We often wonder how much time, money, and energy is wasted on everything that led to what happens after the words, “But I thought...”
But I thought you were picking up the kids.
But I thought the flight left at 8PM.
But I thought Jason was covering that.
But I thought they could handle it.
Just like “I told you so,” “but I thought...” doesn’t help anyone out in the moment. It just reminds us that there was a breakdown in communication.
Change management has a hard enough job tacking into the headwinds of project management and arbitrary deadlines on any single project, imagine how hard it is for a large organization to make room for it across tens, hundreds, or even thousands of initiatives? (Yes, we have clients with thousands of initiatives in ChangeAnalytics.)
Putting our platform aside, we’ve found that there are four keys to making change management stick across a large organization so you can reduce the number of times you have to say (or hear), “But I thought...”
Here they are:
1. Change success must be tied to business success, even if partly
In large organizations, you oftentimes have competing, or at least several, initiatives that are impacting some larger company mandate or goal. It’s easy for one particular project to get lost in the mix and validate its own existence by its own existence. “We’re an important project because we’re an important project!”
As soon as a change initiative separates itself from a larger business need or purpose, the easier it is for a change manager or a lead to justify any outcome, whether that outcome brought any actual positive change to the business in some way or not.
KPI’s are important, but it shouldn’t just be about “getting software installed on users’ computers,” it should be about:
- What does the software help people do?
- Why is it important that people do that?
- What do we hope happens if everyone is using the software as intended?
Obviously, no single change initiative can take 100% accountability for a business goal being met, but the more change leads and change teams can tie some sort of business metric to their change efforts, the more focused and aligned everyone will be, and the better chance you won’t have to use solely soft metrics to argue that your efforts were impactful and useful.
To see more about how ChangeAnalytics tackles KPIs and why it uses OKR’s, click here. To learn more information or to schedule a demo, click here.
2. Heat maps (and change saturation) are always contextual
One of the strongest aspects of ChangeAnalytics is what it lets users do when it comes to tracking change impacts on various groups, and how that ripples out across the organization.
However, show us a change impact heat map and we’ll show you a leader who disagrees with it. The reason is because one person’s “heavy change impact” is another’s “it’s not so bad.”
We’ve found that while change impact heat map views (that’s a tongue twister) are incredibly powerful in giving high level insight of what is happening to an individual or group, they can’t make every decision for you. High change impact certainly will mean more change saturation in a comparative sense, but it doesn’t mean fully saturated.
In this gray area, leaders can’t bury their head in the sand and think, “My teams just need to figure it out and get it done,” and change managers can’t say, “We need to delay every project.”
A change impact heat map should act as a conversation starter and a path to go deeper on what is happening to various groups of people, what that means for their day-to-day life, and what you can do about it.
It’s the work of leaders and change managers to build stories and understanding around why impacts are high, and what that means for the actual people on the receiving end of it.
3. Your biggest influencers usually don't have your biggest titles
Let’s get this out of the way: your most important influencer is your project sponsor, whether they like it or not. We’re not saying that they need to be orchestrating the band, but they need to be bought in, and the impacted groups need to sense that buy-in in some form or another. This almost goes without saying.
But at large organizations that have umpteen different initiatives and overlapping missions, you need to lean on other people to help shepherd impacted groups through the change. Yes, you can call these “change champions” or a “change network,” but we’ve seen that quite often, the people who move the most mountains when it comes to getting groups ready for changes are their own members. Maybe they’re super users or pilot groups, or maybe they just hold sway due to charm, experience, or know-how.
The key is to identify these human generators so that you can use their batteries when it comes to illuminating a message or when you need to fire up a training.
Building your change allies from the ground up is as important as making sure there is alignment and buy-in from the top down.
4. Find bright spots and repeat
Whether you use ChangeAnalytics’ methodology, your own change methodology, Prosci’s ADKAR model, Kotter’s model, Kubler-Ross, McKinsey 7-S, Lewin, LaMarsh, or whatever, we’ve found that at big companies, uniformity and visibility is more important than which specific methodology you choose.
To put it in another way, let’s say you’ve adopted Prosci’s approach to change management. And let’s say that Jamie, John, and Jackie (the three J’s) are your change managers. If your three J’s are using their own tools to implement, measure, and file the change, it becomes very hard to see trends in what approaches worked across an organization, or which activities produced the best results, or which project sponsor needs a little more support.
Silos are great for storing grain, not for managing change across a large company.
We know not every company has a mature Center Of Excellence (COE), or change management department, but without even a basic way of comparing “change apples” to “change apples” you’ll find yourself starting from scratch at every go round, repeating the same mistakes, and recreating the same documents.
You don’t want your change management team to feel like it’s Groundhog’s Day on a carousel they can’t get off.
At the very least, find a way for your change team to have postmortems or “share backs” on projects, leaders, and groups. What kinds of communications stick? What activities flop? How best is it to leverage a particular sponsor? Use whatever online resources you have so that the best change management material isn’t buried on Jackie’s C drive for 13 years.
Start small, but with enough diligence, you can begin to map how your organizational organism (that’s really what they are) works, reacts, and thrives in a change management environment.
Of course, if you ever want to talk about how ChangeAnalytics can streamline your change process, save hours of your change team’s time, empower your leaders to make strategic decisions with confidence, all so your projects stick without all the overwhelm, let’s chat about it. Let’s make change management the hero in your organization.