management is making a new way of doing things successful,

2) ultimately, it is the front-line employees (also called adopters or targets) who must perform the new way of doing things,

3) supervisors are the single most important factor in getting employees to adopt the new way of doing things.

All of the other tools in the top-10 list are important, but to be successful, change agents must work where the rubber meets the road - at the desks and workstations of the front-line employees and their supervisors.

 

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Melissa Dutmers

I like J.J.'s and Tim's focus on coaching and the need to support employees, to personalize the change for employees, to inspire employees. I am in the throws of a significant change initiative right now. I have all these tools and knowledge available to me to manage the change and I must admit, change management is hard! Here's why... I will address Tim's comments directly.

Tim noted, "So, which of the top-10 do I think is the most important? I would have to go with #7, supervisor's direct coaching. My logic is this: the 'end' for change management is making a new way of doing things successful."

The 'end' is the vision. JFK pointed to the vision - he declared that we would go to the moon. The end result, the success, was landing on the moon. Managers, supervisors, change leaders must paint that vision, they point to the moon, they speak to the values and behaviors that support the vision. Leaders inspire others to act on that vision. JFK didn't dictate how we were going to get to the moon. He simply pointed in the direction. The people that made it real embraced the vision and made it happen.

Tim also noted: "ultimately, it is the front-line employees (also called adopters or targets) who must perform the new way of doing things. "

I feel like we are removing employee accountability from the change management picture. Employees don't "perform" the new way of doing things, like some passive observer waiting to be told what to do. Employees also innovate the new way of doing things. They play an active role in change management. I guess what I'm getting at here and what I've learned recently is that change is often NOT simply prescribed. If it were that easy, the communication would be "do steps 1-5, training is on Tuesday, here's what's in it for you, end of story."

It's not that easy. What I'm learning is that the "pointers" and the "doers" are often different. The pointers identify the business case for change, they paint the vision of the future, and they even play a role in identifying strategies to translate required changes into action. But... they don't own it all. Employees play an active role in determining how to make the necessary changes a reality - they innovate. Targets of change are not passive observers that are waiting to be told what to do.  

I think the big learning for me is to identify the roles in change management and recognize that "targets" of change must play an active role in innovating and realizing the change. Leaders work through others and that's why coaching, creating a compelling case for change, and inspiring people to act are key.  You can lead a horse to water, but you can't force it to drink. The single most important factor in realizing change, especially when it's not "prescribable," is point to the moon, and let employees know that they are expected and empowered to play an active role in realizing the change. Our employees are our greatest asset - we must tap in to their innovation, tap in to their ability to realize the changes that companies need to make. Leaders don't have to know exactly how the company is going to get from point A to point B. Point to "B", let employees know where we're going and why and inspire your employees to figure out how to get there.

 


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Tim Creasey

I agree with Melissa, change does require a vision and leadership to make it happen. But vision is not enough. I have countless stories of leadership coming up with a vision and the change failing to take place. Sometimes it is poor sponsorship and communication by leadership of what the vision means to the business. Sometimes it is middle management diluting the vision. But ultimately, for a vision to become reality, the front-line must implement. I don't mean that the front-line are just pawns to be moved in one direction or another. But it is them, through their day-to-day activities, that make change successful. Although it was Kennedy who had the vision of landing on the moon, it was the engineers, shuttle manufacturers and astronauts who made it happen. And these people on the front-line were not just victims of the change, they played a key role in deciding how to fulfill the vision and make the mission a success. Vision is important, but only when the change is managed in a way that 'gives it legs' or makes it real and able to be implemented. Here, the coaching by supervisors is what makes some visions come to life while others end up in the trash can.

to be continued...

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What options and methods do you feel are most important. What do you think is missing from this discussion? The top-ten change management strategies are:

  1. Change readiness assessments (assessing employees and managers in areas such as culture and values, past changes, employee readiness and resistance)
  2. Communications (includes communication planning and communication activities)
  3. Training (education and training programs to build skills and knowledge)
  4. Executive sponsorship (the visible actions by business leaders)
  5. Incentive and reward programs (ranging from small incentive programs to compensation changes)
  6. Employee feedback (enabling employees to openly share their thoughts and feelings about the change)
  7. Supervisor's direct coaching to employees (helping individual employees through the change process)
  8. Resistance management (tactics for systematically managing resistance)
  9. Sacrificial lamb (visibly removing a key manager that is an obstacle to change)
  10. Employee participation (involving employees in the design of the change)

Share your input or personal experience

Reader's responses

***

 

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Debate Topics

Over the next 12 weeks on a bi-weekly basis, this tutorial series will cover the following topics:

Debate 1: The roles of executives in change management: In this tutorial, we will examine the roles and responsibilities of senior business leaders.

Debate 2: Why manage change: In this tutorial, we will examine benchmarking results and the many different impacts of poorly managed change. Tell us what you think about debate 2.

Debate 3: Guiding principles and reactive vs. proactive change management: We will look at the principles that every manager or leader involved in managing change should know. Tell us what you think about debate 3.

Debate 4: The most effective change management strategies - options and methods for managing change. 
Tell us what you think about debate 4.

Debate 5: Organizational change management process: This tutorial examines the organizational change management process and how to use tools throughout your organization to plan for, manage and reinforce change. Tell us what you think about debate 5.

Debate 6: Connecting individual and organizational change: In this tutorial, we talk about the link between individual change management (how each employee experiences change) and organizational change management (the tools and processes you can use to help your employees go through change). Tell us what you think about debate 6.

Debate 7: Building change competency: Change competency is making change "business as usual." Organizations that will lead in the new economy must embrace change and be ready to adapt every day. This tutorial examines what change competency means, and how you can begin to build it in your organization. Tell us what you think about debate 7.

 

Resource guide

The resources in the table below will be the source of the upcoming tutorial series. For leaders and team members involved in managing a change project, these resources will provide an immediate understanding and tools.

RESOURCE WHO IS IT FOR?
Change Management Toolkit: a comprehensive change management process, includes specific sections on sizing your change management effort, communication planning, training development, sponsor roadmaps, and reinforcing change. Change leaders, consultants and change management team members - get templates, assessments, guidelines, examples and worksheets that help you implement organizational change management
Best Practices in Change Management: 426 companies share experiences in managing change and lessons on how to build great executive sponsorship. The report makes it easy to learn change management best practices and discover the mistakes to avoid leading change. Change leaders, consultants and change management team members - learn what is working for others, what is not, and what mistakes to avoid - includes team and sponsor activity lists. Includes success factors, methodology, role of top management, communications, team structure and more.
Change Management: the People Side of Change: introductory guide to change management -  an excellent primer and catalyst for change leadership with best practices from Prosci's latest research and case studies. Change leaders, executives and managers - learn the 'why,' 'how,' and 'what' of change management. "Change Management is like a driving school for change agents."  This 'quick read' includes the ADKAR model and the Prosci change management process.
Change Management Guide for Managers and Supervisors: complete with team and individual coaching activities, best practices findings and frequently asked questions. Managers and supervisors - a guide specifically designed for managers and supervisors dealing with change. This tool is ideal for managers who are directly dealing with employees facing change. Use with the Employee's Survival Guide to Change and the Change Management Toolkit.
Employee's Survival Guide to Change: a handbook to help employees survive and thrive during change. Employees facing change - answers frequently asked questions and empowers employees to be effective change agents with the ADKAR model.

 

How-to-guide.jpg (4140 bytes) How to deploy change management - a new resource map
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