Plenty of consultants will tell you how to make your change management strategy a success. In the interest of continuing with our maverick theme, outlined are the top 10 ways to ensure your change management strategy is a complete and utter disaster. If you recognize your own actions in these misteps, you’ll also find suggestions on how to turn each of these negatives into a positive.
1. Do you expect that you and your team can do a one-time planning session and not need to follow up until next year? Just as a regular exercise schedule keeps you physically fit, a consistent, periodic focus on your game plan is essential for maintaining strategic momentum through change. Instead of letting a year go by before revisiting your strategic plan, schedule monthly strategy sessions dedicated to your change management process.
2. Are you trying to “save money” by taking shortcuts on your planning process, budget, and time investment? A carefully thought-out collaborative plan saves thousands, if not millions, of dollars in wasted efforts, confusion, and diluted focus. Consider this an investment that will pay big dividends throughout the coming months.
3. Do you get right into “solution mode” without trying to understand the problem, because it just feels so good to take action…any action? Instead, focus on figuring out the root of the issue before going into “fix it” mode. Complex, multifaceted problems take time to understand because they are usually tied to strong emotions and opinions, making it difficult to pinpoint the central issue.
4. Do you use precious meeting time for report-outs—also called “death by meeting”—to satisfy those who enjoy hearing the sound of their own voice delivering news or information that others could simply read for themselves? You’re better off using meeting time for collaborative problem-solving. Share information in advance to get everyone on board, and design meetings so the group can work on the project they can only do as a team. Build on the info-sharing, including asking questions, for instance, about the report-outs.
5. Are people taking their own notes and setting action items themselves, instead of having one person assigned to manage the “how’s” of the project overall? Have someone serve as keeper of the game plan to monitor and update the team on progress, and to capture and communicate successes.
6. During meetings, does everyone have their smartphones on and laptops open so they can check emails while pretending to listen? Instead, spend time at the start of the project developing the team’s rules of engagement and be sure there’s a “no cell phones/no laptops” rule.
7. Especially when wrestling with the “big issues,” do you tend to focus on data analysis only, because feelings and emotions have nothing to do with strategy? A smarter approach is to acknowledge and explore individual feelings in order to surface critical priorities and get to the most important work. Feelings and instincts are integral components of the process of developing superior game plans. Pride, in particular, is a powerful emotional driver. In fact, issues are issues usually because of a mix of results, processes, and relationships that are not working. To expect that we can compartmentalize them is short-sighted. Be brave and simply ask, “How are you feeling about this?” The world won’t fall apart!
8. Do you stay rigidly married to your meeting agenda and ignore all signs that say you need to approach an issue differently? Even the best-laid plans can require flexibility in the face of new data. Keep an ear out for these “strategic moments” and decide as a team if the plans should shift.
9. Do you assume everyone is pleased with your project process, results, and relationships, and thus forget to hold a quarterly review and planning meetings? Do you neglect to communicate progress? Schedule regular meetings to take stock of progress and challenges, and to recalibrate your next 90-day plan as needed.
Stakeholders and team members are curious about how the work is progressing, so create a communication plan to prevent people filling the information vacuum with their own stories.
10. Do you believe that change will just happen? Even with the best of intentions, change is hard. Reach a collective agreement on how to best follow up on your work over time, and discuss how to hold one another accountable.
Significant organizational change is never easy, but a solid change management strategy can increase your odds of success. Taking the suggested actions will help you keep your change management strategy on track.