There’s plenty of smart thinking out there on how to lead successful change in your business, but let’s not lose sight of the fundamentals, writes Stephanie Small, senior strategist at Designworks in this guest piece.
Change and transformation are key issues for most businesses right now. Whether it’s positioned as a re-brand, strategic business transformation or change program; it is clear that companies are feeling the heat to shift to better, faster and more fluid ways of working.
Google “how to lead a successful organisational change program” and you will undoubtedly find a wealth of information and opinions. But even with the latest cutting edge research or complex frameworks, we shouldn’t be tempted to overlook the tried and true foundations.
Here are my top three building blocks to shoring up success for your business change program.
- Be (really) crystal clear
Abraham Lincoln was once quoted as saying “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
In our hyper-paced world there are so many stakeholders to engage, and pressure to deliver results by yesterday. But taking the time to get crystal clear on the guiding principles (why, what, how) will ensure you can have a well defined and compelling change story to help your people across the business to easily understand and get on board with the program.
Why the need for change? What does success look like? How do you plan on getting there? Is this about changing your business, brand, culture or all of the above?
Getting clear on these principles doesn’t require you to have all the answers upfront but will be invaluable in guiding the course of the program, particularly when things start to get messy (and, they inevitably will!)
- Talk the same language
The old adage “assume nothing” is particularly important when it comes to the launch of a change program. Being clear on the key deliverables your program is aiming towards is essential to managing expectations.
For example, if this program is about transforming your culture, what does culture actually mean? What outcomes are you expecting to see? Is everyone else on your team, and in your business on the same page with this understanding?
The same goes for things like customer value proposition, employee value proposition, even brand (yes, it’s about so much more than just creating a logo). It is better to spend a little more time debating and clarifying these definitions at the start of a project than risk all of the emotional and resource distress of an output that does not meet all expectations.
It becomes even more important if external consultants are involved, as they may be arriving with their own processes and terminology.
- Engage your people like… people
As the business world embraces the art of being “human” for the sake of their customers (think simple, intuitive experiences and jargon-less, real-person conversations), they should also do so for the sake of their employees. A change program is the perfect place to start.
If the message is “we want to be customer-centric, agile and innovative” — what does that really mean? Make your program updates simple and jargon-free while sticking to the most important facts. In our content-saturated world, less is more.
Also look to get your people involved. Genuinely seek out their opinion. You may be able to see the reason why the change is needed but odds are they have some pretty good ideas on how. Asking for help from all levels of the business is always crucial to effective stakeholder engagement.
So there you have it. Three things, so seemingly simple you might just forget them. Sometimes we might feel pressure to skip over the clarifying questions for the sake of getting things moving faster but the time spent getting a good plan together and communicating it clear and simply will save you time in the long run.
As our wise creative director always says, a question well posed, is a question well answered.