Change management is one of those core competencies that seems to mean different things to different people. Whatever the methods used, however, the process of achieving change is fraught with problems: resistance; failure of user or leadership buy-in; time delays. And those who notice the problems don’t take responsibility for fixing them, stating “It’s not my job.”
Currently many projects are defined, level-set and lead by ‘leaders’ who don’t touch the problem daily, nor whose jobs will be most disturbed by the new solution. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but unless
- the lion’s share of the data gathering is from those who intimately know the problem, and
- those who execute the new have a real voice in creating the change,
challenges will arise. And without buy-in from these folks, without a real voice in the design of the transformation, they have no desire to take an extra step when a problem crops up.
THE CAUSE OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS
Let me describe what I believe are the issues that account for the problems:
1. Problem definition: Too often only chosen ‘leaders’ define the problem and set the goals without gathering the full problem description from those who work with it daily. That means the solution will be skewered to the assumptions of those without first-hand involvement and the proposed solution may not address the full problem set. It goes without saying that if problems arise, those on the front line won’t ‘own’ it when it goes wrong.
I had a persistent cable issue. To fix it, Xfinity sent out 8 techs over the course of 5 months. Each stayed exactly 20 minutes. The problem never got resolved until the last tech, Tom, who said he would stay as long it took to fix it. But he admitted he feared losing his job as corporate regs allowed only 20 minutes per house. Tom said he and several other field techs had tried to explain the field issues to leadership but they wouldn’t take feedback from the service techs.
Net-net, Tom resolved the problem permanently in 40 minutes. Let’s do the math: 8 people at 20 minutes each = 160 minutes, instead of 40 minutes for one person. Xfinity spent an additional hour, squandering the time of 7 extra people, including their travel time, salaries and expenses. And I’m one customer. Multiply this waste by millions. How much money, time, resource, and reputation are they wasting by putting time (such as it was) before people?
2. Front-line users overlooked at project start: Without immediately involving the people with the most knowledge (details and nuances) and who would be most impacted by the new solution, it’s impossible to
- gather the full set of facts to define the problem,
- understand the possible risks to the project or long-term operations,
- generate efficient buy-in or willingness to take responsibility to own a problem,
- avoid resistance and time delays,
- develop a full range of ideas and choices for resolution.
In other words, when the full stakeholder group isn’t involved until midway through the process, when the folks needed to carry out the new solution are overlooked at the early stages of development, they resist.
I recently got a call from one of the leaders of the Business Process Management field. He wanted to learn my 13 Steps of Change model as an antidote to the resistance, time delays, and lack of buy-in that has plagued the field for decades. When he showed me the BPM model I noticed that front-line workers weren’t brought into a process until Step 6! Why so late? “Leaders know enough about the issues to set the goals and expectations. We give these folks a say when we tell them what we expect.” But by then the overall solution had been established! “It would take too much time to do all that! Far more efficient for the leaders to do it themselves. They know the problems well-enough.” Seems he’d rather handle the time delays and resistance at the back end than spend time upfront and risk not getting great results with a collaborative team that owns the problem.
3. Risks unknown: Until the risks of change are understood and accepted by those who face altered jobs, the people needed to perform the new solution will resist. When brought in at the beginning they have a voice in defining and creating a solution and time frame they approve of. As an integrated part of the project, they’re then happy to take responsibility for any problems that show up going forward.
It’s possible to avoid these issues with a different approach and mindset.
In 1983 I started up a tech company in London, long before technology was ubiquitous, long before any of us knew the optimal environment for tech startups. Coming from a sales background I had no knowledge of running a company, merely a belief that if I served both employees and customers with integrity in an environment of trust, kindness, collaboration, and creativity, we’d be successful. But I had no idea how to achieve it.
I decided to tweak my mind->brain decision making/change model, originally developed as Buying Facilitation® for sales, to a 13 Step Change Facilitation model that involves assembling the relevant people in initial data gathering, problem-solving discussions, timeline determinations, implementation, and solution design. This helped us work together as partners to define and resolve problems very efficiently with maximum buy-in and ownership. Because of the full team collaboration we were able to
- gather most of the complete data set the start;
- include everyone’s feedback, ideas, and needs in the goal;
- work as a collaborative unit throughout the length of the initiative as we trialed and re-trialed possibilities;
- avoid time delays and resistance, and minimizes risk;
- inspire ownership so we all took responsibility when a problem showed up;
- make changes easily with everyone’s buy-in so the end product was creative, useful, and easy to modify when necessary.
Our change initiatives and problem solving made us stronger as a team. Together we became a $5,000,000 company in just under 4 years – with no computers, no email, no internet, no websites, no LinkedIn, no brand reputation, and no social media.
13 STEPS OF CHANGE
Here are the 13 Steps of Change that all people, all buyers, all team members, all coaching clients go through as they seek successful change:
1. Idea stage. Someone has an idea that something needs to change and begins discussing the idea with colleagues.
2. Assembly stage. The originator assembles a meeting of those who have hands on the problem, leaders and colleagues. We include those who will touch the final solution right at the start to insure they’ll buy in and be comfortable taking ownership of the change design. All discuss their knowledge of the issues and problems, consider who to else to include to understand the full fact pattern, chat about ideas for possible fixes and the fallout each might entail. Small groups are formed to research ways to fix the problem with known resources.
3. Consideration stage. Full group meets to discuss research findings and consider ways to fix the problem either themselves or with known resources (known vendors, other departments). Discuss the type of fallout/risk from each.
4. Organization stage. Steps to go forward are tentatively considered as trial possibilities, with the understanding that unknown issues might crop up and need to be included. Responsibilities get assigned to research the possibilities. All must agree on the initial path or offer alternate suggestions.
5. Change Management Risk stage. Using the research there’s a meeting to determine
a. if more research is necessary (and who will do it),
b. if all appropriate people are involved (and who else to include),
c. if all elements of the problem and solution have been included (and what to add),
d. the level of potential disruption and risk to jobs (and how to handle each),
e. possible workarounds or alternatives.
Determine what might be missing. Each subgroup must submit a report explaining the tasks and specific risks of each of the above.
6. Addition stage. Add new ideas and findings including the needs of new members. Discuss upsides and downsides of each possible choice and the risks involved for people, policies, job descriptions, finances, and politics. Whatever gets added now must be approved by all. Any resistance must be addressed here. Subgroups now own a specific portion of the solution.
7. Research and change stage. Members research their assigned part of the solution including
* online research—webinars, etc.,
* possible vendors and external solutions,
* risks from their portion of the solution, to include management, policies, job descriptions, implementation, technology, HR issues, etc.
and prepare a report to share with group.
8. Consensus stage. Members meet to share their research. Again, discuss the risks of each possible solution. Now that details are available, vote whether to fix the problem themselves, go ‘outside’ for a solution, or decide if the ‘cost’, the risks, of the change are too high (massive reorg needed, people would be let go, etc.) and if it’s best to remain with the status quo. If it’s determined to fix the problem themselves, the folks thoroughly discuss any problems that might show up and assign responsibilities.
9. Choice stage. Once it’s decided to go either ‘outside’ for a solution (make a purchase, hire a consultant), fix the problem inhouse, or keep the status quo, action responsibilities are assigned to manage and mitigate risk: write and share a report that states the
* tasks/jobs that will change and resultant fallout;
* templates to manage and maintain outcomes;
path to actions, choices, job descriptions, necessary rule changes, risk mitigation, etc.
10. Transformation begins. All that has been agreed upon gets put into action. Permanent leaders are assigned in each subgroup. Activity plans and schedules are aligned between groups. A subgroup is formed to oversee the activities and report back to main group.
11. Vendor/solution selection. If going outside for a solution, vendors are contacted and interviewed or solutions trialed. For internal fixes, phased plans finalized. Each choice must match the team’s criteria; the risks of the solution must be noted.
12. New solution chosen. Review data from application trials and vendor interviews. Choose solution or vendor. Have a plan to incorporate change management issues and risk possibilities and share with the vendor. Everyone agrees. Plans of change must be approved by each stakeholder involved.
13. New solution implemented.
How different is this from what you’re currently doing? What would stop you from adding any elements you’ve missed? Until or unless everyone who touches a problem is part of the solution, costly problems will show up. If you’re in need of an external consultant to facilitate your change process, please call me. I’d love to help: email@example.com
Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.