5 Steps to Making Transformational Change Happen

Loretta Cooper
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways

​What? Change management is something most organizational leaders will face.

So what? Having the right plan that takes into account all stakeholders will ease transition.

Now what? After analyzing your stakeholders develop a balanced message that is visionary, believable, relevant and instructive.

​Sept. 1, 2017

The best change management plan is futile unless it is wedded to a thoughtful communications effort

Effective leadership is about managing change. It’s not about project management, although those skills may help propel leaders to larger offices. It’s not about mastery of details, although that is critical to understanding the big picture. Effective leaders instigate and manage change in their organizations that is designed to accomplish pivotal goals.

Supporting executives in massive change is part of what coaches do every day. The best change management plan is futile unless it is wedded to a thoughtful communications effort. Here’s how to get it right:

1. Build the “big picture.”

Almost all executives have a massive binder in their office referred to as “shelfware.” Generally, this is a very expensive strategic plan designed with the help of bright and well-meaning consultants that never made its way to implementation or execution. This is why leaders tend to roll their eyes at talk about “getting the vision right.” They’ve been there too many times, and they are reluctant to go back.

In these cases, we pore over previous efforts for clues as we assess the organization’s readiness for change. We also spend a fair amount of time identifying the cultural catalysts that could derail the project’s success. These data points help pinpoint the right vision and ensure the entire leadership team is engaged in creating and communicating the effort.

To ensure that this vision doesn’t end up alongside previous shelfware, we work with our leaders to instill a new paradigm. Vision is dynamic. It will evolve and morph the closer you get to it. Leadership requires constantly reassessing and relaying where you are going and how far you have come in the process. 

2. Remove the guess work.

Most change efforts overlook that employees often feel change is being forced upon them, leaving them voiceless and helpless in the process. Driving successful transformation requires identifying critical stakeholders at every level of the organization and bringing them onboard early. Talk to them. Try to link the change you are planning to things people already want. When done effectively, you’ll diminish active resistance and gain champions for your effort.

3. Get the message right.

Consider the story of a CEO who was fed up with the casual dress code at his company. He assembled his communications team to come up with a plan to help employees understand the difference between appropriate work attire and clothing better saved for a weekend at home.

Their idea: Paper dolls with cut-out clothes, along with a paper doll image of the CEO—in boxers. There were so many things right about this plan. It was clever and creative. But it didn’t get tested outside the room. If it had been, the team would have learned rather quickly that no one wants to see their CEO in boxers.


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Getting the message right requires knowledge of many factors. Refer back to the stakeholder analysis to develop a balanced message that is visionary, believable, relevant and instructive. And always test the message on a representative group.

4. Prepare the stakeholders.

By faithfully executing steps one through three, there should be a good foundation in place for the change initiative. Arm the stakeholders to go forth and share the plan. Be reminded that change requires letting go of something to grasp something new. That can be difficult for some people. It is not possible to win everyone over. Don’t define success as 100% buy-in. It won’t happen.

People must become aware of change and be willing and able to change. Provide opportunities to shape change and develop solutions. Shape understanding of why change is necessary and include the cost and repercussions of not changing. Provide tools and training to enable change.

Acknowledge the human dimension of change, then provide tactical approaches and tools to manage the change. This is where the communications plan comes in with FAQ sheets, quick reference guides, training materials, briefing decks, articles, blogs and executive memos.

5. Evaluate the results.

Here is where the stakeholder analysis will pay dividends. Use key metrics from that data to evaluate the success of the initiative and make ongoing refinements.

The beauty of integrating the communications plan with change management is that it provides the opportunity to look at ongoing success metrics via a constant feedback mechanism.

In the end, the true measure of success will be the stories you hear from your people. What do they notice about how they are interacting with their work, their customers and one another? Almost every leader comes away with a collection of hallway conversations that reinforce the benefits of change and the transformation that is being created.

Adapted from The Method and The Magic; Every Leader’s Guide to Making Transformational Change Happen by Laurie Axelrod and Beth McDonald.


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Author Bio:

 
Loretta Cooper
Loretta Cooper is senior communications consultant at LEA Consulting Group. She is a graduate of the Georgetown University Executive Leadership Coaching Program.
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