The nature of the results you are trying to achieve will determine the type of change you need to create.
If you are making changes to a very small part of your job then your focus is very localized. If you are leading a project solely aimed at achieving a specific result then your change management focus is somewhat larger. But if you are leading a business-wide long term transformation then you need a comprehensive Change Leadership work stream and strategy.
While there are similar elements in driving change at any of these levels, the broader transformation requires a well thought out, well articulated Change Leadership program to be in place to lay the foundation for, and govern, your transformation.
Recognize the Need for a Change Leadership Work Stream
First it is most important to recognize when your transformation requires an explicit, Change Leadership program. If your project involves changing business processes, changing job responsibilities, making organizational design changes, or altering measurement and performance management systems then you are in complete need of a Change Leadership project work stream.
Even if your overall objective only involves improving some numeric business metric there could be a significant amount of change that has to occur behind the scenes to get that result. And if that change impacts people in any way you need to be cognizant of, and proactive in, the need for a Change Leadership work stream.
Your project or transformation will certainly involve some very technical, tactical and direct improvements to the areas of the business that are impacted by your efforts. But always remember the Human element.
If you do not proactively manage change from a Human Resources standpoint then your best laid plans and changes may fall apart in implementation and over time.
A Change leadership work stream will help to minimize disruption, mitigate any negative impacts. And it will give people comfort from knowing that change will be made taking into consideration any and all of their concerns.
Elements of a Change Leadership Work Stream
a. Communicating why we need to change
People must understand the requirement to change. Whatever the overall transformation or project objective is you must clearly communicate the need to change.
People often already have a natural resistance to change. So if they do not understand the rationale for the change efforts going on around them, and impacting them, then they will certainly create inertia or obstacles to the change you are trying to make.
If people are at least told why the change is necessary, and what their role is in making that change happen, then you increase your odds of having people on board helping you as opposed to hindering you. Creating a sense of urgency and criticality will further help get people on board.
b. Defining the scope of what is changing
The prospect of change creates uncertainty. And without any context that uncertainty can lead to rumours, resentment, angst and negative behaviour.
It is important in communicating the need to change to define what, to the best of your ability, is changing. There should generally be a scope as to which business processes, jobs, systems, or aspects of the work environment may be subject to change. Even if your scope is company wide letting people know what this scope is will give them more information to internalize the need to change and what their role will be in making it happen.
c. Communicating who may be impacted by the change
Many people may or may not be affected by the changes you are contemplating. However unless people are told that the changes will impact them, everyone could be thinking they will be impacted. And this level of anxiety amongst your employees is rarely constructive.
While it is not usual to know exactly who will be impacted by changes at the beginning of a project it is best to communicate, to the best of your ability, who you think may be in scope. Further changes may be minor and incidental or they may be radical and severe. Wherever possible being honest about change implications will help to ease the tension that some employees may feel.
d. Defining how the change will be managed and communicated.
A clear, concise communication plan should be defined at the beginning of your project, and refined along the way. You want to address all stakeholders to define the mission and objective, as well as describing progress along the way.
Your Change Leadership work stream should also include forums to allow employees, either in groups or 1:1, to discuss their concerns. Training may be a clear requirement depending on the change you are making. Coaching employees to understand and come to terms with the potential changes can be invaluable.
And there may be a need to address real concerns with regard to risks and resistance. Employee forums to get past these issues are critical. If unaddressed these issues can undermine all of the technical changes and improvements you are making.
e. Defining when the changes will occur
Depending on the complexity of your project you may be making changes ranging from over a matter of days to weeks or months. The longer the time it takes can also raise concerns amongst your employees. Regular communication as to when elements of your program will be implemented and when will serve you best.
A lack of understanding as to when changes will occur will create surprise, anxiety, distrust and resistance. You may find that your employees have great feedback on the implementation schedule. Getting them invested in this will improve your chances of success.
Any transformational project of significance will involve and impact your employees. As such you are best served in having a formal Change Leadership work stream as a part of the project.
A Change Leadership work stream will serve to bring employees along in the most productive and constructive manner possible. You will find that this provides employees with forums to address there concerns. This in turn will inform the activity in your project and will make it better.
Having your employees invested in the change you are making will make your project more successful than it will ever be otherwise. Include a Change Leadership work stream in your project.
Involve your employees every step of the way!