Periodically, we at AEU LEAD see a groundswell of interest in common topics across a wide range of companies and industries. While seemingly independent of one another, the frustrations shared are often similar and the circumstances inexplicably related. Such is the case involving the level of interest we’ve had recently in the topic of change and change management.
While change is inevitable, the management of change isn’t. Continuous improvement is the bedrock of successful organizations and change is the only means by which it can be continuously demonstrated over long periods of time. Unfortunately, most companies aren’t good at it and constantly struggle to harness the desired benefits it can provide.
Recognize that change is about people
While most often characterized as a process, change (and the management of change) is about people. Within most organizations, change starts at the top and makes its way down for implementation and adoption. Implementation is typically a responsibility involving middle managers. Adoption involves the workforce, or a smaller subset of it.
From concept to reality, change initiatives succeed less than 30% of the time. One might assume that this is the result of misaligned objectives or a clear understanding of needs impacting the organization. Actually, the typical barriers to change involve the way change is approached. For change initiatives to succeed, they must consider the needs of the individual stakeholders involved – those most impacted by the change itself.
Through our work using the LEAD Change Management Model, we’ve seen that organizations which embrace change have a clear understanding of the shared responsibilities of a transformative culture. Impacted stakeholders have a vested interest and are consistently provided an opportunity for input. Here’s an overview of the role each of these stakeholders plays in the change process.
Owner/Executive Level: Providing direction, leadership and credibility
Employees expect direction and leadership from owners and executives. When change is needed, thoughts and ideas should be captured and expressed as part of a vision or mission statement. For success, company leaders must address where the organization must go and support the positioning with credible reasoning for why it’s necessary. The where and why must be communicated, as buy-in and commitment on the front-end will greatly increase the likelihood of adoption and success on the back-end.
Middle Managers/Department Heads: Setting clear goals
With direction provided from an executive level, middle managers should have a clear and present voice in establishing strategic goals. Goals provide distinct destinations and give clarity to what will be done to reach the desired future state. As with the previous step involving executive leadership, stakeholders need to be involved and should be provided with an opportunity for input in the formative stages of discussions involving goal-setting.
Front-line Supervisors/Subject Matter Experts: Determining how the goals will be achieved
With direction and destination points in mind, critical business objectives are needed to define targeted milestones. Objectives break down goals and address how each will be achieved. This level of input requires technical knowledge and ideally involves front-line supervisors and subject matter experts. (Remember, those on the front line are called upon most often to implement and integrate change initiatives. Involve them in the process if you want their commitment.)
Impacted Stakeholders: Performing manageable tasks to reach the goals
The process of change management is most effective when it is broken down into manageable tasks that are practical, actionable, and relevant. To reach this point requires diligence and input from those that will be most impacted by the change itself. Work streams define specific actions that must be taken to complete critical objectives. They are short-term in nature and identify who must do what, by when.
All too often, change is managed as an exclusive process that spells out only the what and when. Ideally, it should be an inclusive process providing a compelling why and an opportunity for input into how. For those wanting to bring about growth and improvement, it’s important to note organizations don’t change. People do. Harness the collective input of those within your organization and the likelihood of reaching a desired future state increases exponentially.
For more information about AEU LEAD’s approach to change management, contact us.