Trying to make a significant change in an organization without first building a compelling case for that change – a foundation for change – is about as effective as trying to move a mountain with a single shovel.
Chances are that no matter what change you’re proposing, some of your constituents and employees are going to balk. Others will dig in their heels. A few may covertly stage a mutiny. As frustrating as these behaviors can be, they’re predictable and understandable, especially if your employees’ jobs and daily lives are going to significantly change because of your initiative.
Create a Compelling Case for Change
Instead of engaging in a battle of wills, put your energy into building a strong foundation for your change before you announce your plans and begin the change project. To garner the support that your change project will require to succeed, guide your change project team through the process of creating an airtight case for the change and a communications campaign to strategically educate and inform constituents and employees.
Your case for change is a persuasive argument that justifies the outcome of your change project. It provides the guiding force behind the change initiative and is also your primary reference for creating presentations and other communication tools.
Make your case for change as clear, concise, and straightforward as possible, without leaving out important information or details. Ensure that the logic and reasoning you present is sound and founded on valid research. When you and your change project team are preparing the case, keep the values and concerns of your constituents uppermost in your mind.
You should be able to show that your change project is not just possible and desirable; it is a critical mission that calls for immediate action. Conclude your case with a powerful call to action, telling constituents and employees at all levels of the organization how they can be involved and what they can do to help.
The Foundation Document
The foundation for change is a simple one page document. The content of that document will be used repeatedly through the life of your change initiative. The components of the foundation for change are:
Tie to Strategy
This document is created at the program level first and then localized to each project within the program. This message will evolve and change over the life of the program. The foundation for change may also be further localized at the constituent group level. Creating these components serves as a test of the logic of your change.
Invite Constituents to Participate
Invite constituents to participate in the change project and offer them specific options to be involved in planning and implementing the change. The more input they have in the decision-making process, the more they will buy into and champion the change. Giving constituents “hands-on” tasks increases their ownership and understanding of the project.
It is not necessary to know every detail of how every part of the change will work when you are just beginning. In fact, telling constituents and employees that some of the details have not been determined lets them know there is room for their input and suggestions. It allows you to sincerely question them and get their feedback so it can be weighed and considered.
Reinforce the Need for Change
One of the most convincing ways to show constituents that changes need to be made is to compare your organization’s productivity, effectiveness, and profits with those of competing companies.
The key is showing that the way you plan to “do better” makes sense and is critical to the continued success of the company, satisfaction of customers, and ultimately – job security. Always address the “What’s in it for me?” question.
You have to show constituents what the change is and what it means by providing visuals, and illustrating your points with success stories that they can readily relate to. And then, you need to go the extra mile.
Going the extra mile means painting a vivid and positive picture of how the organization will run once the change is implemented. Each part of painting this picture is going to involve your best creative thinking and that of your change team.
Next week we’ll get into more detail about the actual communication messaging process. In the meantime register for the upcoming change web series (see below) and subscribe to the weekly leadership message.
Change Leadership Web Series with Jim Canterucci
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