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Change–Just KISS

Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, Change Management Strategy (24-slide PowerPoint presentation). Seventy percent of change programs fail, according to the April 2001 Harvard Business Review article, "Cracking the Code of Change". According to Bain & Company, businesses that implement fast, focused, and simultaneous change programs can create enormous and long-lasting shareholder [read more]

Also, if you are interested in becoming an expert on Change Management, take a look at Flevy's Change Management Frameworks offering here. This is a curated collection of best practice frameworks based on the thought leadership of leading consulting firms, academics, and recognized subject matter experts. By learning and applying these concepts, you can you stay ahead of the curve. Full details here.

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I recently contributed to a thread about models and methodologies on LinkedIn and said “Are we making change too complicated? Isn’t it just is a simple matter of getting from A to B and ensuring your people join you on the journey! Just a thought!”

In an update I posted regarding my article 70% of Change Management Initiatives Fail – Really? a connection posted “For me Change Management is very often over complicated (another subject for discussion).”

Well, this is not a discussion, but an article, because I truly believe that change is as simple as you make it.

Do others feel the same?

Well, Forbes seem to.  In a 2012 article titled How To Lead Change: 3 Simple Steps, they said “As much as some people want to create complexity around the topic of leading change, the reality is creating, managing and leading change is really quite simple.” They go on to quote the 3 simple steps:

  • Identifying the Need for Change.
  • Leading Change.
  • Managing Change.

Also, published in 2013 by Projectyzer was an article called Change Management Reduced to Seven Simple Questions, which reduced Change Management down to the following questions:

  • Why is this Change necessary?
  • What is in it for Me?
  • What is going to be different on Monday?
  • What won’t change?
  • What might go wrong?
  • What is going to be difficult?
  • How do know that you are making progress?

Answering these questions will allow you to develop a simple approach to your change initiative.

I like this!

And, finally, in an article by CultivateLabs called The Simple Answer to Change Management, they say “Regardless of your next change endeavour, think about how to ‘make it easy.’ Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and ask yourself how external factors can be manipulated to achieve the desired end-result. It’s easier said than done, but you might be surprised at how much more practical and thoughtful your change tactics become.”

Still not convinced?

OK, that’s fine. Let me continue and try to persuade you!

It’s not about the methodology or model.  It’s about how we deliver the message.

Let’s start by looking at the words used in some of the change methodologies and models:

  • Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement – Prosci
  • Strategy, Structure, Style, Staff, Skills, Systems, Shared Values – McKinsey’s 7-S Model
  • Unfeezing, Transition, Refreezing – Kurt Lewin’s Change Model.
  • Ending/Losing/Letting Go, The Neutral Zone, The New Beginning – Bridge’s Transition Model.
  • Shock, Denial, Frustration, Depression, Experiments, Decisions, Integration – The Kubler-Ross Curve.
  • Imperative, Readiness, Implementation, Gain – Pritchett’s Change Management Model.
  • Artefacts & Symbols, Espoused Values, Basic Underlying Assumptions – Schein’s Model of Change.
  • Discovery, Dream, Design, Destiny – Cooperrider’s Appreciative Inquiry (AI).
  • Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance – Prochaska and DiClemente Model

Jeez… what on earth are they talking about? What do they mean? As a change professional you probably do but do the people impacted by the change know? My answer to that is no definitely not. Oh and all those pretty pictures!

Yes, when you look at the detail that sits behind them they kind of make sense but, as I said, only you as a change professional will understand them but not the audience you are trying to convey your message to.

Models/methodologies have their place but should not be used as the “be all and end all” in a change initiative. They sometimes only serve to restrict Change Managers who should not be “shackled” because “change” is an iterative process and needs to be flexible and intuitive. No one size fits all so let’s not get hung-up on just one way because there are many ways and each has their own strengths and weaknesses.

Take a look at my article called Change Management Methodologies.

The problem is when you start spouting these things to those that will be impacted by change (btw these are the people that will make it break your change initiative so beware because they will turn off and think you are completely mad) they haven’t got a clue about what they are and consequently you will lose them and probably bore them to tears. They will only really be interested in the WIIFM factor so you need to major on that. Change is as simple as you want to make it. Over-complicating things by talking about methodologies and models will only serve to turn people off and you will immediately create a barrier that will, in the future, be hard to break down.

While methodologies and models are an important component of Change Management capability it is not the only one, and perhaps not even the most important one. An experienced/seasoned Change Agent who can make sense of the “noise” using them and other tools is the most important asset.

Take a look at my article called The Personality Side of Being a Change Management Professional.

Change is about people and not methodologies or models.

There is a saying that goes “Change is the only constant.” Well, my reply is that “People are the only constant in change” to which there are two perspectives:

  • Common sense. The most effective way of making change happen is to take people with you by creating commitment and ownership.
  • Mismanagement.  Many of the reasons why change fails are to do with not adequately managing the issues that individuals face when change happens.

People all have individual feelings and attitudes, e.g.:

  • The status quo gives individuals within an organisation a sense of security.
  • They will cling to what they know and understand because change brings uncertainty, fear and anxiety.
  • Attitudes like “it may not be the greatest place to work, but its home” are real.

Understanding these individual feelings and attitudes are critical to the successful implementation of change and knowing how to overcome a person’s natural resistance will enable:

  • Change to be implemented more effectively.
  • The negative effects on performance to be minimized.
  • The chances of success to be optimized.

There is a distribution of attitudes starting at one of the spectrum, the BLOCKER, to the other end, the CHAMPION.

So, keep it simple and talk to people in a language they understand.

Tell them about the following:

Messages about the Business Today such as:

  • Business issues and drivers that created the need for change
  • Competitive issues or changes in the market place
  • Customer issues
  • Financial issues
  • What might happen if the change is not made

Messages about the Change itself such as:

  • A vision of the organisation after the change has taken place
  • Scope of the change … process, organisation and/or technology
  • Objectives for the change … what does success look like
  • Overall time frame in which to implement the change
  • Alignment of the change with the business strategy
  • How big is the change … what is the gap between now and where we want to be
  • Who is most impacted by the change and who is least impacted
  • The basics of what is changing … how and when and also what is not changing

Messages about the Impact of the Change such as:

  • The impact of the change on the day-to-day activities of each stakeholder group
  • WIIFM – what’s in it for me from an employees perspective
  • Implications of the change on job security – will I have a job afterwards
  • Specific behaviours expected from employees including support of the change
  • Differing ways to provide feedback about the change
  • Procedures for getting help and assistance during the change
  • The expectation that change will happen and that it is not a choice.

Keep it direct and personal and convince them that they will be part of the change process.

Once you have told them, keep on communicating.

This is important because if people do not understand what is going on they will resist. You need to have a clear an unambiguous way of communicating to them. I use a simple 4-stage approach:

  • Messages to be communicated.
  • Stakeholder groups to be communicated to.
  • Channels to be communicated through.
  • Frequency of communication.

When communicating please remember:

  • Recognize that everything you say and do influences your company … you represent change!
  • Be visible and listen.
  • Repeat messages: ideas sink in deeply only if they have been heard many times.
  • KISS: eliminate jargon.

That’s it really. Tell it the way it is, don’t over-complicate, talk to people in a language that they understand, keep them on-board and informed, be personable.

Have I convinced you?

135-slide PowerPoint presentation
If you have already downloaded my Comprehensive Guide to Change Management or my Comprehensive Guide to Change Management and ERP Implementations then most of what is in these slides is already covered in them. If you are one of the now nearly 1000 people who have downloaded my FREE Practical [read more]

Want to Achieve Excellence in Change Management?

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"The only constant in life is change." – Heraclitus

Such is true for life, as it is for business. The entire ecosystem our organization operates in—our customers, competitors, suppliers, partners, the company itself, etc.—is constantly changing and evolving. Change can be driven by emerging technology, regulation, leadership change, crisis, changing consumer behavior, new business entrants, M&A activity, organizational restructuring, and so forth.

Thus, the understanding of, dealing with, and mastery of the Change Management process is one of the most critical capabilities for our organization to develop. Excellence in Change Management should be viewed as a source of Competitive Advantage.

Learn about our Change Management Best Practice Frameworks here.

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About Ron Leeman

Ron Leeman has been involved in “change and process” work for more years than he cares to remember. He has worked extensively across the UK, Europe, and globally--and has an enviable track-record of delivering organisational change and process initiatives across a wide cross section of industry sectors. In 2012, Ron was bestowed with a “Change Leader of Tomorrow” award by the World HRD Congress “in recognition of my remarkable progress in initiating changes enough for others in the same industry to follow my example”. Ron is firm believer in knowledge transfer and now wants to share his vast knowledge with those who are considering getting into or at various stages of “change” and/or “process” work or those working on specific Projects wanting to gain practical insights into “how to” type situations. You can connect with Ron Leeman on LinkedIn here, where you can view his 85+ Recommendations and in excess of 800 Endorsements from clients and co-workers alike to give you an indication of the quality of service that he has provided and can offer. Ron is also a document author on Flevy. Browse his frameworks on Change Management, Process Analysis, and Program Management here: http://flevy.com/seller/highwayofchange.

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