Most people are wired to thrive in either high-velocity change environments or steady-as-she-goes maintenance environments – rarely both.
The trouble with transformational change is that, generally speaking, it affects everyone. If the secret to driving structural change is rigorous management, the secret to driving people change is emotional engagement.
This work begins with a stakeholder analysis, which identifies all employee populations directly involved in the change, directly affected by the change, and those who may be indirectly affected. Plans are needed for all of these groups, and particular attention should be given to those who may feel their work inherently defies a standard approach or an overhaul by “outsiders,” such as sales, marketing, and human resources functions. Engagement from these professionals hinges on the ability of the project team to articulate the benefits of the change, and underscore the continued role of expertise, creativity, and judgment.
Training is an important step in helping people manage through change. This includes the technical training needed to upgrade skills, and the more subjective competencies relating to working differently, practicing agility and embracing adaptability.
Clear governance and visible accountability is the fuel for large-scale change
To make it high-octane, it should be clear, visible and public. Common roles include:
- Steering Committee – Sets overall strategic objectives and workstream charters.
- Workstream Sponsor – Guides activity of key action owners, socializes developments as needed throughout the organization, reports to the Steering Committee.
- Key action owner – Develops and drives the detailed plans on a day-to-day basis, reports to the Workstream Sponsor.
A word of caution concerning staffing the change effort: Executives are wise to look beyond traditional hierarchy and functional roles for the best candidates. Eighty-eight percent of executives surveyed by Forbes Insights and Medidata last year cite assigning the right employees to implement the project as the top factor in ensuring a successful transformation. This could be the perfect opportunity to plum the organization for folks who are wired for change across a variety of functional disciplines rather than relying on the function to transform itself.
Driving change is not for the faint of heart
On this score, we can take a lesson from Muhammed Ali: “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”