Challenged with bringing people along on your change journey?
You are not alone. 75% of change initiatives fail because many companies struggle to build and sustain change momentum. Is change failure caused by your organization’s uniqueness? Statistics will inform you the answer is no. Companies of all sizes, industry, and culture, as well as initiatives of various charters and complexity all experienced failure or struggled with change, if not deliberately managed. Here are examples of the types of organizations and changes they wanted to make:
Non-profit organization needed to instill project management standards to better deliver projects on time, on budget, with quality while meeting business expectations;
Global organization with major offices dispersed around the world needed to introduce massive new changes to processes, governance and implement next-generation technologies in response to regulatory changes;
A major domestic financial services company needed to change the way they did things to compete dramatically better in a market with aggressive, innovative disruptive competitors;
A global bank implementing new ERP and reengineered processes;
A SMB that needed to operate more efficiently using new technology, process, policy and skills;
An enterprise cloud adoption change initiative;
A cybersecurity program implementation;
A departmental change to adopt best practices (Scrum, Agile, UX, DevOps);
An enterprise risk management, controls and process change;
A Lean Six Sigma deployment; and
A business unit change to increase customer and operational excellence
The common theme across these organizations were that each faced challenges getting people onboard with their change journey. Change failure does not discriminate. Whether it is a business unit, divisional, departmental, enterprise, global or domestic, ERP, compliance, big data analytics or digital transformation – empirical evidence has shown that every single change initiative faces the same common pitfalls if not managed. Google “Why do change initiatives fail…” and it will return no less than 4 million search results with various explanations and theories. This article is not intended to discuss all possible and major root-causes of failure. It will focus primarily on a small part of a single Critical Success Factor (CSF) but one that is critical, often overlooked and underestimated. See Figure 1.0 Change Journey CSF Framework for all factors to manage in a change journey. Managing stakeholders and “bringing people on board your change journey” is one of the most difficult workstreams necessary to enable your change to be successful. No amount of textbook studying, research and classroom training can sufficiently prepare one to skillfully manage stakeholders. Inexperienced change practitioners or those who haven’t been scarred a few times doing so would be equally ill-prepared. Veteran business leaders, politicians and Ivy-League-trained C-suite are no better prepared. Think how the initial roll-out of Obamacare caught the media’s frenzy because its planned go-live blew up with epic proportions.
I wanted to convey, even if it required a touch of dramatism to do so, the criticality of this activity and how if done ineffectively, will not produce the desired outcome. How if neglected entirely, would yield failure.
What is stakeholder management?
Stakeholder management is a series of actions and outcomes intended to assess and nuancedly understand what makes an impacted stakeholder tick individually and as a collective group. It requires an understanding of how the change vision and plan impact your stakeholders, and who are those stakeholders that are impacted. It requires dissecting how stakeholders feel and what do they think about the change and the impact the change has on them, what they expect out of the change, and the process of getting through the change journey. It is understanding what the stakeholders’ pain-points and implications of the change are through the stakeholders’ lens, not yours or the company’s. The purpose of identifying their expectations, desires, interests and hot buttons is to develop a program and/or series of activities that are designed to alleviate stakeholders’ fears and concerns, to respond and address concerns, issues, and interests in a positive manner. It is to reduce the fear of change, build confidence in and commitment towards the change. It is a series of activities designed to specifically yield behavioral change and actions from the part of the affected stakeholders. The ultimate purpose of the stakeholder management workstream is to build and sustain “buy-in” and support for change. In plain English, it is the act of asking the people impacted by the change to actively participate and support the change and to view the change as a positive thing that will benefit them. If the change does not benefit them individually, you are essentially compelling them to support the change because it would benefit the greater good. Think about it. This is a big statement. Whether the change affects 100s or 1,000s of people, you are asking each person to make a commitment to the change irrespective of whether it benefits them or not. It is a big ask by the company because no change will benefit everyone equally. So, if you are asking many to give up something of value to them for the benefit of a greater cause, you will want to do it nicely and effectively, in a manner that speaks to and wins hearts and minds. Every individual is different and has different needs, that is why asking for large-scale change is so difficult and often fails when not done properly.
What are some techniques to consider?
As a change sponsor, business leader or senior management member highly vested in the change outcome, the first thing to recognize is this is not a task you can simply and fully delegate to a change analyst or practitioner for the “box to be checked” for completion. Read about the tactics in the full article. Download the PDF copy of this article by clicking on the download icon at the bottom of this article or on the Quote image at the top of this article.