You just got off the phone with another angry customer. Service and attitudes are poor. Results are down. Good people are quitting and morale is suffering. You keep seeing and hearing negative rumblings about “culture.”
Are you considering a change management strategy to address these “people issues?” Are you also skeptical about these efforts because you’ve had a bad experience or you’ve heard of others who have? You can certainly find a lot to read on the subject. There are change management experts, studies, graphics, and step-by-step processes to follow. It’s all good information.
However, I believe a normal business approach to strategic planning should be able to achieve the same thing. Do some research if you want. Then see if the following seven steps will get you where you want to go. There’s a brief example at the end of this article that pulls it all together.
1) Assessment – The bridge to the future begins in the present. In order to change, you must first completely understand where you’re starting from. The organizational assessment should clarify your current financials, people, processes, technology, leadership, culture, etc. You’ll involve people in this process and obtain their valuable feedback. You’ll gain a better appreciation for their roadblocks and pet peeves. This is a great first step to building the change management strategy.
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2) Create A Vision – It is debatable whether to start with the vision vs. assessment. Some would rather dream big first, while others prefer to be more grounded in the current reality. Either approach can work, as long as you have both. Regardless, a clear picture of where your organization is headed is critical. Include the behavioral changes you want to see along the way.
3) Plan The Work, Work The Plan – So, you have a vision of where you want to go. You understand your numbers, your organization, and your improvement opportunities. Now, you can create your complete organizational strategic plan. This plan needs to include the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your change management strategy. (This is no different than including the elements of your marketing or human resource strategy.) Key messages in your communication should be crafted as one of the strategic plan actions. You should begin to see how all the operational activity dovetails into the change management work.
4) Consider Risks – Any solution or idea has risks. Include your change concerns along with your operational concerns. Take time up front to list all of them and create the mitigation strategies and contingency plans to address each one. A structured meeting or two should be enough to cover this, so don’t let your team get bogged down in negativity. (By the way – one change management risk is to create a separate plan that ignores the operational plan. We’re covering that one with this blog!)
5) Hold People Accountable – Any strategic plan should include performance measurement and personal objectives for the results. Implementing change is no different.
6) Recognize Success – Again – business as usual. You can certainly be more deliberate in your change management efforts, especially if you’re trying to overcome a very entrenched culture. Coaching and recognition will overcome negative behaviors you’re trying to change – if – you’ve addressed the process and technology issues as well.
7) Keep It Going – Strategic planning should be an ongoing process – not an event. The same is true of your change management approach. Make sure your plans include regular reviews, communication, adjustments, and continued progress.
Example: Your assessment may have revealed the need for a major process or technology improvement. Assume this issue is encouraging the wrong type of employee behavior with customers. Your results have suffered and drastic action is needed. You want to change the behavior, but recognize you need to improve the process and system as well. You need a change management strategy integrated into your overall operational strategy.
The update is significant enough to require formal training. The training would include the technical aspects for the new system. What if you uncover a risk, that some of the staff will resist the change? What if the level of difficulty is intimidating, or they question their ability to juggle new customer service skills at the same time? To integrate your change management strategy, incorporate staff input to customize the training and make it more effective. Key staff leaders could not only help with training development – they could help teach it! This would increase buy-in. Communication plans can explain and reiterate the “why” for the changes – results, turnover, organizational viability. “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) Raises or bonuses, security, and reduced stress should be good motivators. Include your new customer service metrics and goals. Document how you’ll measure and report those results. Make sure personal accountability is addressed in performance objectives and reviews. Encourage progress every step of the way. Introducing new incentive and recognition programs can be part of the training and/or part of “keeping it going.”
All of these actions should be prioritized, balanced, and integrated with all other operational activity as part of the overall strategic plan. What if you discover that there are three other initiatives that could compete for resources and risk this project? You have to prioritize and the only way to do that is to look at everything together. Resist the temptation to develop any “silo” strategies.
Build your change management strategy into your organizational strategy. You may be surprised that it goes a lot smoother than what you’ve heard about or experienced in the past.