Change Management (Part 1) Foundation

(Note: these questions, while in no particular order, would likely help an organization’s efficiency of change if answered in the order they are presented.)

Change management is the inevitable and necessary process of preparing an organization to implement different practices. It is inevitable because of the ever-changing nature of consumer desires and it is necessary to help businesses stay afloat and grow towards the future.

In the following 6-part series we will discuss all avenues for preparing for change within an organization. Change is valuable and must be willingly and gracefully implemented in order to keep an organization relevant in the marketplace.

Today we will be discussing foundation questions. These questions are designed to help you grasp the value of change before you implement it. They are designed to help you gain perspective on the current situation as well as define goals and visualize what beneficial change might look like for you.

Ultimately, by the end of this post, you will have a better understanding of your institution’s position, and of the ways in which change can be implemented immediately or prepared for later on.

This will be part 1 of 6 in the entire Change Management Checklist series. Ultimately, the rest of the series will go as follows.

Change Management Checklist Blog Series:
Part 1: Foundation
Part 2: Learning
Part 3: Planning
Part 4: Implementation
Part 5: Sustaining the Change
Part 6: Review and Re-Adjust

Question 1: Why, specifically, is a change necessary at this time?

Now, this seems like a rather obvious question, and it is, but you might be surprised at how many people skip right over it and begin to experiment with change before realizing that they might not need to.

This question will give you a basic handle on what the motivating factors are for change. Basically, they are the issues that your organization might be facing that require alteration and adjustment.

There can be a litany of answers to this one, anywhere from declining profits to decreased productivity-by-hour and many more.

Although the answers to this question will vary from business to business, the result is a better understanding of one of the key elements that is forcing a decision to be made on your end.

Consider this; How would you know what needs to be altered after the change is made without first attempting to understand what is forcing the change in the first place? That is the sole issue that effective change management addresses.

This is where we can start to build an idea of factors and metrics that will help us determine whether an organizational change is effective. If declining team productivity is forcing us to change, then we must set goals with metrics that we can measure that relate to the productivity of teams.

Ultimately, this question really begs another question. This next question dives into the logic behind whether or not a change is really necessary.

Question 2: Are there compelling reasons to change?

Sure, there may be some factors within your organization that are placing pressure upon you or others, and they very well could make a change necessary. However, you should first entertain the idea that a systems-wide or standard operating procedural (SOP) change may not be as necessary as it first seems.

Yes, the first question dealt with whether a change was necessary, but this question acts like a sanity-check. It forces us to entertain the idea that, even though things can’t remain the way they are, perhaps they will course-correct without much effort.

Consider a natural disaster. Many organizations take hits and may find decreased profits or productivity due to natural disasters. However, that is not to say that the former standard procedures are now irrelevant. It merely requires the patience and adaptability of a company for a limited amount of time.

Seasons work the very same way, there may be an inherent “off-season” for a product that no amount of change can prepare for when it comes to factors such as sales and productivity.

Question 2 requires a logical mind and the willingness to dive deeper into the foundation question, which is, “Is change absolutely necessary.” Change management is not without its own existential crises!

The answer to question 2 will also help you create a compelling case for why the change must occur.

More so than simply, “Yes, a change must occur because these things must change.” Question 2 states “Yes, a change must occur because these things will continue to harm our business over the long-run.”

Question 3: How can we convince others that change is necessary?

Making the case for change is the role of every good leader who wishes to inspire growth and commitment.
Making the case for change is the role of every good leader who wishes to inspire growth and commitment.

Assuming, of course, that change is necessary as made clear by the previous 2 questions, this is the question that dives into building involvement.

No one person can change the entirety of an organization by themselves. Everybody needs help in some way or another.

Therefore, question 3 requires you to think about the people involved in the change. Not only who can help implement the change, but also who will be directly or indirectly affected by it.

Getting others involved will solidify ideas, gather thoughts or theories on implementation, and provide insights that others may look over. Executives don’t always know what is directly involved in the operational tier of business, and vice versa for those who attempt to place themselves in the strategic tier.

Should a change be necessary, you must learn how to communicate it effectively and convincingly in order to truly get a solution off the ground. For example, how would you be able to alter procedures if nobody was convinced that new ones would help?

As a consultant, it is entirely my job to present a need for change within an organization in a simple and convincing manner. If I don’t do that, then no implementation will occur.

Not to mention, finding compelling arguments for change may make you consider differing perspectives. These perspectives may be amazingly valuable in offering solutions, ideas, or issues that will have to be considered when making the change.

Question 4: How do we prepare a road-map?

Road maps are excellent guiding tools to make change and procedures much more clear to others. In fact, much of change management consulting surrounds the creation of roadmaps and plans for implementation.

Keep in mind, a roadmap is simply a generic tool for organizing change in terms of sequence; one action before another, with the goal of complete and autonomous systems afterward.

Preparing a roadmap for change is rather simple, implementing one smoothly is where the real change-management issues com into play.

A typical change management roadmap is made of phases, generally 3 (all-encompassing) phases. These phases are
1) Preparation
2) Implementation/Adaptation
3) Adjustments

Each and every roadmap will differ based on company needs and issues, however, this generic formula can do wonders for creating a simple and effective plan in a quick time. A good road map is an effective way to begin the foundation process of change management almost immediately.

The preparation section is where you analyze factors, prepare people, gather help where needed, and do most of the “before-hand” work. (this is about where we are in terms of (part 1) Foundation

Implementation is where change will actually occur and new systems take place. Adaptation may be necessary during this stage.

Adjustments are merely that. What needs to change to make this solution work better for us after implementation.

This road map is not supposed to be all-inclusive with minute details quite yet. We have another 6 parts to get there and ask those questions. However, leaders should consider how to begin creating this roadmap, and how to make it intuitive and fit there organization well.

Question 5: What are some barriers to change that may affect us along the way?

There is no change that occurs without hitting certain barriers. One of the most common (and likely) of these barriers is the lack of commitment from the team or others who are involved in the change.

Check out the following infographic.

As you can see, the majority of the barriers of change are a result of resistance from employees or managers.
As you can see, the majority of the barriers to change are a result of resistance from employees or managers.

This is exactly why question 3 exists. A large part of my job is to develop persuasive arguments for change and to help others recognize it’s benefits. Change management is a result of considering the organization-wide perspective to potential barriers.

Without the commitment from key personnel and the resources to implement change, nothing would occur within an organization. It would remain stagnant.

As a leader vying for change, you must anticipate any potential roadblocks or resistance to change that you will inevitably have to address.

Keep in mind, there are likely more barriers to change within your organization than just personnel, however, personal commitment does seem to be the common deciding factor among most organizational change.

Question 6: How does the proposed change align with the organizations strategic vision?

One of the most important questions in change management is this one. This question alone can save you plenty of headaches, time, and MONEY.

Ultimately, consider the words of Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why.

“Most organizations today use very clear metrics to track the progress and growth of WHAT they do, usually it’s money. Unfortunately, we have very poor measurements to ensure a WHY stays clear.” – Simon Sinek, Start With Why

Ultimately, an organization that loses sight of its inherent strategic vision will chase rainbows. Only when decisions are made, and changes are implemented, in line with a common strategic vision will a company maintain the course.

Perhaps the change is unnecessary but the alignment with the bigger picture is. For example, Consider what Henry Ford said when he began producing automobiles.

“If I had asked them what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” – Henry Ford

Henry Ford understood that change is only as beneficial to an organization as the meaning behind it allows.

Consider Jack Welch of GE, he mentioned that if they were not #1 or #2 in their industry, they weren’t in it. Specializing in this way has its perks, but when it comes to change management, you must constantly way the change against the bigger picture value it will bring afterward.

What if Jack Welch had decided to implement change on some of his underperforming brands instead of getting rid of them? They likely wouldn’t have seen as much success merely due to the limited resources they had to focus on what matters; the strategic vision behind GE being the best.

Ultimately, ask yourself this question as it relates to change and strategic vision: Is the change necessary, or is the commodity necessary?

Everything a company does should be in line with their values and mission statement, if it is not, it will likely harm the company vision within the eyes of consumers, and may create an organizational “identity-crisis”.

It’s simple. Before implementing change, ask yourself whether the bigger picture is worth it and whether that change aligns with your strategic vision.

Question 7: How do I visualize a better future after a change is implemented?

Only those who can visualize a better future have the power to change the present.
Only those who can visualize a better future have the power to change the present.

In all honesty, this question can be seen as a morph between question 2 and question 6. This is because a better future is often visualized as lacking the “compelling reasons to change” from question #2, and it requires you to think of the end-goal in terms of “why” the change must occur (as per question 6).

However, I argue that this question is as necessary as the others because it does one thing amazingly different. It is a great way to gain perspective on the root of an immediate issue that you have likely determined in question 2 (Are there compelling reasons to change?).

Ultimately, this question helps you narrow your focus on what the true issues may be. Visualizing a successful implementation helps you determine what exactly needs to be changed, not in terms of metrics, but in terms of functionality.

Here is the reason why a change vision is so important.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra

Without the vision of a better future, you cannot possibly create the roadmap to get there.

“A great change vision is something that is easy for people to understand. It can be written usually in a half-page, communicated in 60 seconds, is both intellectually solid but has emotional appeal, and it’s something that can be understood by the broad range of people that are ultimately going to have to change—and that could be a secretary or an executive, it could be somebody from Germany or from the United States. Which makes it easy to communicate and to communicate it in a way that people will “get it,” if you will, and will, if you do it right, buy into it.” – John Kotter (Forbes) For more info on the article, click HERE

Change visions are necessary because they guide you during the whole process, from preparation to implementation.

Without a solid vision of a better future, you would likely have a difficult time making quick adaptive decisions during the implementation process simply because there is no vision with which to measure success along the way.

Question 8: Who is directly involved in the change process?

Determining who is directly involved in the change process is a valuable step. It allows you to gather commitment and personal resources from those who matter most.

Commitment is the most important piece of the puzzle. The infographic I showed earlier stated that a lack of commitment (from either employees or managers) was directly responsible for roughly 72% of all change barriers.

Here is a little run-down on commitment. More definitively, the difference between commitment and compliance.

Good leaders always try to avoid compliance. Compliance is a result of “pulling rank” over someone else and saying “do it because I said so.” It usually results in resistance, negative behaviors, and definitely a lack of commitment.

On the other hand, commitment is a result of communicating the importance of change, and how it benefits, not just the company, but the individual that is involved as well.

For example, which seems more effective?
1) Telling your child to brush their teeth because you said so. or…
2) Telling your child to brush their teeth because otherwise, their teeth may fall out and reduce their chocolate-eating abilities!

#2 obviously considers the child’s own cares and wants. #2 breeds commitment in the child through this consideration.

Additionally, when you determine who is directly involved in the proposed change, you will know exactly who is responsible for there respective duties. Change can’t happen without people, remember?

By keeping those people who are involved accountable, you can quickly and efficiently solve issues, delegate tasks, and monitor bottlenecks in productivity.

Determining who is directly involved in change, and inspiring commitment therein is the most effective way to prepare your organization for the implementation of a change and ensure its success.

Question 9: Will the change incorporate or shift new values within the organization?

Values are the base upon which the rest of the organization should be established.
Values are the base upon which the rest of the organization should be established.

This is a question that explains the potential of change to make an enormous difference throughout the entirety of an institution.

A company must be defined and built upon certain values. These values must directly relate to their mission and must constantly be reinforced throughout the organization, otherwise, the company faces the risk of an internal “identity crisis” that I mentioned in question 6.

When you consider shifting values around in an organization, you must also consider shifting visions, beliefs, actions, and the public view of the company itself.

This is because a company with shifting values is difficult to maintain merely because values are the foundation on which to build procedures. Change management is (usually) the shifting of procedures after all.

When you try and demo an entire building, you don’t aim for the top, you aim for the foundation. That is why shifting values are dangerous.

You must carefully determine whether or not the change you will make will alter the very nature of the company itself, and whether other parts of the company will be forced to follow along, which highlights the potential for depleted resources.

To prepare for a large, organization-wide change, you must consider every pitfall imaginable. The company depends on internal strength and preparedness for support through the inevitable issues that come with large changes.

The best way to gain a tangible perspective on the effect of a change in an organization is to follow connections and points of contact between the affected people.

For example, work your way down the hierarchy of your organization and continue asking yourself these questions at every level.
1) How does the proposed change affect this person?
2) What new duties or actions does this person have or take?
3) Who does this person come into contact with? (inside OR outside of the immediate organization, i.e. salespeople will contact customers)
4) How might those people who are contacted be affected by the altered state of change?

Keep in mind that values run deep and that organizations, while given a structured hierarchy, are made up of a web on integrated relationships between people.

Consider these things before ever beginning the implementation process, preparedness in this stage prevents much larger issues later on.

Question 10: How can we make change more intuitive?

The largest issue surrounding change is undoubtedly on the people-end. Crafting more intuitive solutions and easily implemented systems makes the entire change much more efficient and successful.

Here are some simple steps you can take to prepare more intuitive changes for your organization!

Recognize and consider the opinions of others.
It may go without saying, but often when we consider implementing new systems or changes we may neglect to gather the opinions and thoughts from those who actually use them!

In the book, The Dichotomy of Leadership, Jocko Willink, and Leif Babin mention a distraught CEO who attempted to implement new IT systems. Every time somebody attempted to mention that there were issues with the systems, the CEO would neglect to consider it. The result was lots of money wasted on systems that would have to be altered or readjusted to fit the culture of the company.

Ask better questions.
If there is one thing that coaching and consulting has taught me, it is that a solution is always present, but we can only uncover it by asking better questions.

In fact, asking questions is all that our brain does, it provides us thoughts and ideas based on the questions we ask it. Those who are constantly prepared to learn and adapt will outperform those who refuse to accept differing ideas and take in no new information.

Become curious about how to implement intuitive systems or changes and ask those involved in the process for feedback, the sheer curiosity may prove useful in providing you with alternatives and better implementation strategies.

Develop trust.
I’ve said it before but it is worth repeating. although businesses are structured with a hierarchy, they are really a web of intricate interactions and relationships. Developing trust, and encouraging team members to speak out about their ideas, concerns, and issues is a great way to resolve problems before they compound and to develop open communications.

Open communication is necessary for creating intuitive changes within an organization. How would you know how to adapt if nobody told you what was wrong? building trust should be at the core of every good business.

Conclusion

Hopefully, I’ve helped give you some perspective on how to build the foundation of organizational change, and of some of the questions you should consider when doing so.

Remember, preparation is the first step. Don’t expect change to occur seamlessly within an organization, but with some preparation, it will go much more smoothly than it otherwise would! that is the essence of good change management.

This has been Part 1: Foundation.
The next post will discuss Part 2: Learning.

Thanks for reading!

In the meantime, here are some other posts on change management and leadership!

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