Planning organizational change is often undervalued, but it is vital to the change management process. Whether your improvement project is small in scale or a complete facelift, it will entail a number of changes. The effects of which are determined by attention paid during the planning stages. Poor-planning (which usually includes lack of planned communication with employees) will undoubtedly result in negative reactions and unproductive initiatives.
In your initial planning sessions, include middle management and supervisory staff, take all concerns into account. Use info gathering techniques such as white board, post it-notes, easel or wall pads, post every idea and include them in the discussion. Seeking answers to these fundamental questions will provide clarity of the scope of change and the desired outcome. As The-Plan evolves be sure to put it into an easy to follow written format.
- What needs to change (clearly state the specific process or processes)?
- Why does it need to change (describe the shortfall or challenge, what is driving the need for change)?
- What is the desired-outcome (define the goal or goals for each effected process and for the overall operation)?
- What steps will be taken to achieve the desired results (define each step, plan the order carefully)?
- Who will manage the project and who will be accountable for each logical group of process steps (select people based on their skills and knowledge and desire to learn and ability to adapt)?
Determine the potential impact of The-Plan. It will help leadership better prepare for rough patches that may arise during the process. Include all connection and flow-through points, as these areas involve process interruptions or transfers (snags) and are more likely to give rise to unforeseen set-backs. The following questions will help to identify potential impact:
- What are the possible benefits and/or disadvantages to employees, customers, vendors, financials, facilities, operations, the environment etc.
- Are there other processes or people (not-directly related) that could be affected by this change (take into consideration any action that would be beneficial to maintaining continuity of the operation)?
- What, if any negative reactions could arise and how could it influence The-Plan?
As I have stated a number of times, communicate and educate (training) to make or break a change management effort. Address both in The-Plan; reinforcement and accountability is vital here. Take in to consideration:
- Who needs to know and what do they need know (include customers, vendors, specific departments, all departments)?
- What details do these individuals, groups or teams need?
- What methods should be used to communicate to each group?
- What methods would work best (posting notices, calendar of events, pre-scheduled meetings, emails)?
- What knowledge is required (determine training methods and materials)?
- Who should be accountable, responsible and who is the authority for training?
- What methods should be employed for gathering and analyzing feedback and who will be accountable?
- What people will need support and how will support be effectively administered?
What can I say about the importance of monitoring & measurement, without it how would you know if the planned change is working. You wouldn’t!
I will talk more about monitoring in #6 of this blog series, but here are a few highlights;
Based on your objectives, determine monitoring points, how the data will be collected and analyzed and who is accountable. The data should provide information to assure that you are meeting the desired outcome. Look for opportunities to improve the plan along the way, unexpected opportunities to “do a thing” differently or better can enhance the project or be utilized in future projects (lessons learned).
Monitoring includes; observation and input from stakeholders as well as data collection to determine the effectiveness of The-Plan. A few pre-determined intervals might be:
- Tracking progress (if the timeline is not being met, additional communication efforts may be the way to get back on track)
- Accomplishments, the Good News should be shared. It is the best way to maintain a positive momentum.
- Failures or set-backs, be prepared to halt the project or a specific phase of the project, reassess and modify The-Plan
- Continuous communication, share strengths, successes and weaknesses, short falls of The-Plan to all stakeholders
I’ve posed quite a few questions to help you define Your-Plan. Change Management requires a tremendous amount of planning, monitoring, communication and more communication to be successful. So many plans fail, because the assignments are spread too thin, allowing day to day ops get in the way. The plan ends up on the back burner or worse partially implemented, often-times causing extra-process-steps, confusion and inefficiencies. This leads right back to employee resistance. This can be avoided by giving the project a full-time manager/facilitator. Be willing to shift personnel to accommodate a full-time change management position (until the project is successfully completed) or hire a change management professional who will bring with them a tool-belt full of “Lessons Learned”.
I hope you will come back for number five in my Change Management Series; Implementation & Training (building awareness), where I will address “keeping up the momentum!”