Question: What's one of the first things many organizations do when they embark on transformational change?
Answer: A new vision and values statement.
But is this really a meaningful way to start the transformational change journey?
If you go out to the organization with a new vision and values statement but do nothing else differently, you will likely find it to be a counter-productive activity.
The only way that a mission, vision and values statement becomes meaningful is if it is used as a relevant decision-making tool for executives. For example, if executives are considering a course of action that is counter to the vision and values, and determine not to do it for that very reason-- then the vision and values statement has some teeth.
Otherwise, you are likely to just raise the level of resistance, and lower the level of trust. This does not bode well for successful transformational change!
What's much more meaningful is visible personal sacrifice on the part of executives. Otherwise the organization will quickly believe that the transformational change is for everyone but the executives who are actually leading the change. And remember when trust goes down, so does speed! Trust and speed are functional.
Executives must "be the change" on an everyday basis. That means they must express, model, and reinforce their personal commitment to the transformational change. There is little power in words on a page unless those words are lived out in the actions of the leaders themselves.
Executives must demonstrate that this change is different by the way that they implement the transformational change. This can be through their allocation of resources, methods of communication, and most importantly, how they are reinforcing their own direct reports.
If the transformational change isn't visible at the top, you can't expect it to magically appear lower in the organization.
If your executives aren't prepared to use those vision and values as a guiding document for their own decision-making, it's really best to not go there at all!
Take a look at the vision and values statement on the wall, or on that little card in your desk drawer. Do you see it being lived out, or is it just words on a page?
One of the ironies of implementing a change management methodology across the enterprise is--it requires change management! Even if you see the obvious benefits of applying structure on the people-side of projects, the fact is that you are introducing a new way of operating, and it brings with it all the challenges of implementing any other kind of enterprise-wide change: the need for Sponsorship, reinforcement, readiness, and a sound communication plan. It’s why we say you actually need to use “AIM on AIM.”
So taking a structured approach makes sense, but how do you begin?
Without applying the AIM principles, you can anticipate a high-degree of resistance and the very real risk that the organization will simply revert back to project management as usual, letting go of the opportunity to make significant strides in speed and implementation success.
Begin at the Beginning with a Compelling Change Definition
Organizations are complex. Adding an enterprise-wide change like a new methodology just adds more complexity. To navigate that complexity requires planning, and at a minimum that planning should include project management activities and tasks, timing and responsibilities for:
- Defining the Change
- Generating Sponsorship
- Developing Target Readiness
- Building Communications
- Developing Reinforcement
As with any change, the place to start is to articulate the change in way that clearly describes how the future state will differ from the present state. A compelling change definition for AIM, might look like this:
“Blending the human and the technical sides of implementation.”
- Increase employee acceptance for change
- Align organizational behavior with new processes, practices, & expectations
- Assure tight “fit” between the change and the culture
- Application of practical, common sense implementation tactics, in a situational and systemic organizational context
“It’s a game of implementation. Only 15% of the job is figuring out what to do. Making it happen is where the action is.”
- Increase probability of realizing the expected ROI on implementation efforts
- Avoid the typical “70%” implementation failure rate
- Preserve strategic imperatives & finite resources
- Bottom-line -- market competition is fundamentally about the speed of change
CONSEQUENCES OF Ø CHANGING
“Low yield execution -- you don’t get the change you expect”.
- Project R.O.I not captured
- Leadership credibility erodes
- Waste resources - time, effort, $
- Future implementation efforts are less likely to succeed
- “Install” instead of implement
IMPACT ON LEADERS
“Must be the change you are trying to create.”
- Must express, model, and reinforce “it” (i.e., structured approach to implementation)
- Willingly connect your name to it
- Cascade commitment
- Support it publicly and privately
- Make personal changes first
Moving to the Real World
Moving from learning the language and principles of AIM to the realities of implementing the methodology from a practical project application perspective takes commitment, thorough planning, and involvement from key organizational people. Organizations must:
- Select the right individuals and build a skilled team of Change Agents
- Plan a comprehensive approach for using AIM
- Rigorously follow the AIM principles, scaled to the implementation
Selecting the proper group of Change Agents is critical. Individual Change Agents are responsible for helping leaders define the change, creating a network of Sponsorship, contracting with and coaching Sponsors, managing Target resistance, and building Target reinforcement.
It’s far better to introduce the methodology on a project by project basis, rather than by attempting to implement it generically as a new “cultural ethos.” As you inculcate the methodology, one project at a time, you demonstrate value, and lower resistance.
Rigorously Apply AIM
But unfortunately, planning alone offers no guarantee of success.
Quite often, in the process of applying AIM, a good deal of re-direction is needed: continually re-evaluating Sponsorship and re-contracting; reading resistance and altering tactics; getting feedback from Targets on reinforcement and communications; evaluating Change Agents’ capabilities and making hard choices.
Getting an organization past the barrier of installation and to full implementation takes dedicated resources, a planned approach and a rigorous method.
What's the role of a change management methodology in building the IT-business partnership? It’s typical for strategic initiatives to include some type of technology component. The question is, who owns the initiative? Does ownership shift at some point in the project life cycle?
The reality is that IT can’t be solely accountable for implementation success, and accountability must be shared between IT and the business.
Your change management methodology needs to unite both sides and create a bridge between IT and the business. If both groups share a common methodology, you can move much more swiftly.
And speed is the currency of success in today's marketplace.
IT is Accountable for Installation
In the early stages of the project life cycle, IT is the driver of the technology selection, analysis, design, and testing processes. Clearly the business end-users must be part of the process. Together, the IT and business owners define the business requirements and design a system that meets the business needs. The business owners must start to build readiness for the change by communicating a compelling business case for action and getting the concerns of users out in the open so early resistance to change can be managed.
IT then takes the lead in making sure the system is “up and running” and meets the “go live” target date. This is what we term “installation,” and it’s a critical step in implementation.
However, when you stop at the point of installation, you are still short of achieving sustained adoption and Return on Investment. And even though the IT project responsibilities are essentially completed at the point of installation, the project is not yet complete until you overcome the barriers to change and get users to adopt the new behaviors. This responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the business.
Business Partner Accountability
While it’s typical for the project team to be disbanded at this point, the project is in fact not yet complete. Business partners, or what we term the reinforcing sponsors, must consistently and actively express, model, and reinforce the new behaviors, and you can teach them what good sponsorship requires. IT is in no position to address the necessary modeling and reinforcement because they have no positional authority over the users (or what we call Targets).
Providing the appropriate reinforcements is the most important of all business partner (sponsor) responsibilities. Reinforcing sponsors should be applying three essential types of reinforcements at the right time and at the appropriate level of intensity. These can be categorized as positive reinforcement, negative consequences, and degree of work effort.
Most Reinforcing sponsors understand that there is power in positive reinforcement. It’s much more difficult, though, to apply negative consequences for undesirable behaviors. For many organizations, corporate cultural norms are powerful influencers of sponsor actions, meaning that it’s culturally unacceptable for business partners to provide direct negative feedback to a Target. It’s simply not done.
Few reinforcing sponsors understand the role of controlling work effort in driving implementation. How difficult is it for Targets to use the system to perform work in the old ways? Is the old system still available? Are “work-arounds” acceptable”? While IT can be helpful in ensuring that these work effort issues are addressed, the accountability rests primarily with business partners.
By building a partnership based on shared accountability and using a repeatable and systematic framework like the Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM) for managing the people elements of the change, project teams are far more likely to be positioned for full value realization.
Is your organization's transformational change effort a sustained priority for your senior executives? Are you positioned for execution success?
A few years ago, we used to have our Introduction to AIM (our structured change management methodology for accelerating change) complete our Organization Stress Test-- one of the AIM diagnostic tools-- as part of the program. The Stress Test provides a quantified assessment of how much is going on in the organization at the same time. This is critical because "no change occurs in isolation-- it occurs in the context of all the other things going on at the same time."
We don't use the Stress Test as often now, because we already know that almost every organization has way too much going on! This is problematic, because when there are too many "priorities" you essentially have no priorities!
It's a major concern, especially when it comes to transformational change which extends over multiple years. This means that you will need sustained focus over a long period of time from your senior-level sponsors or your transformational change will be "dead in the water!"
Maintaining a strategic focus on the transformation is essential. Once the transformational change is designed, your executives have only accomplished about 15% of what needs to get done. The really hard work is the implementation-- and transformational change ferociously consumes resources.
If your sponsors have moved on to designing the next set of strategic imperatives before the transformational change is actually completed, your transformation is at risk. The transformation must be sustained as one of the top 2-3 priorities over the course of the change, which is going to take at least 3 years!
When Don Harrison, IMA's President, goes into a group of senior leaders that are contemplating transformational change, one of the first questions he asks is, "Are you prepared to make this your focus for the next 3-5 years? Because if you aren't prepared to do that, don't even start. You will just create more problems for the organization."
Senior leaders are well-served to follow this simple, but compelling advice if they are looking to implement transformational changes at speed and achieve execution success: Focus down to speed up.
If you are offering change management consulting to internal clients, you likely know it’s important to build readiness for change
early on---but many change management consultants miss one of the most powerful tools available for building readiness: involvement.
When used appropriately, involvement can be help to build commitment to the change
, surface resistance
, and actually produce better solutions for your change management consulting. But recognize that involvement can take time and be expensive on the front end.
Involvement Builds Commitment
Organizations aren’t democracies, and we aren’t advocating that strategic business decisions be put up for a vote of approval! There is, however, a powerful principle in the AIM methodology which says, “If you can’t get people involved in deciding what to change, get them involved in how to change it.”
Differentiating the “how” from the “what” is important. When people are appropriately prepared, they can be involved in defining the problem, developing the solution, designing the change, and either planning or actually implementing the solution. Through this type of involvement, you increase the Targets’ sense of control over their work, and that’s a stress reducer and a way to lessen resistance.
Of course it’s much faster to bypass getting people involved—or at least it may seem that way. Creating involvement takes time on the front end of an initiative—it’s an investment of time that will pay off later. The benefits might not be immediate, but they can be significant, and will ultimately accelerate behavior change.
Avoid the Potential Risks
If you are going to get people involved, here are some tips you can use in your change management consulting to avoid potential problems:
- Make certain that you are very clear that involvement will not alter the decision to move forward on the change. This requires clear communication and appropriate behavioral reinforcements from Sponsors.
- You can’t get people involved without creating structure for the involvement.
- You’ll need to invest in preparing people for involvement through skill development on team principles. Don’t expect people to “come to the table” with the requisite skillset.
- Understand and be prepared for the investment of time that involvement requires on the front-end of the project.
- Don’t get people involved if the decisions on how the change will be implemented have already been made. It’s counter-productive and you’ll just create greater resistance.
- If your organization isn’t prepared to deal with solutions that may be different, or is afraid of what people may recommend, don’t build an involvement strategy.
Implementing transformational change is by definition, more complex and more challenging. You have to let go of your past, and leap to the future without a safety net!
Here are five tips that can assist in ensuring that you get the intended value realization for your transformational changes. As you will see from the tips below, sponsorship and reinforcement for transformational change are the keys to value realization!
1. Provide psychological cues that this is different.
Transformational change requires sponsors to demonstrate that this change is different from past changes. They must do this from the start by offering "psychological cues" that this change is different. For example, these cues may come from the way the change is communicated. If your executives always communicate via a town hall meeting, you will want to use a different delivery method. Bottomline: the sponsors can't simply say that "this is different" without demonstrating the differences via their own behaviors.
2. Provide your sponsors with education on what you will need from them, and measure their performance.
Most sponsors have never been given any training on what it takes to be a good sponsor. Sponsors should know that we are looking for them to do three very important things: express their commitment to change, model that commitment, and most importantly, reinforce that commitment day in and day out by providing positive reinforcement and negative consequences for the new ways-- and making it easier for people to do their job the new way than the old way. Measure their performance as sponsors of the transformation (IMA's Sponsor Assessment Tool does exactly that) and provide appropriate reinforcements.
3. Identify the "behaviors you seek to see" at both the program and workstream levels.
It's absolutely critical to have "implementation specific" measures for each workstream, and these must include business technical and human objectives for the transformation. These human behaviors answer the question, what would people be doing differently, and how would you know it if you saw it? If you don't flesh out the human objectives at the front-end, how will you know what new behaviors you are looking for targets of the change to adopt, and how will you reinforce those behaviors?
4. Make sure the transformation is sustained as one of the top 2-3 priorities and that there are realistic expectations from leaders on what radical change requires from them.
The transformation is more about what leaders are doing than anything else. Radical change can't just occur "out there." To implement at speed, leaders will have to make visible personal and painful sacrifices. For example, the leader who gives up his or her salary for a year demonstrates that type of sacrifice. If leaders throw other changes at the organization that take the focus away from the transformation, you won't get benefit realization.
5. Model the goals for the transformation in the way that you implement the transformation.
If you are trying to achieve "one company" you can't implement on the old silo-by-silo basis. You need a consistent framework for implementing (like the Accelerating Implementation Change Management methodology) so that you model what you are trying to implement in the way that you implement! If you don't, people will quickly see that this is more "same," with the expectation that "this too shall pass."
Sponsorship and reinforcement are the power levers for driving transformational change at speed. These tips are just the start!
There’s little doubt that building a “high-trust” organization is desirable if you are in the throes of transformational change. It’s helpful to have respect between employees and leaders, and there may well be a correlation between trust and credibility and employee performance.
But there are also implications between organizations with high-trust and transformational change success. Trust and speed are functional. High-trust organizations are able to move much more quickly than low-trust organizations. Since speed is a competitive advantage, there are critical business reasons for building a high-trust organization.
How Sponsors Build Trust
Sponsorship is an “active condition” defined by both action and organizational position. Sponsors must Express, Model, and Reinforce (EMR) their individual commitment to the change in order for the change to gain sustained user adoption and ultimately Return on Investment. Trust is built when what Sponsors say is aligned with what they do and what they reinforce.
For example, if you are involved in a transformational change around customer service excellence and your leaders talk about service excellence, but model and reinforce cost containment above all else, you have non-alignment.
Many projects rely on messaging with much less attention paid to Sponsor modeling and reinforcement. It’s worth noting that when what is expressed by a Sponsor is not aligned with what the Sponsor does, or even more importantly, what the Sponsor reinforces, credibility and trust are eroded. Even more significantly, this lack of trust in leadership can show up in how those employees treat your customers.
High trust, high speed. Low trust, low speed.
Getting alignment around EMR is a simple formula for building trust and speed, but it requires a significant amount of business discipline to make it happen, especially when facing the complexity of transformational change.
In addition, at the project level, organizations must take the requisite time to define the “human objectives” for projects, just as the business and technical objectives are defined. Unless Sponsors are aware of what the new behaviors are, they can’t provide the required reinforcement.
If Sponsors are reinforced only for the accomplishment of business and technical objectives, and not for the accomplishment of the human objectives, they will likely not provide the reinforcement needed with their own direct reports.
The impact of this erosion of trust is not just on the immediate project. Long after the project is deemed dead or disappears from the list of organizational priorities, the organizational memory is retained.
As a result, not only are the strategies less likely to be accomplished, projects will take longer and cost more. As confidence in leadership is eroded, the resistance to changes increases, and future changes are slowed down or more likely to fail. Organizations with too much going on, and with an unsuccessful past history will require more resources and time to create readiness for change.
It becomes a vicious cycle, as leaders pile on more strategic “priorities”, providing inadequate resources for implementing all of the changes, and thereby creating greater stress and lower trust. Everything slows down.
Remedial Actions for Successful Transformational Change
Building a high-trust organization begins at the top. Since “awareness is the first step to recovery," there is great value in making leaders aware of the organization’s own implementation history and the implications for current and future initiatives.
Using the data obtained from assessing past history, leaders can develop new strategies and tactics that will support trust-building. On a project by project basis, leaders should signal that “this time will be different” by how they communicate, what they model, and what they reinforce.
Can change management consulting resuscitate projects?
We know that there are some projects that completely crash and burn. Others just sputter and stall out.
The fact is that most projects don’t achieve their full potential, so that the business case that was set forth to justify the investment is never fully realized. Our change management consulting work gives us up-front insights into the unfortunate, but all too common situation of being called in to deal with projects that aren't 100% on course.
Do you know how to uncover the root causes for the problems on your projects?
Three Sources of Problems
It’s typical to react to the very apparent symptoms that a troubled project presents instead of focusing on underlying causes for the problem. Here are three critical areas to explore—an emergency checklist we use in our change management consulting and that you can follow the next time you are called on to revive a failing or stalled project:
1. Review the Project Plan
Does the plan span both the technical project management side and the human side? Remember that the activities and deliverables that address the human elements should be interwoven with the technical project plan, so that there is one implementation plan that is being managed.
Also consider the timing—how early in the project life cycle are the human elements being addressed? If the activities that address the human elements aren’t addressed until close to or after project launch, then you have missed the opportunity to build readiness for the change.
You may get to installation, but miss the mark on the measure for implementation success--- project Return on Investment.
There are other considerations as well:
- Does the plan provide structure, yet permit flexibility?
- Is it supported, understood, and owned by top management?
- Is it resourced realistically, including the resources needed to address the human elements?
2. Analyze Your Tool Kit
In our change management consulting practice, we apply specific tools and diagnostics to help manage resistance, build the communication plan, align reinforcement and performance management practices to the new behaviors, monitor the climate for this change, and engage the leaders needed to manage your project.
These tools should be accessible and easy to apply whenever they are needed. If they are supported by a common vocabulary and a structured process like AIM for managing the change, and if they are a systemic component of the way projects are implemented, the likelihood of project success dramatically increases.
3. Review Your Deployment Tactics
- Do you have active and engaged sponsors through all the organizational layers?
- Do they know they are being looked to as sponsors for the change, and are the sponsors aware of how they must express, model and reinforce the new behaviors?
- Do you have enough skilled change agents in the right places?
- What about your climate—is it a barrier to implementation success, or does it support what you are trying to accomplish?
- Are the critical roles (Champions, Agents, Sponsors, and Targets) being pro-actively managed on an ongoing basis?
- Are you equating communication with implementation?
If you gather the data to answer these questions, you will be much better prepared to apply emergency first-aid tactics to the most acute problems, and develop a comprehensive re-hab plan for the chronic ones.