What was true more than 2,000 years ago, is just as true for our current time. We live in a world where “business as usual” is change. New initiatives, project-based working, technology improvements, staying ahead of the competition – these things come together to drive ongoing changes to the way we work. This is applicable for technology projects as well as other projects.
Whether you are considering a small change to one or two processes or a system-wide change to an organization, it is common to feel uneasy and intimidated by the scale of the challenge. Disruption is nobody’s favourite. Change is not in our DNA. It is scary, as the ‘unknown is’, a normal psychological reaction and behavior to the unknown. But you can also imagine that ‘new’, ‘exciting’, future-proof and equivalent words can create a positive vibe around the change, these words can also create insight and adaptation.
You know that change needs to happen, but you do not really know how to go about delivering it. Where do you start? Whom do you involve? How do you see it through to the end?
There are many theories about how to “do” change. Many originate with leadership and change management guru, John Kotter. A professor at Harvard Business School and world-renowned change expert, Kotter introduced his eight-step change process in his 1995 book, “Leading Change.” We discuss his eight steps for leading change below, and added two more steps.
For change to happen, it helps if the whole company or organization really wants it. Everyone needs to see the purpose and necessity. Develop a sense of urgency around the need for change. This may help you to sparkle and get inspiration to the initial motivation to get things moving.
This is not simply a matter of showing people poor sales statistics or talking about increased competition. Open an honest, transparent and convincing dialogue about what is happening in the marketplace, and with your competition. And what you need to do to get there too, or to move forward with your organization to the next level to achieve results. If many people start talking about the change you propose, the urgency can build and feed itself.
Convince people that change is necessary. This often takes strong leadership and visible support from key people within your organization. Managing change is not enough – lead the change.
You can find effective change leaders throughout your organization – they do not necessarily follow the traditional company hierarchy. To lead change, you need to bring together a coalition, or team, of influential people whose power comes from a variety of sources, including job title, status, expertise, and political importance. They need to carry out the change.
Once formed, your “change coalition” needs to work as a team, continuing to build urgency and momentum around the need for change.
When you first start thinking about change, there will probably be many great ideas and solutions floating around. Link these concepts to an overall vision that people can easily grasp and remember.
A clear vision can help everyone understand why you are asking them to do something. When people see what you are trying to achieve, the directives they are given tend to make more sense.
What you do with your vision after you create it, will determine your success. Your message will probably have strong competition from other day-to-day communications within the company, so you need to communicate it frequently and powerfully, and embed it within everything that you do.
Do not just call special meetings to communicate your vision. Instead, talk about it every chance you get. Use the vision daily to make decisions and solve problems. When you keep it fresh on everyone’s minds, they will remember it, and respond to it. They will adopt it.
Walk the talk, what you do is far more important – and believable – than what you say. Demonstrate the kind of behavior that you want from others. Be it, live it and do it yourself.
If you follow these steps and reach step five in the change process, you have been talking about your vision and building buy-in from all levels of the organization. Hopefully, your staff wants to get busy and achieve the benefits that you have been promoting.
But is anyone resisting the change? And are there processes or structures that are getting in its way?
Put the structure for change in place, and continuously check for barriers. Removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision, and it can help the change move forward.
Nothing motivates more than success. Give your company a taste of victory early in the change process. Celebrate milestones. Within a short time frame (this could be a month or a year, depending on the type of change), you will want to have some “quick wins” that your staff can see. Without this, critics and negative thinkers might hurt your progress.
Create short-term targets – not just one long-term goal. Celebrate small (defined) progress. You want each small target to be achievable, with little room for failure. Your change team may have to work very hard to come up with these targets, but each “win” that you produce can further motivate the entire staff.
Kotter argues that many change projects fail because victory is declared too early. Real change runs deep. Quick wins are only the beginning of what needs to be done to achieve long-term change.
Launching one new product using a new system is great. But if you can launch 10 products, that means the new system is working. To reach that 10th success, you need to keep looking for improvements.
Each success provides an opportunity to build on what went right and identify what you can improve. Share the knowledge, share the achievements, make everyone part of that.
Finally, to make any change stick, it should become part of the core of your organization. Your corporate culture often determines what gets done, so the values behind your vision must show in day-to-day work.
Make continuous efforts to ensure that the change is seen in every aspect of your organization. This will help give that change a solid place in your organization’s culture.
It is also important that your company’s leaders continue to support the change. This includes existing staff and new leaders who are brought in. If you lose the support of these people, you might end up back where you started.
Build a community
In order to bring your change to life, communication is key. The basic elements of staying open and transparent are important. An online platform or community (internal) will help you to centrally provide information, to share milestones, changes in the change process, small and big.
Infographics explain the process and results. In one overview you can identify steps, milestones and the change journey.
Your ambassador’s way
To support all this, we created a change management toolkit. Ambassadors and fans can be created by using this. Most important: clear and crisp and easy communication. Do not make things too complex; this will catch things in the end and will block and obstruct your change plans. The easier your approach, the easier people will adopt your vision and execute your plan.