Change Management is the new buzzword in Corporate America, but do you know how to stand out as a Change Manager amongst Change Agents?
A successful Change Agent is someone ingrained within the company who can assist the Change Manager with influencing change. These individuals are often the ones called “change champions” since they lead the way in thinking and oftentimes pave the way for other employees to follow and adopt the change. A Change Manager, on the other hand, is someone who rises to spearhead the change for these champions. A Change Manager needs to understand that in order to affect change, you need to approach it with active communication.
If you’re hoping to affect change in an organization, you need to remember that your own reactions to the changes will affect how you communicate with them. A changing environment can be chaotic, and a change-adverse environment can be daunting to even walk into. Maintaining awareness about your reactions will help you to temper your emotions as a leader, so that you can wisely communicate with the intent on positively influencing adoption. As employees become aware of the impending organizational change, an even-keeled leader will be key in setting the tone for the rest of the company.
Change Management is similar to consulting: when you first approach the client, you need to focus on discovering who they are as a company. It is essential to listen to the stakeholders; learning what cultural boundaries are in place and how the organization has historically reacted to change.
Learning from previous change initiatives will be crucial in choosing how to best influence the adoption of future organizational changes. Understanding both historical examples as well as current cultural boundaries and processes will help you to listen well as you seek to help the company improve.
As Change Managers become familiar with the organization, it will be critical that they take the time to network and connect with key stakeholders for their initiative. Successful Change Managers should seek to understand the history of the organization, and what the stakeholders have seen in previous change initiatives.
Think of some key major organizational changes – mergers and acquisitions, vertical restructuring, near-shoring, legal or process changes, and new infrastructure or software. In all of these cases, individuals take time to adapt to these changes. Interview trusted stakeholders to learn about how the company has managed these types of changes in the past. Have employees resisted a change to the point of failure? Imagine a department’s failed attempt at converting over to a new project management approach. Were employees resistant to the change because of cultural viewpoints not influenced by Change Agents? Was there any support from executive leadership? Was there consistent communication or a clear training program enforced? Without these forms of active communication, a change initiative will lack traction and may not result in the adoption of the change.
Becoming connected within the organization will be critical for winning over Change Agents and identifying blockades. As you start to network, you’ll be able to set the stage for active communication. You can begin evangelizing the key points of your change to spread awareness and following Jeffrey Hiatt’s advice in his book, ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government and Our Community, you can help influence an employee’s:
“…understanding of the nature of the change, why the change is being made and the risk of not changing… [including] information about the internal and external drivers that created the need for change…”
When you’ve started connecting, change efforts can be managed through targeted communication strategies. Over time, additional opportunities for change within the business will become apparent, and your choice of actively diving into the organization will be rewarded with insight into breakdowns in communication and successes in the adoption of your change initiative.
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