November & December theme:
“Choose One Thing”
Posted in :  Brain Waves, Diversions

Introducing change into an organization is tough business. Dr. John Kotter’s research in the mid 90’s found that only 30% of organizational change programs succeed no matter the scale of the initiative or the size of the organization. Even with an endless parade of consultants, tools, and methodologies to help avoid the pitfalls, this statistic still holds true today. So why is there such an abysmal track record of successful change? One of the leading factors for failure remains employee resistance. This suggests that the industry is intentionally avoiding key aspects of the human side of change.

I believe for change to be successful, people need to be connected to it.

Getting your team ready for change doesn't have to be like getting your kids ready for school

Don’t tell me what to do

Getting my three young children ready for school is one of the more unpleasant aspects of being a parent. Even when I tell them exactly what to do again and again, they resist until I raise my voice or offer repercussions. I finally asked them if they are happy with our morning routine. They responded with a resounding no, so I asked what they would do to change it. Within minutes, they had a solid plan. Best of all the plan was theirs, they owned it. From then on the kids took responsibility for their own readiness, and the mornings were a very different experience.

Establish ownership

This same scenario plays out in business everyday. No one likes to be told what to do. People want to have a say in their future; especially if that future is about to change. You can’t expect enthusiastic participation if your team doesn’t feel ownership in an initiative. If you find that you have to constantly coax and prod your team in order for them to take action, you have failed to let them feel a part of the change. Ownership doesn’t happen when a change initiative is introduced fully formed then dropped in the laps of those responsible for execution.  And while copious PowerPoint slides, spreadsheets and other typical kick-off meeting tactics might help to justify the change, they do little to bring your team on-board.

Invest now, or risk failure

There is an undeniable choice. Invest in your team taking ownership now or face employee resistance and gamble on a 70% failure rate. Here is what the investment looks like:

1) Invite early participation
Before your idea is too fully formed, share it with your colleagues, get their contributions early and often

2) Make it personally meaningful
Talk about what it means to your team, your company, and your customers. Discuss what’s at stake if it’s not implemented and what difference it will make if it is

3) Give your team time to assimilate and interpret the idea
Don’t expect immediate uptake on a fresh idea. Give people time to register it, and take your time, what might feel like painstaking time, describing it

4) Facilitate discussions, don’t present
It is vital that you share and allow others to share what they see in it and what it means to them. Facilitate conversations that allow your team to express their ideas and be heard

5) Make communication an ongoing conversation
Talk about the new idea again and again and in a variety of ways. It takes time and repeated exposure to an idea for another to start to see it too. Take them on the journey of how you arrived at the idea. Listen to their journey as they begin to connect with it

6) Encourage the story to evolve
If ownership is transferring, the change initiative will evolve as others start to see new connections to it. Include those valid contributions and adapt the initiative in a way that honors them.

Your goal is to create shared ownership with your team so any initiative is as much theirs at it is yours.  For others to own it, you need to invite contribution. You will know you are on the right track, when others can present the idea with the same personal passion as you can.


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Posted by: Brent Robertson
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