Change Management Part 3: Planning

(Note: these questions, while in no particular order, would likely help an organization’s efficiency if answered in the order they are presented.) Please see the previous parts before moving forward.

This will be part 3 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

Part 3 of this series is the planning stage. This stage is full of questions that directly pertain to your ability, as the leader for change, to ensure that your organization is prepared to begin implementation.

This section contains lots of questions that are designed to help bring up common, yet often overlooked, issues that can be mitigated if considered before the change is implemented.

Questions like, “How can we prepare for this?” and “Have we done that?” will cause you to consider the ability of your organization to change in a new light.

Hopefully, that consideration will translate into a much smoother and more enjoyable change experience for all people involved.

Question 1: Are there sufficient resources to overcome obstacles we hadn’t (or couldn’t) considered?

Do your teams have access to experts? How about regulated books or texts that keep the company synched during the change?
Do your teams have access to experts? How about regulated books or texts that keep the company synched during the change?

Being prepared is a good thing. Being prepared for the unpreparable is a GREAT thing. What I mean is this, have you put away resources that can aid you in an entirely unexpected situation that may affect the state of the company during the implementation process?

“Resources” can include, but aren’t limited to…
1. Money
-books
-materials
-coaching
-consulting
-education
-training

2. Time
…for implementation to take effect and merge with culture.

The nature of change management is to make the unpredictable as predictable (and preparable) as possible. However, by nature of it, you cannot prepare for everything.

You must delegate resources to and from certain tasks or issues in order to smooth the transition from the company’s current state to the desired future.

For example, companies may not have prepared for certain laws passed by the government that mandate new procedures, however, an emergency supply of resources can be used to mitigate these issues in the case of such an emergency.

Consider the commonly recommended contingency supply for an average citizen. It is recommended that the average person has at least enough money saved up for 3 whole months of expenses in the case of the unpredictable. Whether the unpredictable actually occurs does not matter if you have prepared for it.

Let’s take that mentality and apply it to business change. But how? Change is far and away more unpredictable due merely to the nature of different organizations and what is needed for change to occur in the first place.

Here is my suggestion: Before the company begins the implementation process, and starts throwing resources at causing change to happen, the most secure measure to take is to prepare resources for at least an extra 3rd of the projected implementation costs.

You should have a good idea of the projected time and budget for a full change implementation (based on Step 2: Learning), take that budget and divide it by 3. Prepare a reserve amount of resources for that amount of time alone (1/3rd of the projected time/cost), and don’t touch it during the implementation process.

Let’s say I run a company with a projected full-change time frame of 1 calendar year, and a projected cost of implementation of 150 thousand dollars. I would simply divide the cost by 3, and add that to my contingency resources.

150k (full-change budget)/3 = 50k
50k (contingency)+150k (Full-change budget) = 200k (projected risk-averse change budget)

As I mentioned earlier, the same concept can apply to time.

projected change time frame = 1 calendar year.
projected change budget for 1 calendar year = 150k.
perform the same calculations.

Please keep in mind that the projected change budget is NOT the operating expenses of your business. The change budget is the amount of money you plan on spending in total to enforce and sustain an organizational change over the allotted timeframe.

Prepare even for the unexpected, and you will be ready and secure for almost anything that threatens your company during a time of change.

Question 2: When/How will the change be initially introduced?

This question is simply a more focused version of a question you answered in step 2: Learning, which was “Will anybody feel threatened by the change?”

Remember, there are quite a few reasons that people feel threatened by organizational change, one of which was poor timing or lack of “tact” in bringing the change about.

Now is when you consider the best time to introduce change. You can do this effectively by locating patterns of behavior, both within your organization and within the market, which may affect your ability to change efficiently. You must do this depending on organizational security and needs.

For example, attempting to create massive change during off-seasons (if they are relevant to your organization) may mean that your employees have more time for coaching or implementation practices. This way, change can be done quickly and with more focus than during busier times of the year.

However, there is almost always a sense of give and take when considering the best time to implement change. Implementing change during the off-season could be detrimental and costly to an organization that is not financially stable. This is because resources are being expended during a time of reduced revenue.

Give and take must also be considered with the nature of the specific change and its relation to the organization. A small, systems/personnel level change is likely not going to be as costly as a structural change. Therefore, this small change might benefit the organization to implement during the off-season in order to make good use of on-season efficiency.

Attempting to create massive amounts of change during the busiest times of the fiscal year is a surefire way to increase resistance from your employees. This is because dedicated change-communication systems are often lost or abandoned, tasks cannot be delegated as easily, and people face a greater chance of burn-out.

Consider the best times to implement change by taking note of the current state of the company. Balance the companies immediate state with the risks and

Question 3: Are you attempting to implement step change or incremental change?

A step change is rapid growth, incremental change is time-tested growth.
A step change is a rapid growth, incremental change is time-tested growth.

The difference between step-change and incremental change is like the difference between a staircase and a wall. Incremental changes utilize small, purposeful, actions that ultimately bring about the desired effect. A step change is almost like starting from scratch all at once. For some more on incremental and step change considerations, follow the link here!

The most commonly accepted changes are, in fact, incremental changes. This is due to the nature of ongoing business and the required revenues that are needed to cover basic operating costs. Step change puts these factors at great risk.

The main benefits of incremental changes are the ability to test and study best practices for your organization over time. In a way, you can pick or choose certain changes that work best for your organization based on your company culture and abilities/resources. The main benefit of incremental change is its flexibility.

The main downside of incremental change is that it occurs over time, it is hardly useful in dealing with immediate challenges. Incremental change is normally used when the need for change is presented by internal sources.

Now, let’s discuss the nature of step change. Step change is akin to starting from scratch. Starting from scratch is similar to forming a brand new system and working out the kinks mainly AFTER implementation. This, as you can imagine, is extremely risky, especially if the organization has considerable operating expenses.

Of course, there are certain benefits to step-change also. One of which is the quick (and relatively painless) implementation that ensures that certain changes are immediately enforced at once. This is useful if you are implementing change that requires ALL moving parts to function perfectly cohesively.

Also, step-change may be useful in responding to more time-sensitive external factors of change, such as new laws or ordinances, changing consumer preferences, and market characteristics.

The largest downside to step-change, however, is the unpredictable impact it can have on an organization. Interestingly, the benefit of a quick change may also be the companies downfall. Changing too fast, and failing to analyze and address certain concerns, will certainly harm the organization in the long run if that change cannot be properly implemented and sustained.

In Part 1: Foundation, we discussed the basics of forming a road-map that is in line with your intended future vision. now is the time to decide whether you will break down those basic steps into small bite-sized incremental pieces, or whether you will decide to conglomerate certain actions in order to create large steps.

Incremental Change

Here is a shortlist of certain reasons why incremental change may appropriate for your organization. Look at the list and determine if any are relevant to your own organization. If so, incremental change might be for you.

1. Internally promoted change.
2. Little/No pressure for quick reforms.
3. Willingness to analyze.
4. Willingness to adapt change and choose best practices.
5. Wishes to change company culture.
6. Low resistance to changes in immediate profitability.

Here is a list of reasons why Step change may be necessary.

1. External factors forcing change.
2. High-pressure for immediate reforms.
3. Low resistance to quick implementations.
4. Willingness to get change over with.
5. A culture that endures damage control well.
6. High resistance to changes in immediate profitability.

Question 4: How and Who will communicate the change (and to whom)?

This question is amazingly important. Basically, your organization will react to a proposed change differently depending on how and who communicates it.

Think about this: From the perspective of an organization’s employees, certain people are required to communicate certain things. They would likely expect that the senior executives are the ones who should communicate the vision behind why change is necessary. Whereas, the actual steps for implementation can be communicated by their immediate managers or supervisors.

Trust plays a large role here, this is because hierarchical positioning is relative to certain job characteristics. The ethos method of persuasive communication states that, when corporate vision is communicated, employees are more likely to listen to senior leadership.

However, they may find that senior leadership cannot focus on the operational and day to day tasks that their immediate manager or supervisor can, therefore they expect their managers to be able to communicate the specific actions and behaviors that are necessary for change to be implemented.

Not only does it matter who communicates with your teams, but also that you know how to do so effectively. The way you communicate should be reflective of an amalgamation of your answers in Part 1: Foundation.

In Part 1, you answered questions regarding how you can effectively communicate the need to change to others. You also answered questions regarding your inspiration to change, the factors that present compelling arguments for change, and even ways in which the change aligns with culture and vision.

Remember, the best way to become an excellent negotiator and persuasive communicator is to always consider the opposing viewpoint and acknowledge the personal benefits that change can bring.

Here is another thing to consider: How do you plan on communicating the change in order to avoid rumors that are a result of unclear communication or information overload. Occasionally, when something is left up to question, or an issue is not addressed regarding the concerns of your employees, rumors can begin and further harm the ability of management to instill a commitment to change.

Question 5: How can we build proper communication channels to use during the change?

Regulated communication channels are beneficial to any organization, especially during times of change.
Regulated communication channels are beneficial to any organization, especially during times of change.

Now, on the systems-end of communication, how does your company as a whole plan on integrating communication during the change?

Far and away from the question “Who will communicate change, and to whom?” this question attempts to make you reflect on how communication will be altered or pose a potential risk to the organization’s ability to implement change smoothly.

Consider communications in terms of channels. If there is a concern or an issue that must be addressed? Who will know about it first? And does that person have the authority to take that concern anywhere up the respective chain of management?

Occasionally, an important and time-sensitive issue has been lost in translation as it travels up the hierarchy of an organization. Much like a game of “telephone”, these missing or mistranslated messages can have a damaging impact on the effectiveness of change due to misconceptions.

On the other hand, employees who are too willing or able to take minor inconveniences straight to the executive level may waste lots of precious time that could be used to better help the circumstances.

Now would be a great time to swing over to a related blog post I wrote on effective communications. Please click HERE to see it!

Ultimately, here are the main steps to effective interpersonal communication.

1. Clear emotional barriers.
2. Be willing to listen MORE than you speak.
3. Remain open-minded.
4. Show attentiveness.
5. Avoid a negatively presupposed mindset.

Similarly, here are some key steps to effective organizational communication.

1. Manage information timing (time-sensitivity).
2. Consider communication channels by location (Meetings? Teleconferences? Group Chats?).
3. Appropriateness of the message? (i.e. most people recommend doing lay-offs in person, etc.).
4. The formality of the message (this affects communication channels in a similar way to appropriateness).

Question 6: Have we considered the operational perspective?

While most organizations prepare for change by having strategic executive leaders make all the decisions, it’s important to note that incorporating an operational perspective can be beneficial to implementing change more smoothly.

If the strategic perspective includes executives and top-tier managers, then the operational perspective includes those who perform the day-to-day aspects of running the company.

For example, in a retail business, the operational perspective includes the store employees who do the actual opening, closing, and maintenance of the store and merchandise.

Why is the operational perspective helpful? There is a myriad of reasons…

Reasons why the operational perspective benefits Change Management initiatives:

1. Adaptations to systems can be made according to the knowledge of the person who actually utilizes those systems.

This way, considering the operational perspective benefits the intuition of the system itself, and limits the potential for resistance merely due to the consideration of the employee.

2. Considering the operational perspective encourages buy-in from the entire company.

Let me ask, wouldn’t you be more willing to engage in change if you felt you had a legitimate say in the development of the change itself? Of course you would! Now consider this at all levels of the company. Even if you could not allow every employee to make suggestions on how to change, you will create buy-in by mentioning that you have developed the new change with them in mind.

3. Operational perspectives may uncover new and sensitive issues to change.

No one person can know everything that happens within a company. In fact, specialization is worth more than generalization in a business environment. Because of that, we often develop limited points of view in the ways we view the company itself. That being said, considering operational perspectives may bring about problems to change that you might not have been aware of before, but can now prepare for.

These are just a few of the reasons why gathering input from all levels of the organization that are affected by the change is useful.

Ultimately, considering the operational perspective broadens the scope of your organizational view, and makes you less susceptible to surprises or resistance when implementing the change later on.

Question 7: How can we leverage employee knowledge and input during the change?

Your employees are an integral part of the change process. How are you going to leverage their knowledge to make change more successful on the operations end?
Your employees are an integral part of the change process. How are you going to leverage their knowledge to make change more successful on the operations end?

Now, we must consider how we are going to gather and analyze employee data during the change itself. More specifically, employee knowledge.

This is extremely important because employee knowledge is hardly trackable with metrics, therefore, it often takes one on one conversations to determine how employees feel the change can be adapted to better suit them at the moment.

As the leader for change, you must consider how you plan on gathering and interpreting the knowledge of employees during the change itself. Whereas, considering the operational perspective is akin to gathering employee knowledge before the implementation process begins.

It is critical to realize that, although employees can make suggestions beforehand as to how change can be adapted to fit their needs, they likely have little scope with which to determine just how change will affect them in practice. In fact, nobody really does knows exactly what change will be like in practice until it is implemented.

Consider this question in terms of your communication channels. How do you plan on gathering employee knowledge? From whom? At which level of the organization? Do they trust leadership enough to tell them the truth about ways in which change can be altered?

These are all important questions to consider regarding how you will leverage employee knowledge during the change itself.

Your employees are the people who must actually implement and enact the change. Therefore, in many ways, they have more experience and operating knowledge of the change than most others. It is critical to not only listen to their suggestions but to also act on them in hopes of creating a smooth and harmless transition.

Remember, employees who don’t feel heard and considered are presupposed to resist. In fact, in the ADKAR model of change management, more specifically the reinforcement section, employees who don’t see any kind of reinforcement of their perspectives become potential barriers for change.

Question 8: Have we arranged for coaching or support systems during the change?

Consider the resources you have at your disposal to enact effective change. Have you used the respective resources to prepare for coaching or support systems during the change itself? Now is the time to do so.

In the next section, Step 4: Implementation, you will begin the entire change process. It is necessary to have all available resources briefed and ready to provide value in the case that you need them.

Coaching for executives is necessary for creating consistency of vision and communication of value to managers, and then to employees. Support systems for the employees are necessary so that they are never left to question, and guess, anything.

Support systems include:
1. Coaches
2. Consultants
3. Subject matter experts.
4. Proper knowledge management systems.

Behavior change support systems (BCSS) are defined as “socio-technical information systems with psychological and behavioral outcomes designed to form, alter or reinforce attitudes, behaviors or an act of complying without using coercion or deception.”

Ultimately, we are attempting to aid our employees by making knowledge bountiful, answering questions, resolving issues, and providing support to them during the implementation process.

Here is how you can do that.
1. Find subject matter experts, hire them and tell them when the change will begin and that you’d like presentations, meetings, or whatnot in order to better inform employees.
2. Hire coaches that can aid your executive team during the change process with the goal of providing clear communications and aligning executive visions.
3. Consider knowledge management systems that are timely and effective. For example, Mckinsey and Co, a world-leading consulting firm, has a culture rule that any person within the organization must answer a request for knowledge or experience, personally, within 24-hours of receiving it. This stands for upper management as well.
4. Ensure mutual understanding of vision with presentations, meetings, and conferences. Aligning the core vision of the company with the change gives everybody the reason “why,” and leaves little up to interpretation.

Question 9: What pre-training will people need? What training can be given later?

Here is where you will consider the technical side of change. More specifically, what knowledge is needed to enforce the change that will have to be learned now before the change begins.

Without training employees on how to operate under the new change, you will essentially be employing Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest.” This is a sure way to lost trust among the organization.

Employees who are properly knowledgeable and prepped for the change will obviously outperform those who are not. It is important to provide critical training before the change begins so that nothing is left to question.

That being said, there is training that may not be immediately critical to change management success. That training can be delayed or given later so that change can be implemented within a specified time frame or during high-pressure situations.

As the leader for change, it is your job to decide which training is critical to provide now, and which can be delayed. The reasons you would delay training include the following:

1. Time-sensitive situation.
2. Low budget for providing all the necessary training.
3. Little awareness as to what training will eventually be necessary.
4. Lack of employee commitment to learn regardless of its importance.

Decide what training is absolutely necessary, and what may change along the way. Then prepare the resources for that knowledge and how they will be distributed.

Question 10: Are we prepared to overcome habitual limitations?

Overcoming pre-existing bad habits is just as difficult as setting new, more beneficial, ones.
Overcoming pre-existing bad habits is just as difficult as setting new, more beneficial, ones.

The purpose behind this question is whether you have considered and prepared for cultural limitations. That is, behaviors that may immediately clash with the change based on company culture, habits, or customs.

These behaviors can make up the bulk of resistance among employees. This is because people resist changing comfortable behaviors that provide them a sense of security.

The hidden question here is really, “are we attempting to change company culture?” Because, if so, you are much more likely to run into resistance from people at all levels of the organization. You must prepare for that chance, and mitigate the possibility of resistance with a few key practices.

How to shift company culture.
1. Clarify the desired values and behaviors.
2. Align culture vision with company processes.
3. Align strategic visions among the CEO and Board of Directors.
4. Clarify non-negotiable practices you wish to maintain.
5. Align culture with the public’s view of your brand.
6. Create the appropriate metrics to measure.
7. Take your time (beneficial for incremental change/difficult for step-change).
8. Be a consistent leader.

These are only a few of the great ways in which you can begin to shift company culture towards your strategic vision. If you would like to read more on how to do so, I give expanded and comprehensive thoughts on how to implement change in my soon-to-be-released book, The Change Management Guidebook.

Conclusion

Ultimately, I hope to give insight on how to better prepare for change, so that when the day comes, you find it simple, intuitive, and effective.

In the next section, Step 4: Implementation, we are going to take all of the considerations we have made and compile them into action. We are going to align a new strategic vision with operational duties, and take care of adversity along the way.

If you have considered these points so far and made use of them, I am sure you can effect change by leaps and bounds.

For more info on the previous 2 steps, please click HERE.
For more about my consulting/coaching programs, please click HERE.

Thank you for reading!