Real Leadership Stories 2: An Introduction to Change Management

This month’s blog will focus on change and the natural resistance we face when trying to implement it. The question we were asked was:

“How do I get my proposals accepted when nobody wants to change?”

Introduction

Ken was based in Japan, working at a global IT organization. He was leader of a remote team in the Client Support division. Ken felt that communications and information sharing amongst the team was poor. This was partly due to the nature of the work – team members worked remotely in different regions. However, it was also due to a lack of clear guidelines and internal systems to encourage team communications.

Ken believed that boosting communications would not only benefit internal teamwork, but would also improve client relations and work completion. All of his engineers had vast knowledge with different client experiences and regularly sharing this would benefit all.

Ken came up with several ideas but most were rejected. Ken wondered what he was doing wrong – he was confident that his ideas would significantly improve operations and client relations. Was he too aggressive? Was he a weak communicator as a leader? Was he poor at presenting ideas? All of these questions led to Ken contacting Platinum Training and requesting 1-1 coaching.

Solutions

As a first step we asked Ken to share with us his division’s business objectives and values. We then reviewed some of his proposals by asking him which were aligned with these objectives and values. This is a key step in any change management – if your ideas are not aligned with business and team objectives, why would management accept them?

Ken’s organization had recently made some organizational changes regarding goals and values.  There had been a major shift towards becoming customer-centric. This was still trickling down to Ken’s division so there was some understandable confusion, affecting employees’ desire for more change.

We then carefully identified which of Ken’s ideas were most closely aligned with this new corporate direction. Readers familiar with change management, and in particular with John P. Kotter’s 8-step strategy, may already have identified a fundamental mistake Ken had been making.

Simply put, Ken was assuming that all team members and management understood the need for change and could see how his ideas were connected.

We told Ken, “Never assume that other people can see the benefits of your ideas on change, even if they are obvious”. We introduced the first 4-steps of Kotter’s model:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency
  2. Create a guiding coalition
  3. Develop a vision & road map strategy
  4. Communicate the vision

You’ve probably already realized that Ken had jumped straight to step 4. He was communicating his vision on change – he assumed that everybody wanted to change and understood the need for it. (He hadn’t effectively created a sense of urgency)

Creating a sense of urgency must go beyond simply making statements on change. Ken needed to get people talking about the need for change. This doesn’t necessarily mean talking about a specific action, but simply the whole environment or situation and how something is wrong or needs to be fixed.

Considering this, we asked Ken to go back to business objectives and values and identify either opportunities for improvement or potential problems/gaps in current systems. Ken was then able to identify a potential ‘mini-crisis’ in regards to customer communications and relations. The potential crisis could have led to damaged relations and loss of customer trust. This situation was also clearly connected to the division’s new customer-centric approach, which was essential.

Now that Ken had a clear sense of urgency, his next step was to communicate this and embed it in the minds of staff and management. Ken was able to identify various statistical data and customer feedback that was connected to this issue. Ken decided to share this information through team emails. In addition, Ken brought up these issues at a bi-annual offsite team meeting.

Moving onto step 2 of Kotter’s framework, we also asked Ken to carry out a simple stakeholder analysis of people who would be impacted by this mini crisis. Ken was then able to identify people who would support him and people who may initially be against the idea of change. This enabled Ken to identify people he could lobby for support before introducing his ideas on change. The added benefit of this approach is that you can also include people in the solution-finding process, therefore adding more credibility and power to any ideas on change.

Outcome

This new understanding of how organizational change works has helped Ken push through some of his ideas. From a personal perspective it has also helped him see the bigger picture and understand the need for critical analysis of any change initiatives he has. Above all, it has helped him better understand his own organization’s business strategy, which is essential for his future career aspirations.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the situation. Would you have done anything differently?

 

 

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