The rate of change in today’s business world is certainly at an all-time high. Everyone we know is racing around at a crazy, fast pace trying to implement multiple initiatives all of which are chasing the same limited resources. This nonstop, whirlwind of activity often makes an organization seem like it’s functioning like a well-oiled machine. (After all if everyone is busy, change management must be happening, right?) But, have you ever stopped to ask yourself what exactly everyone is doing? Are they just spinning their wheels with activity or are they making an actual impact with their actions?
One of the principles of Next Generation Change Management is that impact is far more important than activity. The truth of the matter is when time is such a precious commodity, organizations simply can’t afford to have resources spending it on activities that are not delivering value and do not make an impact on the bottom line.
4 Essential Questions to Ask
Instead of falling into the trap of being very, very busy without making an actual impact, Change Agents and Sponsors need to be laser focused on the right actions at the right time. Here are 4 critical questions based on the principles of the AIM Change Management Methodology that Change Agents should be asking about their projects:
- Do you have the Sponsorship required for this organizational change?
Sponsorship is the single most important factor in implementation success! But, Project Sponsorship is not just one executive who signs a check authorizing funding for your initiative and then shows up at the project launch meeting. It’s also not a steering committee of key leaders tasked with making strategic decisions along the way.
Project Sponsorship is the “cascade” of managers, level by management level, throughout the organization, in every area affected by the change. Each of these leaders must be Expressing, Modeling and Reinforcing their personal and public commitment to the change with their direct reports. It is this cascade of active Sponsorship that drives the speed of implementation.
- Is there agreement on what the change actually is?
One of the most common mistakes we see in our change management consulting work is when there is no clear, concise picture of what the future state looks like or the resources that will be needed to get there. That’s why we say the starting point for every strategic initiative must be a clear, compelling Definition of the Change.
Most times, we see a project team that has set clear objectives for the timeline, the budget, and even perhaps...the technical objectives. The sub-optimization culprits are usually the lack of a commonly held definition of the business objectives and the human objectives. These human objectives are the behaviors you seek to see in the future if the change is implemented successfully.
In order to properly define the change, you need to identify the behavior gap between the current state and the future state. To do so, the following 4 questions need to be asked:
- What is changing?
- Why is it changing?
- What are the consequences for not changing?
- And how will success be measured?
- Are you developing an explicit Reinforcement plan?
Reinforcement is the power lever to motivate behavioral changes. Don Harrison, developer of the AIM Change Management methodology puts it like this, "Every time you see a behavior, there either is or was a reward for it." Next Generation Change Agents need to focus on working with their Sponsors to implement appropriate reinforcements (both positive rewards and negative consequences) with the Sponsors’ direct reports. But remember, reinforcement management is more about the daily interaction between the Sponsor and their direct report and less about their formal compensation.
- How are you planning to manage Resistance and, on the flip side, Readiness for the change?
Resistance is a function of the level of disruption of change. It is how people protect themselves against changes in behaviors, Reinforcement, work characteristics, power and/or status. But remember, Readiness and Resistance are two sides of the same coin. If you spend some of your resource energy early in the project life cycle on building Readiness (and this requires more than top-down Communications and training) you’ll spend less time and need fewer resources dealing with Resistance later.
The AIM Change Management process was developed to guide Change Agents to target their limited resources to gain the maximum benefit in the shortest amount of time. By focusing on these 4 questions, Change Agents will be able to use their skills on interventions that will steer them towards implementation success. Did you ask yourself each question? What were your answers?