Leadership creating desire in change management

If you find this post of value, please share itShare on Facebook10Share on LinkedIn37Share on Google+0Tweet about this on Twitter5Email this to someone

Effective (i.e. engaging, relevant, compelling) communication is imperative if change management is to occur successfully, with leaders at all levels crucial in ensuring this occurs. Importantly, communication is inextricably entwined in the desire stage of change, as defined by the leading change management ADKAR model*.

Change management communication

Supporting this assertion is research undertaken by a leading change management model which determined the greatest contributor to change success is active and visible executive sponsorship. Inherent within ‘sponsorship’ is communicating with those leading the change, as well as those being directly impacted on by the change itself.

If you find this post of value, please share it through LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Google+ et al!

It is executives who are sought after by employees for big picture, context setting communication, while for information directly relevant to their specific roles it is the employee’s supervisor who is relied upon and has credibility in their eyes.

Five key change management steps

*In full, the five change management (ADKAR) components/steps as Prosci sees it are as follows:

  • Awareness – making those who going to experience the change aware of what will be occurring, why, and how it is relevant to them (WIIFM*)
  • Desire – galvanising change targets to welcome, want and embrace the change
  • Knowledge – giving those experiencing change the information which enables them to enact the change
  • Ability – similar to knowledge, this gives those enacting the change the capability to put it into practice
  • Reinforcement – reiterating the rationale for change, celebrating successes, addressing weaknesses before they become a disease which cripples the embedding of change.

Creating desire through change management

Communication is generally relied on as playing leading roles in the awareness and – often –  reinforcement stages of change. But there are two important caveats that come with this.

Firstly, as it is necessary for leaders to build desire within impacted employees for change, the importance of what is classically termed ‘communication’ during this phase cannot be underestimated. This includes the notion of ‘engagement’, which inherently means conversations, listening and empathising. These are fundamental characteristics of two-way symmetrical communication.

As the change ‘product’ will have already been determined by this stage, typical two-way symmetrical communication tools such as market research are likely to be of little benefit at this point, as the product will not change (sic) greatly. There are relatively minor factors such as speed of roll-out, however, which could feasibly evolve based on employee feedback.

As with any communication, if the ‘product’ can be adapted at all based on target audience needs and wants, the higher the propensity for buy-in (and its extension, advocacy).

How many change programs have the in-built capacity for modification after roll-out is instigated, however, is the moot point (and one which I’d love to hear from if any readers have information on this).

Research has also determined – surprise, surprise – the most effective form of communication in change management is face-to-face, while the most important messages contain information on the impact of change on the individual and why change is occurring.

This is all seemingly straightforward – and research tells us many who have led change would, next time around in change, have more communication, a more comprehensive communication strategy and communicate earlier – but what do you do when an area of the business is being impacted on by multiple change initiatives?

In this case, impacted leaders (those on the ‘ground’ in particular) and employees are at serious risk of change fatigue. Humans aren’t all that great at change anyway, so having multiple pressures from different sides regarding change is, clearly, going to make the embedding of change even more difficult.

The challenge for leadership in change management communication

Change management crystallises a major problem any organisation faces, that of when managers are barely competent at managing, let alone leading.

Leading requires empathy, walking the talk and interpersonal skills that are difficult to teach and often seem to come secondary to technical expertise and experience. So often we see managers appointed because of how excellent they are at their chosen professional field.

At this stage in organisational development, after the massive amount of experience we have in this field, I should think it is the people leadership dimension which is prioritised over the technical expertise dimension when it comes to appointing ‘bosses’.

Clearly, the manager of a particular business group needs to have an understanding of the work that group undertakes, but that group will never reach its potential if it is not managed effectively and, most importantly, provided with strong, purposeful leadership.

This is the sort of leadership that supports and inspires. It is leadership that concurs with organisational vision but adapts to the needs and wants of individual employees.

Within change management, the pressures on managers escalates. And the chief trait which is needed is contained in the word, sentiment, burden and opportunity of leadership. This is the trait which is most likely to facilitate the generation of desire (for change) within impacted employees.

Without it, change is a mechanical thing, one more akin to an alienating burden, rather than a relevant process leading to a personally meaningful outcome and commercially advantageous outcome.

Have you been involved in change programs that have had the in-built capacity for modification embedded into them? How have you seen leaders impact on the quality of a change outcome?

If you found this post of value, please share it through LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Google+ et al!

Communication fail in change management

If you find this post of value, please share itShare on Facebook2Share on LinkedIn46Share on Google+0Tweet about this on Twitter9Email this to someone

One of the most powerful attributes of professional communication is redundant in change management communication. As such, the strategic power of this (internal) form of public relations is profoundly underutilised when it comes to the challenging change management process.

Change management communication

Two-way symmetrical communication is the professional communication (aka public relations) attribute to which I refer. It is an approach which identifies and/or anticipates, then provides, feedback from the target audience to the service, product or issue (in this case, the product/issue is change) decision makers.

This feedback prompts the decision makers (in this case the organisation’s executive and their advisors) to modify the product so it is more likely to be bought (or bought into) by the target audience.

If you find this post of value, please share it through LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Google+ et al!

This process, clearly, is likely to entail compromise from those wanting the sell the product, but it will also enable a higher degree of buy-in and, hence, success in embedding the change so it becomes business as usual.

By the time the change product has been given to the professional communicator, there is generally little chance of it being adjusted based on target audience feedback. So the role of the professional communicator becomes one of a spruiker and issues management consultant:

  • On one hand the positive attributes of the change, the WIIFM* factor and the benefits to the organisation are sold
  • On the other, potential barriers to change and weaknesses in the change product (as determined by those the change will impact on) are identified and communication approaches are put into place to mitigate their negative impact on the change and, more broadly, on organisational culture itself.

Strategic thinking in change management

In saying the professional power of professional communication is being radically under-utilised in change, however, there are two factors to bear in mind:

  • Before the change product is handed to the communicator to work his or her magic on, it has been thoroughly scoped out by the business
  • The issues management dimension of the change, the nature of the communication itself and the way in which it is integrated into the entire change process (e.g. awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, reinforcement – or ADKAR) makes the contribution of communication – if it chooses to exercise the opportunity, of course – immensely strategic.

No organisation is simply going to implement change without investing a great deal of thought into the process. It is being implemented for the long-term benefit of the organisation.

One of the key factors business analysts/management consultants/organisational leadership will consider is how will the change become embedded into the business? And part of that is addressing the questions of how will those the change is impacting upon receive the change and how will the business evolve due to this change?

One can only hope this is the case, anyway.

So there is an argument that professional communicators shouldn’t get too uppity about being simply handed the change product; the two-way symmetrical communication dimension may have already been embedded into the change product development process.

Challenging orthodoxies to improve outcomes

One of the most useful characteristics of the strategic professional communicator, however, is their ability to challenge presumed thinking (groupthink) and, metaphorically speaking, call out the emperor’s new clothes. This is not done out of ego and wilful negativity, it is undertaken to add rigour to the business and communication process.

No discipline has the capability to understand target audiences and predict their reaction to the promulgation of a product or service, especially if it is an issues-laden one, better then a public relations professional. An organisation which chooses to ignore and/or underutilise this capability is doing itself no favours at all and, in fact, is not taking the soundest possible approach to risk management.

Do you think the professional power of public relations is effectively utilised in the change management process? Where and how can public relations be best utilised in change? Is two-way symmetrical communication irrelevant to change management? Do you have faith the best possible change ‘product’ will always be handed to the change team (including communication) before it is asked to embed the change into business as usual?

If you found this post of value, please share it through LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Google+ et al!

* WIIFM – what’s in it for me

Leadership imperative to change management

If you find this post of value, please share itShare on Facebook2Share on LinkedIn30Share on Google+1Tweet about this on Twitter3Email this to someone

Effective communication is one of the foundational building blocks of change management. Without it, change cannot begin to occur, nor will it stick; it will remain ‘change’ – and as such a thorny and alien beast – and not become embedded as ‘business as usual’.

Change management is analogous to much of business activity in the sense that it is tempting to view communication as relatively peripheral, something that is nice to do but hardly essential to achievement. Communication, for instance, doesn’t devise new products or buy and sell companies and/or integrate them into the business. It does, however, help:

  • understand the needs and wants of potential product purchasers, enabling companies to customise the product so it more effectively meets that need and want
  • make potential customers aware of the new product and, to a degree, want the product
  • ensure companies meet their obligations in the buying and selling of companies, whether they be stock exchange/fiduciary obligations, or communicating with important stakeholders such as shareholders.

And the list goes on.

If you find this post of value, please share it through LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Google+ et al!

Where communication fits into change management

When it comes to change management, if you subscribe to Prosci’s ADKAR model of change management (and as it’s one of the most respected constructs for change management in the world, there are plenty of companies that do!), then change cannot successfully take place within an organisation without communication’s vigorous, active involvement in at least two of change’s five components:

  • Awareness
  • Reinforcement.

In full, the five change management components/steps as Prosci sees it are as follows:

  • Awareness – making those who going to experience the change aware of what will be occurring, why, and how it is relevant to them (WIIFM*)
  • Desire – galvanising change targets to welcome, want and embrace the change
  • Knowledge – giving those experiencing change the information which enables them to enact the change (primarily a learning and development process)
  • Ability – similar to knowledge, this gives those enacting the change the capability to put it into practice (again, primarily a learning and development process)
  • Reinforcement – reiterating the rationale for change, celebrating successes, addressing weaknesses before they become a disease which cripples the embedding of change.

The change management product: harbinger of successful change

The desire component of ADKAR is one of its more interesting elements. It’s one thing to make people aware of change; it’s another thing entirely to expect them to welcome and embrace it. This is particularly so when you consider a common characteristic of change is people losing their jobs as an organisation seek to achieve efficiencies, including lower costs.

Changing is inherently difficult for many (most?) people. It takes effort, effort that is perceived as being extraordinary. For each situation and person, then, a different degree of desire is necessitated and can be expected.

Whilst communication has a role to play in the desire component of change management, ultimately it is about the change ‘product’ that is being promulgated which will ensure buy-in or rejection. Going back to our analogy of devising and selling a product, if the product is one which the potential customer has no need for, then why would they purchase it?

Of course, in the case of change, there is the argument that the decision has been made to enact change by the organisation’s executive, so you can either get on the bus and trundle off towards the ‘desired’ destination, or you can literally leave the organisation and take another path more to your liking.

The reality of the situation may be somewhere in the middle, as if key people within the organisation decide to go their own way as a result of the change (and/or the change process), then it may undermine the organisation’s ability to achieve both the business AND the change results it is seeking. And you also have the factor that some key leaders may not like the way change is occurring and do not buy into the process, making the change objectives almost impossible to achieve.

So which professional discipline is chiefly responsible for enacting/driving the desire component of change, as prescribed by the ADKAR model?

The division of roles in change management

Professional communicators are chiefly responsible for the awareness component of change and have a key role to play in the reinforcement component. Learning and development (as a sub-set of human resources) are chiefly responsible for the knowledge and ability components.

Underpinning all of the activity in change are professionally trained change leaders. Working with the support of project managers, they coordinate all contributions to the change process and are, ultimately, responsible for effective change management (along with those who devised the change product, of course!).

When it comes to desire, we revert to one of the most fundamental  truisms of all, business or otherwise: accountability. Specifically, leaders’ accountability.

It is those in charge of the relevant areas who need to subscribe to and lead change. These are, formally speaking, leaders. Whether they are leaders in the sense of enacting leadership in its classic sense – most simply encapsulated in the walking the talk­phrase – is the critical point in this context.

Leadership key to desire in change management

The formal leaders have a contractual and moral obligation to advocate the change. But give them (and the whole collaborative change team) a dodgy (change) product to sell, and the organisation is making it very difficult for this to occur.

So for desire to effectively take place, arguably there are two key components:

  • Make sure the change product is one that can be effectively sold
  • Make sure that formal leadership buys into the process and advocates it.

Without doubt, the content for communication is chiefly the responsibility of the professional communicator. This includes messaging that is focused upon and making the business aware of likely sensitivities and how to navigate them (i.e. issues management).

The communication content and strategic approach is largely determined by the change product and the organisation’s culture. The former is simply handed to the communicator, whilst culture is a long-term game in which communication is but one player, not the sole or pivotal factor.

As change often, as previously noted, involves people leaving the business, it will generally have some negatively perceived characteristics. Whilst it is harsh, it is also commercially pragmatic to state that, to some degree, those leaving the organisation do not need to subscribe to the change. It is those staying who are the most important resources to the organisation.

So the rationale for the change – the positive outcomes it will achieve – is key to it taking place. Employees are not stupid. They will understand the rationale and feel the outcome. Communication is clearly key to this, but, most importantly, leadership is critical.

Generating desire, therefore, is the responsibility of executive leadership (those who decide on the change and are accountable for organisational culture) and the leadership which directly impacts upon those (the directors of traffic, so to speak) doing the lion’s share of the change.

Leaders need to be advocates. They need to be communicators. They must exemplify the carrot and the stick. Most importantly, they need to be role models, they need to….walk the talk.

What are the most important aspects of change management for professional communicators to undertake? Can we provide strategic advice on change that goes beyond the communication dimension, or is that where we should stay? Can communication professionals impact on the nature of the change ‘product’ at all? What is your perception of the role leadership should play in change? And what discipline is responsible for motivating those being impacted on to actually ‘desire’ the change?

If you found this post of value, please share it through LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Google+ et al!