By Stuart Smith, CMF and Core Team Facilitator
We all know the challenges that come with organizational change. Depending on the source of change, it’s well documented that 70-85% of all projects and programs requiring people to adapt to a new way of doing things fail. Change is constant and organizations will continue to spend millions of dollars on things associated with change only to have it come at them at a higher speed. Essentially, the unaccounted cost of poorly facilitating change is far greater than the direct cost.
People get frustrated and burned out and begin to adopt change resistant behaviors that thwart future initiatives. This resistance is rarely understood and hardly ever assessed. Worse yet, companies lose customers, don’t establish competitive advantages and miss chances to grow opportunities that often are not measured.
As a leader, you are asked to help your staff move successfully through change. You are often “accountable” and your performance pay is frequently tied to your ability to ensure the new way of doing things is adopted successfully.
So how do you navigate through change that is increasingly complex and against seemingly impossible odds?
First, you need to know a little about the nature of change and have a basic understanding of change management practices. In addition, and more importantly – you need to know a “secret.” You need to know there is a better way to navigate the challenges of change and move yourself and your staff through change faster and more effectively. That secret is facilitation.
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The Nature of Change
Change has changed! Let’s face it, change is coming at us faster; it is more daunting and complex and there is just more of it.
Imagine for a moment it is three years in the past. Think about work – where were you? Were you working for the same company? Perhaps in the same department with the same people? Were you doing the same thing, the same way, using the same technology? Were your leaders the same people who are there now? Did your customers have the same expectations? Get the picture?
In the new normal of rapid change there will be new expectations because the changing nature of change has actually changed the nature of work. Change management is now day-to-day management and knowledge of change management strategies and practices are expected of leaders and facilitators
To ensure change efforts are successful, and organizations will continue to:
- “Right Size” through – consolidate or expand
- Drive out cost
- Reorganize, relocate, and realign
- Improve processes
- Change leadership
- Implement new and more complex technology
- Face macro changes like increasing global competition, health care reform, and societal changes
To successfully move through change you need to know how to:
- Lead change – understanding both the “things” that need to get done and the expected results and the impact on people
- Facilitate – a cornerstone skill that increases your ability lead, plan, communicate and navigate the culture
- Plan – developing both project and change management plans
- Communicate – beyond town halls, emails, bulletin boards, Facebook pages and lunch-n-learns, knowing how to communicate to people; addressing their concerns, responding to questions and gaining their buy-in
- Understand the culture – understanding the unique nature of the culture and the implications for managing change
There is an old adage that states “organizations don’t change; people change and then they change the organization.”
Facilitation is the key to ensuring people understand the change, participate successfully to create the desired future,e and accept that the real change requires changes in their own thoughts, attitudes and behaviors.
Therefore, facilitation is the key because it is based on the power of the question. And the power of the question is what makes things happen. People can handle change, even if it is thrust upon them if they can answer fundamental and meaningful questions for themselves:
“What’s it all about?” – What is the nature of the change; why do we need to change? “What’s in it for me?” – How will this affect me; what do you need me to do; what risk do I face and what are the benefits? “How will you help me?” – What do I need to know; how can I get help; how can I be successful?
Through my work with Leadership Strategies, I’ve helped many companies navigate through significant change. Below are some essential components of facilitating change management that I have found extremely helpful to the process:
- Visioning Session with senior leaders to clearly identify both the “things” that need to happen – typically the source of the change, and the potential impact on people in the organization; the visioning session results in a clearly articulated description of the change
- Education and Development Sessions – facilitating small group education sessions to ensure people understand the nature of the change; this begins the process of gaining their buy-in through their understanding of their ability and willingness to move successfully through change
- Project Planning Sessions – sessions designed to build the project structure; developing project plans to ensure tasks are completed on-time and to standard
- Change Management Planning Sessions – sessions designed to build the “people structure”. This includes:
- Identifying risks and assigning roles such as change sponsors and change agents
- Assessing the impact of the change on processes, staff, customers and stakeholders
- Assessing the culture and identifying systemic barriers to change and the strengths and weaknesses of the culture to navigate through the change
- Developing communication plans for both formal and informal communications with feedback mechanism
- Individual and team coaching session to continuously increase commitment by providing feedback, developing individual change skills and provide encouragement
- Regular monitoring sessions to ensure both the project plan and the people plan are being executed successfully
Change is difficult but it really is “only constant.” If we are to navigate the complexity, we need to understand the nature of change, possess effective change management skills and “make it easy” by facilitating people through change.