One topic that seems to be universal among my coaching clients is change – restructuring, system rollouts, new initiatives, leadership shifts, and more. Generally, the first question that is asked is “How do we implement this?” That is the wrong question and one that can lead down a path to failure and resistance. The more important question is “Are we ready?” or “How can we be ready?”
When we teach change management, we draw attention to the importance of focusing on the people side of change. The people side of change often is – and cannot be – an afterthought. In a yin/yang-style model, we explain how the focus on people actually supports and reinforces the organizational side of change. This focus on people is part of the “Are we ready?/How can we be ready?” question. Putting people first by communicating clearly, providing opportunities for input, and considering the impact of the change on staff members can help determine – and strengthen – the readiness for change.
If you are about to embark on another organizational change, having the following in place will help ensure your organization is ready to successfully manage and implement the changes:
- A communications plan to keep people informed – especially those directly impacted, but also those who will be affected second, or even third hand.
- Clear, concise, and consistent communications – we stress “overcommunication”: tell them what you know, tell them what you don’t know, tell them when you’ll tell them more, tell them more than you think you need to or can.
- A compelling vision, priorities, strategies, and goals – that everyone can align with and believe in, and that are carefully and clearly shared and explained.
- Leadership alignment – even if leadership debates actions and reasons behind closed doors, it is essential that everyone on the leadership team is pulling in the same direction for everyone in the organization to see and hear.
- Mechanisms for getting buy-in and soliciting feedback – effective change efforts involve those who are impacted by the change. Allowing time and establishing processes for planning and preparing those who will be affected (as well as other key stakeholders) and creating feedback loops will help to assess and tweak the process as it moves forward.
- Change management skills and tools – there is expertise around change management, yet many of us think that it “just happens” or that we can handle it easily. Get help and find best practices.
- Pre- and post-change training and assessments – give your people the tools and support they need and keep checking in with them as to how things are going.
Change readiness is the prelude to change management and it can spell the difference between successful change and failed change. Devoting time and resources to establishing a clear vision and strategies, opening and prioritizing robust communication channels, employing change management tools and principles, and aligning leaders around a shared commitment and messaging will get your organization ready to successfully plan and implement change. It will take a sustained commitment to resist change derailers such as cutting corners, driving toward unreasonable deadlines, spreading mixed messages, and ignoring or shutting down the voices of those who are impacted. When it comes to change, get ready first and then get going.
How have you assessed your organization’s readiness for change?
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.
To learn more about managing change successfully, contact Robyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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