Implementing change management

Implementation and change: cracking the code of break-through transformations

Implementing change management and creating a break-through transformation in any business requires an art and a knack. Implementation is an art, and one that is always tied very closely change management: where change management is the knack that of helping people adapt quickly to new ways of working, implementation is the disciplined art of making everything, including change activities, happen.

Here are four silver bullets to consider. And of course, this article is the first in a series of three.

1. 10 simple rules to get 55,000 people to implement

Rob Kretzers, an amazing program manager on implementing change management, who successfully ran a program with 55,000 folks on his team in Qatar inspired the following insights for a successful implementation leadership:

  1. Show care and concern for everyone on the team. Create relationships based on things that are important to team members
  2. Show a degree of personal sacrifice – asking for the extra mile means going the extra mile yourself.
  3. Follow up when people get hurt, and show up to mingle at all levels
  4. Make awards and rewards personal. Again, show up & engage.
  5. Provide time & budget for two things that feed the mind and the heart: celebrations and unlocking the imagination (time off to think creatively, develop personally)
  6. As a leader, go to uncomfortable places and do uncomfortable things
  7. Learn at every scale up and apply the lessons rigorously
  8. If you do something big, model it first. Preparation costs money, but it helps you understand what needs to be done.
  9. Simplify complexity by breaking it down to many little jobs. Make projects small and manage the interfaces
  10. Be decisive, curious and have only one attitude: the buck stops with me

2. Before you decide to go full tilt on your implementation

Now that we have a bead on implementation & change leadership, let’s see how we can make sure that we will be successful from the start when implementing change management. There are 5 powerful questions to ask before a final decision to implement:

  1. What will happen if we don’t do this?
  2. What does success look like – for each major stakeholder group involved?
  3. How & what will we measure to know whether we are successful?
  4. Who will own the results of this implementation to go into steady state and are they already involved now?
  5. Who will make decisions on what areas: escalation path?

If you are stuck for an answer to any of these, take a little more time to get the lay of the land before you & your merry band of believers go forth to conquer the first milestone: and have the courage not to start before getting absolute clarity on these five – it will likely save time, money, and most importantly, the relationships and trust required to succeed in any endeavor.

3. Cracking the procrastination code

Now, regardless of whether we have the leadership qualities, and we have carefully asked our 5 silver bullet questions, there is one factor that can always make implementation & change well, a bit unpredictable… We human beings are a funny lot: on the one hand we are constantly looking for things that are different, things that inspire us, move us to wonder. And on the other hand we are actually mentally wired towards structure, predictability and maintaining the status quo. This comes from an ancient drive to ward off danger with safe routines, doing what works best time and again. So: no wonder that implementation teams sometimes move in fits and starts, and that it seems as if stakeholders simply will not move no matter what the team does. How to crack this?

  • First of all, have the headspace for people’s hesitations and particularities.
  • Second, explore how the implementation can actually sustain a measure of safety and security & share both the exploration and the outcome with your stakeholders.
  • And finally, ask a simple, but powerful question: what do you need in order to be able to get on with this?

It’s that simple. Really.

4.8 Simple steps to get started: works every time

And now that we have gotten over our natural tendency to procrastinate, it’s always useful to have a roadmap, a run book, a set of simple steps which helps you get started in a very good way. As the Dutch say: “A good start is half the work” – and this touches the heart of implementing change management. Here’s what to do:

  1. Determine who the relevant stakeholders are: who gives the assignment, who holds the budget, who receives the results, who is affected by the implementation, who makes decisions affecting the implementations
  2. Write down what is the problem to solve. Do this with relevant stakeholders
  3. Third, articulate with those same stakeholders what “done” looks like once the solution has been implemented
  4. Formulate your hypotheses about the problem you want to solve
  5. Write ‘user stories’ for the most important stakeholders in terms of: “I would like … so that I can … ” – validate these with stakeholders
  6. Make sure you come up with completion and acceptance criteria for these user stories
  7. Put the stories into a prioritized list, decide which ones you’ll tackle in the coming 2 weeks & translate into relevant actions. Plan for a demonstration of (part of) your solution with your stakeholders at the end of the 2 weeks. Make sure they know they get to see a first evolution, draft, work in progress
  8. The rubber hits the road & you are on your way

Now you have four simple ways of making implementation and change actually work for you. More will be forthcoming on this. And I really look forward to your own insights and responses on implementing change management!

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