Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lining up support for change.

You can start a change initiative from the middle of an organization but eventually you need to go to the top of the house and pick up visible support there. If you don’t have a top-level mandate, you’re not going to be able to significantly change practices outside of your own area or modify company-wide policies that drive behavior, such as compensation. The powers-that-be will likely leave you alone to do your thing as long as you’re successful. However, if you have a bad streak, or if you leave, the changes you supported are likely to get nibbled to death by the naysayers waiting in the wings.

Create new forums to foster dialog about changing.
Don’t try to shoehorn new messages into existing communication channels. Using these channels to deliver two concepts at the same time will minimize the impact of your message. To build common ground, remind people of your shared history together and revisit the key events and milestones that led up to the present day, Engage people in talking about how they’ve successfully handled change in the past.

Check that enough of your colleagues have the skills and the desire to move with you at this time.
The political question often involves their perception of the person who 'brings' the change. Success involves getting support for yourself as an instrument of change. It helps if you know the answers to these questions:

What power do you personally have to make change?

If you don’t have it, how can you get it?

Who will you need on your side in order to be successful?

Do you need them to initiate, support, or allow the change to happen?

Where are they today - for your agenda, opposing it, or in a neutral stance?

How will you move from where they are today to where you need them to be?

Value the past and the present.
Part of the art of managing change successfully is not dishonoring the past, but honoring the parts of the past that are relevant to the new vision of the future. Sometimes change doesn’t bring a totally new world but involves old things happening to new people. Check with long-term employees who can remember what happened to similar initiatives in the past. Use their expertise to know what to emphasize and what to avoid. As an Irish proverb says, “A new broom sweeps clean, but the old brush knows the corners.”

Keep the focus as positive as possible.
Talk about what you want to achieve rather than what you want to avoid. Engage people’s hopes, not their fears. Get people thinking about what they want more of rather than getting them fixated on their current problems. Introduce no-blame change, building on what the firm did that made it successful in the past. Find what still works and spread these positive processes and practices to all segments of the business.

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