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17 Basic Steps to Kick-Start Your Change Management Program

Geoff Schaadt

Starting gate

You know you’ve lived it. We all have.

Every manager who has ever been handed a new program, policy, or initiative, followed by the Picardesque, “Make it so."

So here, for you who are feeling overwhelmed and don’t quite know where to start, is a list to get you started with your Change program.

17 Steps to Getting Started

  1. You are going to fail. Deal with it. Whenever  you try to change anything it is not going to go the way you pictured it. Success is going to be determined by how you react to these curveballs.
  2. You cannot change what people believe. You can, however, require that behaviours change. These are two different things.
  3. Forget about your Gantt charts. Your beautifully phased rollout is already off schedule. Your change initiative begins the first time two people at the coffee pot whisper, “Did you hear about the re-org?”
  4. Do you know if your people are ready for change? Are they capable of implementing change at the scale that you are expecting? Expect to do some testing and surveys.
  5. Focus on the outcome that you want. Don’t get hung up on minutia of planning. Remember what the military leaders teach us, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”
  6. Create commitment and energy by bringing everyone to the table. People will engage and support when they are part of the solution. “Make it so” does not work in the long-term. Let us rephrase: "Do what I tell you", is a failing strategy. Get over it.
  7. Develop a shared vision of the future. This is what great leaders do.
  8. Find out who the real leaders are going to be. This is not an exercise for the org chart, it’s going to require you to get out there and talk to people.
  9. Focus on the outcomes. If you give good people a goal and freedom, they will figure out the best way to get there without having to be lead by the nose.
  10. Top-down change never works. Start with edge cases, see what works, then let it spread through the organization.
  11. Plate spinning
    Systems and structures are the responsibility of managers. If these are blocking progress, it's your responsibility to deal with it – not your people.
  12. Monitor and adjust strategies in response to problems in the change process. Change won't follow your plan, so be ready to gather feedback. Be more ready to act on the feedback that you receive.
  13. Deal with the difficult issues up front, even when this will cause delays in the timeline you were hoping for. Putting things off until later will result in even bigger delays down the road.
  14. Unless and until the senior management fully understands, supports and is committed to the initiative, don’t bother.
  15. Don’t mistake communication for change management. Communication is a crucial piece, but too many people think that communication ‘is’ change management. Over reliance on ‘communication’ has a tendency to degenerate into a ‘spin doctoring’ exercise.
  16. Recognize and acknowledge that all change is difficult. Be prepared to support individuals through transitions at a different pace for different people.
  17. Don’t pretend that you will be able to enjoy a period of stability when the current change initiative is finished. We have to learn to build resilience in our people because constant change is not going away and it’s not going to slow down. In practical terms, this means becoming ‘a learning organization’.

Obviously, there is more to this topic – you could fill a library with the ideas that have been advanced on change management. But the information here will give you a good starting point as you get the ball rolling.

What do you think? Are there some critical things that have been missed that should be added to this list? Let us know in the comments.



'Starting Gate' Photo Credit: pyjama via Compfight cc
'Spinning Plate' Photo Credit: dirkjanranzijn via Compfight cc


Excellent common sense advice regarding Change Management.

By Susie Rodeghiero-Smith on 2015/02/22

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