Leading Change as “Ordinary Work”

The dreaded “C” word…Change…is as continuous and variable as the day-to-day demands of doing business. Leading Change effectively is often the difference between maintaining competitive advantage and falling behind; the difference between maintaining compliance or exposure to severe penalties and business liabilities. I’m sure you can think of others. To be effective with addressing the continuous nature of Change is to “routinize” it by building into the organizational culture as “Ordinary Work”. That means adopting cultural mindshare that adopts a discipline and protocols of Change Leadership that are agile, resilient, and most importantly –   repeatable.

In a previous life, I led a cross-functional Change Team in development of a Leadership Development program that incorporated a series of ten critical success factors to establish the expectation of how we would approach and Lead Change. These ten factors played a “best practice” role that established a Change protocol that was adopted as ordinary work. In other words, we …

“Adopted tenets of Change Leadership as a REPEATABLE discipline!”

Repeatability ensures a consistent protocol/approach to Change Leadership across the organization whether the Change initiative is departmental in scope or an enterprise-wide transformative, organizational Change. This repeatable discipline establishes a recognizable and standard expectation within the rank and file that leadership has “got their back” when Change is happening, and that any Change will be effectively and efficiently handled every time.

By replicating these ten success factors, we “routinized” the expectation of how we will lead Change across all levels of the organization. Replicating these ten success factors created a consistent expectation for two significant groups:

  • Those on the receiving end of Change, and
  • Those tasked to initiate, support, and drive Change

Consistent expectations regarding Change means that regardless of where you are in the organization and what your individual role may be specific to the Change initiative, there will always be:

  • A defined beginning point that is relevant to each role involved;
  • Questions regarding “What, Who, When, Where How, & Why” and the critical requirements to provide answers to everyone impacted…at every level;
  • The need for line-of-sight from an individual’s point of contribution to the affect their actions have on the larger business mission, and…
  • A transparent accounting of successes or failures with the Change initiative at all levels that yield celebrations and redirection real-time.

Critical Success Factors for Leading Change

  1. Validation – Articulate a compelling business case for change. Is there a problem worth solving with the proposed Change? How painful and visible is it? (See Calibration) Does anybody give a rip? If so, who? How do we convince business-organization-departments-individuals that this Change is necessary? What is the business case for the Change in terms of business impact? What is the cost of doing nothing? Etc.
  2. Calibration – Define tangible business performance indicators [PIs] of successful Change. To define relevant PIs we must define CURRENT STATE…the “AS IS” state prior to the Change. Define the business impact at risk. What are the projected tangible business performance indicators of successful adoption of the Change? Are there intangible benefits to include as well? This phase serves as guidelines for measuring evidence for reporting formative business impact from deployment through implementation and summative impact at sustained adoption.
  3. Sponsorship – Recruit and engage willing leader(s) to be visible and accessible advocate(s) throughout the Change effort. Which leader is willing to commit to adopting the Change as a viable approach to reducing time-to-impact? Is he/she accessible, visible and highly respected to the organization and the Change team? Should there be multiple sponsors forming a Change governance or Steering Committee?
  4. Value Proposition Cascade – Communications that are “early & often” that render a “localized” value message at every level. What is the “WIIFM” value message at every level impacted by the adoption of the Change? What are the “local” lines-of-sight?
  5. Tactical Change Road Map – Define explicit plans to communicate, prepare, inform, equip, sell, train, and support the Change event to and for the affected user population. This is not simply a Point A to Point B roadmap. There are milestone stops along the way; some of which may be agile iterations and formative refinements.
  6. Create Readiness – Application of performance consulting skills and integration of an agile design, development and delivery methodology for seamless, frictionless and ubiquitous access to knowledge, skills and performance support assets that…
    1. Embrace a Learner-to-Performer Continuum that…
    2. Address all Five Moments of Need
    3. From Point-of-Entry to the Point-of-Work.
    4. Are the right technology infrastructure and resource assets in place and scalable?
    5. What work/support functions must be at readiness to launch and measure a pilot?
    6. Where can we gain asset advantages of Create Once – Use Many Times?
  7. Mobilization – Identify and empower team resources needed to engage and execute the Change road map. This often means identifying and starting small with a pilot project and scaling off the success. Don’t boil the ocean…start with a safe harbor.
  8. Deployment – What are the scope and logistics of the GoLive event for the Change pilot? Debrief feedback and fine-tune through pilot iterations. Extract and report impact measurements from the Change pilot results. (See Calibration) Determine readiness to scale in a larger implementation based on proven success.
  9. Implementation – Replicate pilot roadmap on a larger, prioritized scale. This is a process of routinization and integration of agile-developed assets and performance technology into workflows. Extract and report relevant impact measurements from incremental implementations as you scale. (See Calibration)
  10. Sustained Capability – Effectively communicate and celebrate successes beginning with pilot deployment. Share user “wins” widely and visibly. Share newly-found best practices and provide prompt feedback. Harvest learning moments discovered during agile iterations. Harvest user-generated hacks and cheats gained from proactive feedback loops. Integrate these discoveries into future learning and support solutions. Determine how long, when, how, and by whom success metrics are captured, formatted and reported. (See Calibration)

These success factors do not necessarily represent a linear process of steps. Several may run concurrently while others are repeated as agile iterations. The scope of change does not nullify any of these success factors; in fact, this methodology works as well on a training request as it does transformational  Change initiative. Again, this is a repeatable discipline that is wrapped around a Performance Paradigm. Any time a Change in behavior/performance is sought, these factors are valid.

Closing Thoughts

These success factors listed above were template-driven and supported by worksheets that provide key questions and actions required within each of these factors to enable repeatability. I’m not a fan of worksheets, but if used as a repeatable process, they often become like training wheels and can be dropped. That’s when we’ve successfully routinized Change, and leading it effectively and efficiently becomes “ordinary work” as opposed to something extra that we need to do. Once again, Change Leadership must become a cultural doctrine…a discipline…and an expectation. Engaging key stakeholders early and often and providing an input and feedback conduit are great ways to encourage both a holistic and an integrated approach to leading Change.

Another benefit that can promote adoption is the byproduct of a compressed timeline for building the CL plan. The template-driven approach provides a clear structure to ensure key success factors are not overlooked, and it promotes visibility to key players who should be involved…from visible Sponsor(s) to key stakeholder segments impacted by the initiative. Like I said earlier, the more frequently the 10-step approach is applied, the more familiar and less reliant upon templates the process becomes.

Effective Change Management alone is not enough. In the same light, Training alone is not enough to drive sustainable performance. A holistic approach following the Learner-to-Performer Continuum and addressing all five moments of need are critical. That does not mean CM is a waste of time, or that Training is not necessary. To ensure sustainability, we should wrap the added power and momentum that these principles of Change Leadership give us around our tactical execution of effective Change Management. Likewise, we should adopt a Performance Paradigm that embraces the Point-of-Work since that’s where tangible business value is created…or lost.

My experiences confirm that many organizations are stuck in a Training Paradigm – where tradition promises that training will drive performance. Unfortunately, that is a myth –Training alone only drives potential.

Valid evidence of sustained workforce capability only manifests post-training at the Point-of-Work. Disruptive thinking? You bet!

I’m suggesting Change concepts that promote radical cultural re-think with operational integration and adoption of a Performance Paradigm. Strong business acumen enables addressing performance challenges with operational stakeholders as a trusted advisor who speaks fluently in relevant terms of key performance indicators that address tangible evidence of business impact specific to their scope of work.

Scope specialties now include: – Performance Consulting – Organizational Change Management – Custom Learning & Performance Solution Development – Workforce Capability Strategy Development – Learning & Performance Technology Evaluation, Selection & Integration – Impact Measurement and Reporting

Thanks for reading! As always, I am open to discussion and welcome your thoughts!

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Advocate, Coach, Speaker
(317) 437-2555
Web: Living In Learning