Change Management Part 2: Learning

(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.) Please see PART 1: Foundation before reading Part 2.

The learning phase of change is where we will start to form the definitive measures that have to be altered in order to move the organization from its present condition to the desired future vision. Continuous learning is absolutely necessary during the entire change management process.

This will be part 2 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

These 10 learning questions will give you a greater idea of the operational and day-to-day changes that will have to be made throughout the organization as change is implemented. We will be discussing the absolute “need to know” factors of organizational change and the best ways to prepare and re/distribute resources.

In many ways, parts 2 and 3 in the series are the refinement of answers in part 1. Within the next few parts, we will begin to set proper dates, plans of action, and operating procedures in a more concrete fashion than was previously considered.

If part 1 included the conceptual questions (the basic and overarching strategic considerations), the next few parts include the gathering of, and planning for, specific resource distribution and other pitfalls that must be accounted for before a change can be made.

By the end of step 2 in particular, I hope to make you more aware of the specific resources you have available to you and your organization to enact change smoothly and efficiently.

Question 1: What, in extreme detail, is going to change? (people, systems, structure)

In Part 1 we discussed how to develop a basic roadmap for change considering 3 basic parts: Preparation, Implementation and Adaptation, and Adjustments.

Now, in the learning stage of part 2, we can begin to place more detailed descriptions upon the changes we wish to see that were strategically developed in part 1. All change should occur with the bigger picture considered beforehand.

This question will help to get you started. Visualize the beneficial future and decide what, specifically, needs to change to move the organization in that direction.

I’ve divided these changes into 3 main considerations: People, Systems, and Structures. Each is a larger scale than the last.

That is to say, adjusting people is fairly straight forward, systems are more difficult to change, and structures are almost always organization-wide changes.

People

Consider the actions of all people involved in the change process. One of my more unique consulting exercises to perform is to craft a quick and easy model of the production and cash-flow system of the business to determine where people connect and perform certain actions.

Creating these models brings me greater clarity on the duties of specific personnel within the organization! From there, you have the ability to answer productivity questions and create metrics to track that are specific to you and your goals.

People are the backbone of any organization. And company leadership must consider their employees, and respective duties, when coming up with reforms. This way, you can truly gain insight into the moving parts of the organization.

In fact, change management almost naturally occurs within people in an organization (at least in a free country), it is called the employee turnover rate.

Systems

Systems are the ways in which resources in an organization are interconnected and/or shared among people. The difference between people and systems is that adjusting a system effectively adjusts many people’s tasks or delegations in relation to others. Systems affect all people among a specific organizational level.

This is why systems are on a larger scale than people are, they are the connected web of people in an organization.

Consider this: Adjusting a system is akin to the adjusting of standard operating procedures (SOP’s). Due to these adjustments, and hopes of creating best practices, now all people within an organizational level must abide by new rules.

This can occur at any level of an organization. Changing systems that are utilized by mid-tier managers will now dictate that they all behave in line with those systems.

Structures

Structures are the ways in which an organization delegates certain activities in order to achieve certain goals. The difference between systems and structures is merely the formal relationship developed by a hierarchy.

If systems are implemented horizontally in an organization, then structures integrate vertical relationships between people and duties.

Consider the traditional corporate hierarchy. A hierarchy is merely a formal structure of displaying authority or rank in which relationships are established between people.

During the turn of the century, due to technological advances and communications, more and more companies have had to shift their organizations from a steep vertical structure to a more horizontal one.

Consider the following infographic.

People are specific, Systems are horizontal, and structure is vertical.
People are singular parts of a system, Systems are horizontal, and structure is vertical (made up of systems).

All in all, Imagine how much more simple it would be to plan for organizational change (Part 3) when you have gathered all the information beforehand on your people, systems, and structures.

Question 2: Will anybody feel threatened by the change?
And how can you deal with their concerns?

As we’ve discussed in Part 1: Foundation, people account for the majority of the resistance to change, approximately 72%.

It is the duty of the leader to anticipate resistance and correct it. More specifically, who within the organization may feel threatened by change and how to deal with those people. From their perspective, their job security may be greatly at risk.

It is the unfortunate truth that as systems automate, the livelihood of people within organizations are threatened. However, this occurs far less frequently than most people would believe when it comes to change management.

Usually, systems are changed due to a difference in processes and duties for individuals to accomplish. However, there are occurrences in which a company may need to change in a way that threatens the job security of certain organizational levels.

Start by reviewing your answer to question 1 (What, specifically, is going to change?). This will give you a starting point regarding who will have to deal with change, and how much of a potential threat that change might be.

Here are a few key reasons that change is resisted.
1. Loss of job security or status.
In some cases, this is unavoidable merely because of the nature of certain types of change. However, if resistance occurs wrongfully as a belief that firings will occur when they will not, this is an easy fix.
2. Fear of ambiguity.
People fear the ambiguous merely because it is different and causes them to be uncertain. This is why it is critical for leadership to form a vision of a better future (after a change has occurred) and communicate it effectively to others.
3. Peer pressure.
Occasionally, people may resist change as a form of defending their peers or submitting to groupthink or herd mentality merely because others believe the change is non-beneficial or threatening.
4. Fear of failure (and also success).
Fear of failure often occurs when scrutinous supervision or extremely high standards dissuade a person from even trying to implement the change. Likewise, fear of success occurs due to the possibility of continued high expectations for performance that may be unmanageable or unsustainable to a person in the long run.
5. Distrust of leadership.
There is a chance that certain people distrust senior leadership within an organization. This can be paralyzing to productivity and will likely be a leech on productivity whether change ever occurs or not. This distrust can be managed, but it takes time to recover from.
6. Poor timing/reinforcement.
When changes aren’t timed well, confusion and resistance will likely occur. Sometimes, a leader can implement a well-regarded change in a way that is difficult to handle or inefficient. Resistance will occur all the same. Likewise, when there is no reinforcement for change, people often fall back on their old habits.
7. No vision/unenforced rewards.
Vision is a difficult thing to implement. It is difficult because certain people within the organization receive their checks whether or not the organization’s visions are achieved. The best question to ask (and communicate) here is, “What can this change do for them?”

These are all reasons why people may resist change within the organization. It is likely worth considering that any combination of these may become present within your organization as a result of any changes you make.

Question 3: Do people have the skills and resources to implement the change?

Considering the skills (strengths, weaknesses, etc.) of your employees is a great way to begin defining what resources are available to make change happen.
Considering the skills (strengths, weaknesses, etc.) of your employees is a great way to begin defining what resources are available to make change happen.

A much more technical question regards whether or not employees have access to the proper resources needed to implement a change at all. In fact, this is one of the key questions for determining the level of involvement that leaders will have when implementing a change hands-on.

For example, will general managers have the ability to write checks for coaching and support measures during the implementation of change? Or will they have to involve senior managers? Leaders? Corporate?

Ultimately, as the leader for change, you will have to gather and determine which resources are needed and in which quantities. Consider the following.

I argue that there are only two main resources that an organization will ultimately have to consider spending on change. Part of my job as a change management consultant is helping management decide where these resources go.

The following two resources will dictate all company processes for change. Money and time.

Money

Money is the resource needed to quantify the budget for change based on quite a few factors. These factors will likely change for every organization merely because the needs for change management resources are different from company to company.

Here is a list of basic factors to consider when changing based on how much they will cost.
Labor Hours
Coaching
New Systems
Overtime
Training
Meetings
Risk
Incentives

.You will have to map out who makes the decisions and who writes the checks to provide these things for their teams. Mapping this out will give you a good idea of the responsibilities of each person. It will also clarify the level of hands-on leadership that will be required to keep change moving smoothly throughout an organization at certain hierarchical tiers.

For example, if you ultimately write the checks to provide coaching to employees, but want to encourage team autonomy, perhaps you should delegate that task to somebody else.

Time

Time is an interesting resource for any organization. It can be quantified in terms of money, hence the time-old saying “time is money.” Ultimately, you will have to balance the cost of change against the estimated time frame of its completion.

It’s an interesting balance, should you spend too long implementing change, you may be losing more money than you would have if you spent the money to provide adequate coaching, training, incentives, etc. from the beginning.

It should be entirely possible to create a cost-benefit analysis between adequate timeframe and monetary resources within an organization to determine the least costly combination of each.

Of course, I cannot supply such a formula that is universally accurate, merely because the predictions that are necessary are determined by the nature of the change that is being implemented and by the culture of the company.

The most important point to take from this question is this: Do the key players have the ability to expend resources in the way they should to implement change effectively? If yes, you’re golden. If no, consider redistributing budgets to garner the level of autonomy desired.

Question 4: What will people (at every level) have to do more of?
How about less of?

This is fairly straight forward. A company is made up of moving parts, more specifically, people. Chances are that the change that is being developed is a systems change (this is the most common change that is considered worthy of “change management” techniques).

The reason for this is because employee turnover is relatively small-level. Unless a company is bringing in a brand new CEO, and wants coaching services or change management consulting, systems changes are the lowest level that normally warrants change management.

Your answer to question #1 is due to make a reappearance here. Only now we are being much more specific. We have taken a larger change and divided it into smaller tasks that must be performed by individuals within the organization in order to accomplish the strategic mission.

What are those changes? What will people within your organization have to do more of?

Follow the line of those new duties up and down every level of the organization and make them clear to every individual. A great way to avoid resistance is to clarify specific expectations that are set for every person.

For example, Let’s say the new change in an organization required us to use custom software to track important metrics that were not being tracked before. I could lay out the duties of each and every level like so…

CEO: Develops strategic vision and communicates it effectively to executives. Provides coaching for executives on how to communicate vision downwards to teams. Manages the Board of Directors and informs them of implementation progress based on the info from executive teams.
Exec. Team: Communicates vision to general managers. Likely sets the budgets for resource integration and delegation. Collects information from general managers and reports to the CEO/Board. Enforces a common understanding of the necessity of change.
General Managers: Communicates vision to team members and department heads. Reinforces positive behavior from employees. Provides incentives to change based on budgets and resources. Manages team behaviors and reports any issues or performance metrics to the respective executive leader. Learns and implements new software in order to correct immediate issues or resistance.
Team Members: Implements and begins to use the new system. Must understand the importance of change (both in the way it benefits the company and themselves as individuals) Uses the new system properly and efficiently. Communicates issues and concerns with general managers who (depending on resource delegation) may have the power to fix it or can request assistance from the Executive Team.

It is a rudimentary example, but one that focuses on the specifics behind certain activities, their importance, and who is responsible for them. This can (and should) be done at every level of an organization that is involved with the intended change.

Another method you can use is to set goals for each individual that makes their responsibilities clear and concise by using the following formula. Clear and proper goals always encompass these things.

Goals Are:
Measurable
Motivating
Relevant
Specific
Time-Sensitive
Written

Question 5: What new tasks are you assigning, and to whom?
Are there actions that should be given up altogether due to the new change?

Be careful about assigning tasks. There must be an equal distribution of responsibility and work-load among teams and team members.
Be careful about assigning tasks. There must be an equal distribution of responsibility and work-load among teams and team members.

Sometimes during organizational change, there are tasks that you must add and/or take away from a person’s responsibilities. Fair enough, but now is the time to decide what those things are.

Keep in mind that seamless change is a result of opportunity costs. In other words, actions that you will give up in order to implement some other actions. Rarely can an organization implement change by continuously adding responsibilities to workers, the result is inevitable burnout, and consequently, resistance.

Consider the following quote from my book, The Potential Dichotomy: The Philosophy of a Fulfilling Life.

“Often we attempt to do more by adding tasks above and beyond what we normally are capable of. Our habits command that we behave a certain way each and every day, attempting to add more to our daily abilities will inevitably lead to burnout unless we decide to shift our resources of time and energy away from something first. That is if you want to change QUICKLY! Quick change is about redistribution of resources, long-term change requires exercise.” – Austin Denison, The Potential Dichotomy: The Philosophy of a Fulfilling Life

In the quote, I mention the changing of habits as it related to living more happily. Believe it or not, an organization is not all that different.

Time is still a resource for an organization but “energy” (from the quote) must be replaced by “money” to make sense of an organization’s habitual nature.

Ultimately, you must decide which actions to keep and which actions to change. Ask yourself this question, “Which actions (can I, or my employees, take) that are reflective of my desired future vision for the company? Which actions will I relinquish to make way for them?”

Question 6: How well do employees trust their leadership?

Trust is undoubtedly the crux of any good organization. Ultimately, without trust, there can be no mutual understanding or openmindedness which are essential towards implementing organizational change.

Would you want to change your processes, job position, or actions for the betterment of the company if you didn’t feel that management had your best interests in mind as well? Likely not. This is because, without trust, there can be no certainty of a beneficial vision that results after the change occurs.

People will only implement change and be committed to it once they realize the benefits change can provide to both the organization and the individuals themselves.

Stephen Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and The Speed of Trust, says ” There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world – one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love.
On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time.
That one thing is trust.” – Stephen Covey, The Speed of Trust.

Trust is difficult to gauge merely because it is hardly quantifiable. Rather, it develops a certain feeling within people. This feeling, when understood, can help you understood the level of trust based on certain behavioral cues within the organization. Let’s explore a few of those cues now.

Cues from trusting people:
1. People freely talk about their social (non-work) lives
2. People feel comfortable admitting mistakes/being vulnerable.
3. People are willing to take advice from others.
4. People feel comfortable standing up for themselves or their beliefs.
5. People respectfully disagree, and explain why.
6. People don’t feel “fake.”
7. People are quick to forgive.

There are obviously many more to list, however, this is a good starting point for determining whether trust is abundant within an organization.

It would be fantastic if trust could present itself as quantifiable data in your financial statements, but it doesn’t. This is why it is often quickly overlooked.

In order to develop trust within an organization, you must first align organization values with your organization’s actions. In essence, being a role model as opposed to a forcing authority is preferable for developing trust.

The number one thing that destroys trust is a lack of consistency. If you say it, mean it. It makes the world of a difference to any person who has to rely on information from you, the leader, or others within an organization.

The reason consistency is so important is due to the Basal ganglia portion of our brains that control habitual patterns and behavioral responses. In the book, The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, he mentions that habits are a result of behaviors that occur which shift expectations from the moment of REWARD to the moment of the TRIGGER, this is the secret to consistency.

The basic habitual pattern goes like this. TRIGGER –> ROUTINE –> REWARD.

Ultimately, actions that become habits are so consistent that our brain anticipates the happiness of rewards at the TRIGGER stage of the cycle. In order to create undoubted (and arguably habitual) trust in your teams, you must be extremely consistent in attitude, behavior, and positive reinforcement.

Question 7: Are there informal leaders who can advocate for change?

Informal leaders can play a great role in influencing others to join the movement for change. This is due to the "trust of the equal."
Informal leaders can play a great role in influencing others to join the movement for change. This is due to the “trust of the equal.”

Informal leaders are exactly that, they are influencers who are not part of the traditional hierarchy found in the business structure. however, they have the potential to play very key roles in the development and implementation of organizational change.

These informal leaders likely have become popular due to a level of trust that cannot be had in any means by formal leaders. That is, “the trust of the equal”.

The “trust of the equal” is garnered by feelings of empathy, more specifically, the acknowledgment that these people are doing the same things, likely feeling the same ways, and are at the same level within an organization.

There is no rank to be pulled due to the trust of the equal. Would people complain about their boss to their boss? Of course not.

This is why informal leaders can be detrimental to organizational change. Should employees feel as though there is a trustworthy case for change presented by a person who is their equal, they will likely become much more willing to implement change merely due to the fact that this change MUST have their best interests in mind.

Ask yourself, as the leader for change within your organization, who are the informal leaders that others rally around? And how can you explain the importance and vision behind the change in a way that inspires them to get others on board? They will have an amount of leverage in increasing commitment that formal leaders may never have.

Remember, it all circles around to trust. Although a team may occasionally distrust a formal leader, they may very well trust one of their own.

Question 8: Who already supports the change?
Can you leverage that support in any way?

There are also occasionally people who support change who may not be informal leaders but may embody compelling evidence for change as a result of personal circumstances. Perhaps they can share their experiences with the goal of increasing team commitment.

Commercials use this tactic all the time to convey a sense of common betterment due to their product or service. Almost any medical commercial attempts to relate a better livelihood to there audience through personal anecdotes.

Consider any of the following argumentative tactics to use when making a case for change.

Logos: Obviously the change must be logical. If you attempt to implement change without forming logical and persuasive arguments that consider common fears and concerns, nobody will trust the benefits the change has to give. Similarly, are there people who fully understand these arguments and can convey them well to others?

Pathos: Emotions play the biggest role in human behavior. We are not always perfectly logical, and we do not always fully trust others based on certain ethical criteria (ethos). However, our emotions ALWAYS play a role in our thoughts, experiences, and decisions.

There is a reason that a compelling emotional argument is the most effective way to alter mindsets. Just consider any ASPCA commercial.

Find somebody who may have an extremely emotional and persuasive argument for change based on personal experiences. Remember, it is better to communicate how change will benefit them, as opposed to how change will benefit the company.

Ethos: Ethos is based on the determined credibility of the enforcing party. All in all, without credibility, trust cannot be formed. Ethos is largely based on bias, however, and can be tricky.

Billboards that sell medications often have a random person in a doctor’s coat on them because we’ve learned that doctors should be trustworthy people to hand out medications. Is that person really a doctor? Who knows?

I am not an advocate for faking benefits or stories that are unrealistic or deceptive, doing so is a recipe for distrust and inconsistency. Don’t fake benefits to get people on board, instead, find people who can accurately and efficiently communicate the benefits they’ve experienced as a result of the change to others.

Question 9: Are all critical leaders on board?

Remember that infographic from part 1? A whopping 33% of the 72% (people resistance to change) is due to management resistance. More specifically, management not effectively participating or enforcing change with the dedication that they should be.

It’s one thing to deal with employee issues when it comes to change, but if your management is not on board, you can forget it.

Remember, change management should be a trickle-down procedure. The people at the top first need to develop commitment before they can begin to think of communicating the need for change effectively to others.

The lack of commitment from critical leaders should be fairly obvious. It’s as simple as determining whether they are communicating change in a positive light, or if they are glancing over it and hoping nothing comes to pass.

The best way to understand and employ leadership commitment is to appeal to their interests, much in the same way that you must appeal to employee interests. What can this change do for them? Why should they be excited about it? How can you develop urgency within them?

Consider the goals of change and how it might affect the troubled party specifically. Always consider that different key leaders have different goals and expectations. It is your job, as the advocate for change, to acknowledge these issues and address them accordingly.

For example, a systems change that doesn’t affect marketing, but does affect operations, may cause some the marketing manager to be all-in but the operations manager to resent it, especially if it means an alteration to the operations manager’s teams or worse, the potential for layoffs.

Determining whether the critical leaders for change are on board is an essential part of change management, and arguably, it is the most important consideration that you can give to navigate the resistance of people within the organization.

Question 10: Have you decided which metrics, specifically, you will track to determine success or failure?

Choosing the right metrics is necessary for your ability to track consistent and relevant data throughout the change process.
Choosing the right metrics is necessary for your ability to track consistent and relevant data throughout the change process.

Now is the time to fully determine and map out the specific metrics you will track that you will use to determine the success or failure of the change. Hint: They are likely the metrics you noticed that caused a compelling argument for change at the beginning of Part 1: Foundation, however, they don’t always need to be.

The metrics you choose are extremely important. Choose false, or irrelevant, metrics to track and you will not be able to accurately monitor progress in the direction of your intended vision.

Metrics will be different given every change, organization, team, and department. For example, an organization-wide change may cause marketing to track engagement, but operations to track production outputs.

Simple enough, but choosing the right metric to track is vital. Consider the vision you created as a result of Question 7 in Part 1: Foundation. What were the defining factors behind a better future? How did it operate and what key goals did you create to enforce that vision?

For example, if your vision was to gain more customers or increase market demand, then perhaps engagement and market share are good factors to track.

If your goal was to better satisfy investors, then a larger market cap, increased price per share, increased dividend yield, and increased growth rates are likely good metrics!

Consider your metrics as the mediators between the people side of change and the intended quantifiable targets. It is best to use a healthy combination of productivity metrics (employee satisfaction, commitment, revenue per labor hour, etc.) and quantitative metrics (any that fits organization goals) to determine whether the employee change is truly the reason behind company growth or decay.

Conclusion

Hopefully, I was able to help you learn more about the goals and resources available to your organization. Use these resources wisely, and you can develop change much more quickly and efficiently than ever before.

Remember, the most important points are to develop trust, remain consistent, and align vision with action. That is the essence of effective Change Management.

For Part 1: Foundation of the Change Management series, please click HERE
For more blog posts in general, please click HERE