Change Management Part 4: Implementation

(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.

Change management. Something needs to change.

This will be part 4 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 4: Implementation is all about managing the flow of communications, knowledge, and possibilities during the change process itself.

Evaluating metrics, plans, and resources during the change process will ultimately give you a great idea as to the effect of the change on your organization, the time-frame for its completion, and possible potential for improvement.

Throughout the next ten questions, we will begin to focus on the ability of employees to use the resources at hand to implement change. Remember, for a change to be instituted effectively, there has to be commitment from all the key players of influence within an organization.

Only when there is commitment with continuity can an effective and consistent message be broadcasted to an organization’s tactical and operational levels.

All in all, these are questions designed to be asked during the change process to give you a better idea of where the organization stands and where there may be trouble.

Question 1: How well are people grasping the purpose of this change?

Often times, purpose can get lost in practice. Having a constant reminder of the bigger picture often breeds commitment within teams and increases productivity. This is where you, as the leading force for change, can make a big difference.

You must constantly ensure that as many people as possible can understand, and communicate, the bigger picture to others who may be struggling to find the reason behind the change.

In fact, research by Bain and Company states that, if a satisfied employee’s productivity level is 100%, a purpose-driven and inspired employee produces 225%!

That’s quite an increase considering all that is needed is an inspiring purpose as well as somebody to communicate it. Often times it is stated that a good purpose is the “reason above and beyond the profits.”

You must evaluate in real-time, during the implementation, how committed people are to change. Finding the root of this commitment can be beneficial, considering you can then use these people as liaisons for communicating that commitment in the way we discussed in Step 3: Planning.

Performing an active awareness assessment in order to gain perspective on how aware people are of the purpose for change can be done in the following ways.

1. One on one interviews.
2. Group awareness sessions.
3. Specialized meetings/conferences.
4. Ongoing training and coaching.

Question 2: What do our metrics tell us about our progress so far?

Considering your metrics is a great way to determine if the change is on track or if extra measures will have to be utilized.
Considering your metrics is a great way to determine if the change is on track or if extra measures will have to be utilized.

In Part 2: Learning, we decided exactly which metrics to employ in order to track progress throughout the change process. Are you tracking productivity? Sales? ROI?

It is important to remember that these metrics must be relative to progress as well as the desired end result. If you cannot track your progress, you might as well be flying blind during the entire implementation process.

Consider what those metrics are telling you so far. Have you improved where you expected to? Have you worsened? Why is that?

A large part of my job as a change management consultant is to diagnose and resolve performance issues. More than likely, those issues stem from either or both of two main things; Unrealistic expectations, or employee resistance.

Having unrealistic expectations for change will undoubtedly cause issues. Unfortunately, this is a difficult situation to resolve, merely because expectations are what we base preparations on.

Admitting that expectations for progress may not be hit in a timely manner may lead to depleted resources and potential loss of strategic vision.

Employee resistance is more easily diagnosable within a struggling organization. Ultimately, here are follow-up questions to determine how employee resistance can be mitigated.

1. Where is resistance stemming from? It can be easy to diagnose teams with low productivity, but that could also be a result of resistance from team leadership.
2. Are they aware of the need for change? Awareness is the first step in diagnosing change. If they are well aware, yet still have issues, other factors are at play.
3. Are they motivated to change? Motivation may be the culprit. Different people are motivated by different things. They will, therefore, indulge in different levels of commitment.
4. Do they have the resources for change? Are they lacking in knowledge? Manpower? Training?

Question 3: Are we actively reinforcing positive behaviors?

Active reinforcement is absolutely necessary during the change process. Employees that don’t feel appreciated or recognized for performing the change may feel resistant to change in the future.

Proper reinforcement of change can be considered in the following points.

There are meaningful rewards given.
Rewards are given for desired behavior.
People are kept accountable for the desired behaviors.
There are no negative consequences in place for desired behaviors.

Not a single one of these points can be missing. For example, the lack of meaningful awards means that the employees will find no true value in performing the way that is asked of them.

Despite whether or not there are meaningful rewards, no value is seen by employees who aren’t rewarded.

Despite rewards being given, if people are not held accountable for their own tasks, the reward loses meaning.

And finally, If there are negative consequences to performing the desired behavior, that is an incentive to avoid doing so.

One of the most important trust-building and reinforcement traits I had mentioned is the need for enforcers to be consistent. Consistency is the key to trust and change.

Would you consider taking a rule seriously if it was not enforced with cemented standards? Likely not. It would become a wishy-washy set of easily-molded guidelines as opposed to a hard and fast rule of operations.

Reinforcing positive behavior starts with recognizing whether your employees are satisfied with the change process. If there is a growing amount of resistance taking place, likely some positive reinforcement can help.

Question 4: Can we further supplement motivation to change?

It is often that we see an immediate spike in productivity and commitment merely because change is fresh, exciting, and stimulating to our minds. For example, if you ever want to be more aware and productive in your home, change some furniture around. It stimulates the mind and causes things to be different and new.

In The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, he mentions that brain activity is on constant alert in new situations. This is because the brain has learned to be constantly aware of threats or intimidating circumstances within the unknown or ambiguous.

But, over time, as we become used to these “new” things and form new habits around them, our brains lower productivity in order to conserve energy and automatically perform a task (habit).

These reasons can explain certain phenomenon like our altered sense of time during childhood, and why, as a child, life seems to have gone by so slowly. It is merely because our brains were hyper-aware of every new circumstance and therefore had no ability to act on autopilot and leave out small details the way the brain does in adulthood.

Why is this important? Motivation is directly connected to productivity. Don’t mistake the immediate shift in productivity that an organization experiences during change for motivation. Remember, as the new behaviors become habits, purpose and motivation can become lost in practice.

Heres another example. When you first started to drive, you were cautious about everything, you were likely an extremely cautious driver. You were aware of every pedestrian, cyclist, and car on the road with you.

But now, because it has been so accustomed to you, there are likely occasions where you get home without remembering anything about the drive itself.

It is important to consider the ways you can stimulate motivation throughout the change process in order to maintain productivity that will be seen on the initial jump!

Question 5: Are we prioritizing resistance management?

Your organizational culture will undoubtedly affect the nature of the change process. Learning now will help lots in the future.
Your organizational culture will undoubtedly affect the nature of the change process. Learning now will help lots in the future.

In a small way, everything you have considered thus far can be filed into “resistance management.” However, considering that 72% of change resistance comes from the people-end of business, how are you managing your resources during the change to effectively mitigate resistance?

Resistance management is the result of any action you take to try and raise commitment, and lower resistance. Sound obvious enough, however, this can be difficult without the proper resources.

Resistance management requires a diagnosis of the various elements that dictate personal change motivation and commitment.

Elements of personal commitment to change.
1. A willingness to leave the present state of affairs.
2. The motivating vision of a better or more fulfilling future.
3. Personal impact for the better.
4. Personal comfort with ambiguity.
5. Lack of harmful consequences.

These main points can act as beacons with which to diagnose the state of awareness and resistance. If you (or the change-sponsor) has done a great job of communicating the motivating vision, perhaps another step is necessary.

For example, you could work on communicating the ease of change (lack of harmful consequences) or even the ineffectiveness of the organization’s current actions (inadequate present state of affairs).

All of which can help manage and mitigate employee resistance.

Question 6: What have we learned so far about our culture?

Naturally, you will ask this question again in step 6, but the intended reasons for doing so are different. Now is the time to ask these questions with the goal of smoothing the transition in real-time.

More specifically, what have you learned about the company culture regarding change? How was the initial statement of change perceived by others? Getting a good grip on the nature of the organization and how it views change is a great way to adjust tactics.

Consider your metrics, timelines, employee attitudes, and capabilities. Naturally, certain organizations that center themselves around change can implement fast and efficiently (i.e. google, for example).

That being said, other organizations may struggle when adapting to necessary changes.

One example of a company that had to adapt was GE. For a long time, GE was the staple of security. In fact, their entire corporate culture centered around a reputation for low employee turnover especially at high-level management. However, in the midst of financial mayhem, Jack Welch was able to transform the company by making themselves more specialized.

“If we can’t be number one or number two in an industry, we aren’t in it.” – Jack Welch.

This is simply an example of how culture among an organization can affect problem-solving methods, especially when change is in order. Learning as much about your culture as you can during change will undoubtedly help you adapt and implement change more efficiently in the future.

Question 7: Are we maintaining the strategic vision?

Strategy is the key element to successful change. With proper strategy and planning, all things become possible within an organization
Strategy is the key element to successful change. With proper strategy and planning, all things become possible within an organization

As I’ve said before, purpose can get lost in practice. Now is the time to answer that question in terms of strategic vision. Many times within my own experiences, I have undertaken certain changes that caused me to lose sight of the overarching purpose.

Losing sight of the bigger picture to change will have certain undesirable effects. For example, effective communication cannot occur with the goal of incorporating awareness if there is no clear vision to be communicated. This can cause productivity issues top-down from the point in management at which the understanding of purpose was lost.

Here’s another example. Losing sight of the bigger picture will inevitably cause you to ask this question: What was all the effort, time, and resources meant to do?

I’d like to clarify that goal performance metrics are not considered the “bigger picture.” When you think of strategic planning, and executive-level management, you likely think of long-term visions regarding the nature of the companies position in the marketplace, not specific metrics.

The metrics we set in Step 2: Learning are merely a means to an end. They are a way of quantifying and measuring performance against a timeframe. They can often change while maintaining the same strategic vision.

Whether or not you decide to change the metrics you track, as the leader for change, you should keep your strategic vision as concrete as possible. Key: consistency.

How effective do you think a change would be if you couldn’t clearly state or certify where you plan on taking the organization? Worse yet is if you constantly alter or redirect the vision and make it difficult to maintain.

Doing so breeds distrust with executive vision, miscommunications among the entirety of the company, and lost resources and time spent on a vision that was redirected.

Throughout an organizational change process, many things become unstable. However, the single most important aspect to keep in the minds of all people is a standardized and consistent purpose for change.

Those who understand “why” can get the job done regardless of the “how.” And those who are committed will do it despite being told to!

Question 8: Are we effectively integrating our plans from Step 3: Planning?

This one is relatively simple. Look back to the plans you made (and hopefully wrote down) based on Step 3: Planning, this should incorporate many of the things you considered in steps 1 and 2 as well.

Ask yourself:
Are we incorporating the plans we had made? Why or why not?
Are we incorporating some plans but not others? Why is this?
Are our resources limiting our ability to implement plans?
Are there bottlenecks to the implementation of our plans?
What can we immediately improve upon? What will we do to prepare for later?

If you haven’t been incorporating the plans you have made so far, you may have had to adjust and/or adapt to changes in the timeframe, budget, or vision that likely came about unexpectedly. Occasionally, this happens. You may have created a custom plan with a timeframe and mapped-out resource budget, yet, due to the unprecedented pressure, you may find yourself inadvertently implementing step change.

The good part is, these questions can be answered relatively quickly.

If you find yourself incorporating some plans but not others, ask why? Is there a restricted budget? changes to communication channels?

Occasionally you may find yourself redirecting resources from some things to others that came as surprises during the initial implementation. This is a good explanation for how bottlenecks occur in the planning stage. Are all things contingent on one person or action?

For example, I cannot simply throw money into training if awareness of the need for change has not been established first. Often this happens when you consider how unpredictable employee resistance can be.

One of the best things to do in any business environment (and especially during change implementation) is to move away from the planning process and ask yourself “what can be improved easily right this very moment?”

Doing so opens up brand new doors for immediate shifts in productivity and clears up room for concern on those things that matter most.

Question 9: Is there continued (or increased) trust in leadership? Why or why not?

A large factor in generating commitment and trust throughout the organization during the change is in having an executive sponsor. Executive sponsors are seen as credible and legitimate forces that can be trusted due to their inherent knowledge of the state of the organization and its intended vision.

It is important to keep in mind that awareness must constantly be developed throughout any organization that wishes to change. And communications can’t stand to cease once awareness has been sufficiently implemented.

Determining whether trust seems bountiful in times of change will offer a unique insight into the state of change within that organization.

For example, if a change is occurring yet trust seems to be diminishing, you can come to the conclusion that change is being enforced without first being committed to the minds of employees. This can often occur due to pressure from top-down management and will be unsustainable for future endeavors or further change.

If trust seems to be in bounty, yet change has not yet occurred in full, you can make the accurate prediction that people are aware, but implementation or commitment has not yet been had because the change has not yet appealed to the employees personally.

If the implementation is occurring and trust is bountiful, you should have no worries!

Determining why trust seems to be moving in any direction is a necessary step in remedying or leveraging it. If trust is diminishing, learning why can help you stop those activities. If trust is being enforced, learning why can help you do more of those activities!

There are a few key factors that always instill trust among an organization during times of change. Here are some:

The perceived credibility of the sponsor. (executives communicate strategic vision, etc.)
Proper communication channels. (ensuring a clear message is sent)
Employee consideration. (quelling fears/concerns)
The nature of previous changes within the company. (i.e. has change been successful before?)
The preparation before implementation. (avoid “sink or swim” thinking)

Ultimately, trust is a necessary component in creating organizational change. It has been said before, and rightly so, that trust is the backbone of every business on earth. I find no reason to contend.

For a related article on trust by yourthoughtpartner.com, please click here!.

Question 10: How, if at all, has workplace culture been affected so far? Is it headed the right direction?

Despite the metrics, communications, or implementations of change, you must ask yourself whether or not the company is headed in the right direction strategically. Overall, this is the most important consideration.

Consider the vision you created in Step 1: Foundation. Where are you now in terms of that vision? Have you had to change the vision to adjust for a reality that has been unexpected or unpredictable? And ultimately, is that a result of improper expectations set at the beginning?

This is a key question in resolving “my way or the highway” thinking. Often, you will find that due to certain expectations, you will want your future vision to contain elements that may be entirely unnecessary or are, in the least, optional.

For example, perhaps your strategic vision of the company was to become a household name in appliances. And your plans and metrics revolved around increasing and dominating the market in order to do so. If your vision is too specific and you become stuck to the idea of increasing market penetration by continuously developing and innovating new products, you may lose sight of the actual importance of leveraging existing products to increase market share.

This is a simple example of becoming sold on a vision that contains unnecessary elements (innovative development). Organizational change will occasionally test these elements and force you to refine your vision in certain key areas.

The danger in this is in not knowing where to refine your vision and where not to. This is why it is critical to cement your vision in certain non-negotiable elements.

In the case of the appliance manufacturer, perhaps the non-negotiable elements included market share as a metric, of which there are many ways to further develop.

Remember to do as Simon Sinek says and start with why. Answering “why” beforehand creates a clear separation of purpose and function. You can always answer the “how” later.

Conclusion

Hopefully, I am helping you understand the necessary strategic insights into how to create effective organizational change. During the change process, these questions can be asked at any time.

Remember, during the implementation process, stability comes into question. This is why the importance of proper planning is detrimental.

Keep in mind the 5 P’s of success. “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.”