Odds are, you are a change agent, someone who indirectly or directly influences organizational evolution and most often brings about improvements to business processes, procedure or products. And as anyone who has ever struggled to keep a New Year’s resolution can tell you, following through on a personal change can be hard, but in a business organization, it can seem impossible. Fortunately, with proper planning and a well-executed communication plan, almost anything is possible. Here are some first steps:
Why? The very first thing you need to do is identify the need for urgency. Why does this need to be done — and why now? What legislative, legal, competitive or economic realities creating challenges OR opportunities are prompting these changes? Speak with supplier and other companies that may be confronting the same issues. How did they handle the challenges you are dealing with? I’ve never been a fan of “best practices,” because in my opinion, that phrase is simply code for “mediocrity,” but there is real value in understanding the multitude of potential responses to a given problem.
Build the teams. After your preliminary findings, create the project and decision team. This is arguably the most critical step and one that most change agents get wrong, because most organizations feel that the greater the level of involvement across business lines, the greater the likelihood of success. So, it is not uncommon to see core decision teams with more than 15 to 20 people. However, having such large teams is wrong and, frankly, counterproductive. Smaller is better. Arriving at a key decision is hard in and of itself, and you compound that difficulty by having too many people involved, each of whom may have a separate agenda.
As a project lead, it’s impossible to identify a solution that pleases everyone, and by having too many people involved in making a final decision, you risk spending too much time trying to check a box and limit noise as opposed to creating something that works best for the company.
That said, you should still cast a wide net internally to identify needs and constraints that will guide your decision. Obviously, for your initiative to be successful, it must be appropriately thorough to build your requirements charter. But, it is that charter that should drive the decision and any accompanying communication about the value to the organization.
Communicate. The real heart of successful change initiatives is the communication itself. A few rules of thumb: there should be a lot, it should be frequent and it MUST be simple. You should use as many modes of communication as possible. This means not just relying on traditional email, website banners on your intranet, mailers, posters and the like, but consider using more creative mechanisms, such as an Instagram page to communicate the project’s process. Perhaps you could create a contest of some kind to recognize early adopters. Maybe there is an opportunity to gamify elements of the program’s deployment — creating a competition between units to execute.
One caveat, though: While it is important to maintain frequent communications to stand out, make sure the volume matches the initiative. I’m not sure you want communicate the changing of a GL code with a standee in the lobby!
Simplify. Finally, you want to keep it simple. This can be a daunting task when given the benefits that can be realized from a well-executed CW program can be legion. Resist the urge to include them all. The bigger the organization and the bigger the change, the fewer the benefits touted. You should list no more than three to five major program benefits when going wide. Obviously, these would be the strongest benefits that would be most appealing to a large group of people. Using too many benefits may seem like it helps your case, but it really creates confusion and can be perceived as a lack of confidence and increased skepticism as you try and “shotgun” your message.
Driving change is a complicated process and most definitely not for the faint of heart but being able to correctly leverage your communication options and resources can make all the difference in your company and career.