Preparing for Change

Brian Brennan - Partner at you-curve Inc.

As a senior executive I have led many change initiatives. In my experience, the initiatives that have produced the best results were the ones where we took the time to develop a realistic game plan and execute according to that plan.

Things rarely go as smoothly as we want – that is a given.

Using the right amount of time in preparation will produce huge benefits to you and your organization.

We are all busy people and so spending time strategizing and painstakingly planning our execution strategy sounds impossible. For you to succeed with whatever you are attempting you will need to do this. Being a highly capable “firefighter” will not guarantee your success.

Consider planning time to be an investment in the success of your project. Here are 5 tips to consider in preparation for your project:

1.   Understand the Benefit of the Initiative

To get the money that you will need to implement a major change you will need to find a way to convince people that your initiative will be beneficial to the company. Financial justification can be difficult when we are talking about “soft costs and benefits”. Here is an example of an ROI calculation that might help. It illustrates the financial justification understandable to those approving your initiative.

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Be very clear about how the change will ultimately benefit your customers and how that will provide better results for your company.

2.   Quantify the Cost vs. Benefit

One of the common complaints about change initiatives is that they often cost way more than was expected and anticipated at the start of the project. Spending time up front capturing all of the costs of the initiative is critically important. Done well, it will help you understand the overall benefit of the initiative.

Thinking ahead will enable you to track project costs according to how they were approved. This will give you the opportunity to take timely corrective action when necessary. Your ability to develop a track record that is accurate and successful will be a differentiator among your peers.

3.   Communicate More Than You Think You Must

I used to find it annoying to deliver the same message over and over to what seemed like the same group of people most of the time. I thought it was overdoing it. Experience taught me that there can never be enough communication in an organization especially during periods of significant change. For whatever the reason, people need to hear important messages repeated to them many times. Everyone absorbs portions of communications at different rates. You need to be sensitive to that.

 No matter how hard you try to be clear, transparent and frequent with your communication, it will never be enough to satisfy everyone. But, don’t give up.

4.   Get Genuine Commitment from Everyone

You have probably seen Project Charters posted on walls with the names and signatures of key individuals indicating their commitment to see a major initiative through to a successful conclusion. Unfortunately, they are mostly meaningless. Signatures do not really guarantee commitment. I have been witness to stakeholders, sponsors and other leaders signing their name to a document that they had only a passing interest in supporting. Spending extra time with key players to flush out and address their real concerns is worth it.

You need everyone to be genuinely committed to all aspects of a major change initiative for it to succeed. That will require a lot of information exchange on your part.

5.   Change is an Emotional Process

Implementing significant Change is an emotional process that has a beginning and fortunately, an end. There is a lot that happens in between. Most of it involves how people react to the challenges that they are facing. Understanding how people are reacting to their situations and stages in the process is a difficult challenge for people to manage. Here’s a quick, easy to use dashboard I use to get a picture of where my team is in the change process…

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The you-curve coaching program can help you lead your team by helping you understand how to connect with people throughout the project life cycle.

Your goal is to introduce positive change to the organization within prescribed timelines and with as little negative disruption as possible. Coaching people effectively gives you a real advantage at every stage of your initiative

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