“What do I focus on, when leading a change?”/Podcast #3
24 Feb

“What do I focus on, when leading a change?”/Podcast #3

This was a question a prospective client asked me recently, someone who was just put in charge of leading a change at their company.

 

 

“What would you advise me to make sure I don’t overlook, things I just have to get right?” Three things popped into my mind immediately, and I shared these with her. But then right after we ended our call I thought of a fourth that I never miss doing on a change project.

 

Here are the four things you must get right, in order that they appear during a project implementation.

Thorough due diligence

This is doing the stakeholder analysis properly. The stakeholder analysis informs your entire change management strategy and plan.

Since this is where everything starts, if you miss something important here, it can haunt you for the duration of the project. This could be a long 12 months or more, potentially. Ask the right questions here to uncover who your supporters are and where your resistance risks are hiding, and you are well on your way.

If you want information on how to do this, here is a link to an earlier blog that will guide you.

 

Clearly defined success metrics

This is the one I thought of after our call.

When you are leading a change, you have to know what you are leading towards. In other words, what does business success “look like” at the end of the project?

That means that tangibly, what will be different on the day after the change is implemented? What will people be doing differently? How will they be behaving relative to before the rollout? If you stepped into your company the day after the implementation, what would you notice? How about a month later?

The best way to come up with these success targets is to plan a celebration party for the end of the project. As soon as you do that, not only will you become instantly very, very popular, but the question automatically arises, “What, exactly, are we going to celebrate?” That’s right, what specifically are you going to raise a glass to?

Your success objectives have to be specific, visible and measurable. Is it the number of calls to the help centre? How about the percent positive perception of the change? Or, what about the number of errors, or quality issues, at launch? You will likely have several.

Then, you need to have metrics to track during the project so that everyone has confidence that the team will meet these objectives at the end, when you go live.

You may notice these objectives are not the standard project management metrics of being “on time and on budget”. No, these are business success targets, and are sometimes part of “benefits realization”.

 

Leaders leading

Needing leaders to lead when you are leading a change seems obvious. However it is not always obvious what shape that takes. There are two components of leaders leading, one at an individual level, and the other at a group level.

At the individual level, quite often company leaders, being delegators, delegate the change implementation activities to others. And, in some ways, that makes sense. But frequently leaders overlook a very important detail – they themselves need to change as well, in terms of what they do and how they do it.

For example, leaders will need to communicate more, and more often. They will need to match the prevailing mood in their tone when they speak or write. This may be a departure for them if they are used to mostly presenting operational updates and talking about data and numbers.

They will also need to hold people accountable for change related outcomes. This gets tricky since reinforcing accountability has to match the impact of what was expected. It also has to be appropriate relative to who is being held accountable. It is different in the case of a direct report, Tan it is for a peer, than it is for a superior. How do you hold your boss accountable? That’s a fun one, always.

At a group level, the leadership teams needs to be aligned. If not, cracks and fissures will appear. People will have mixed priorities throughout the organization. The higher up the misalignment, the broader the confusion and the deeper the divisions in the organization.

All leaders having the same objectives and messages (the proverbial “song sheet”) is crucial. Here is a link to another blog that gives you more information on how to do this.

Once you have these three, the ball is essentially starting to roll downhill. Now there is momentum. You have created a certain sense of inevitability in your change management activities. You are well on your way. But, there is one final element you can’t overlook.

 

Execution

Up until this point you have completed 3 out of the 4 key things you need to focus on, but have expended only about 20% of the effort. The other 80% is about to arrive – implementation of the change management activities.

Back to the ball rolling inevitably down the hill metaphor. It is almost a sure thing that that ball will reach the bottom of the hill. However, where exactly it does so depends on your ability to execute. That ball will hit rocks and ruts that will knock it off target. It will take all of your awareness, constant focus and energy to keep the ball rolling in the right direction.

This is where strong project management skills are a huge benefit. I’ve worked with change leads or consultants who consider themselves to be more strategic change agents, and they tend to struggle here relative to those who have project management and implementation experience.

 

So to summarize: do your due diligence by doing your stakeholder analysis thoroughly; develop clear, measurable business success criteria and metrics for your project; coach and align leaders; and execute, execute, execute.

 

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By the way, did you know that some of the biggest names in business, and some of the ones that have been around the longest, were start-ups during very difficult economic times? That’s right. In my next blog I will share with you who some of these were, what they did, and how you too can thrive in the midst of this pandemic and current economic crisis.

See you next time.

 


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#1 Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

#2 Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

#3 Photo by Mike Szczepanski on Unsplash

#4 Photo by Kumpan Electric on Unsplash

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