May 11, 2015

Tips for Utilizing Leadership For Successful Change Management

The approach to change management (or lack thereof) can contribute to the success or failure of a project. A key factor in effective change management is the participation of leadership in the change. Since many projects are challenging, complex, and carry significant risk, project managers should involve leadership early and often.

Managers are frequently accountable for multiple projects. However, having accountability or providing a budget doesn’t translate to success. Encouraging them to champion through change management gives leadership an actionable way in which they can add value with minimal time commitment.

Aligning the Messages

Executives and managers can use their role power to influence direct reports. Exposing employees to a variety of leaders (executives, 2nd-line managers, direct managers) that communicate similar messages can have a strong impact.

Inviting leaders to briefly speak during kick-off meetings can set the tone for change. It is also important to reiterate these messages throughout the project lifecycle.  Carve out time in key meetings (discovery, education, etc.) for leaders to communicate to stakeholders.

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Steering the Messages

Providing some suggested talking points can be helpful for managers to then put into their own words:

  • Acknowledge the pain – “We know this will not be easy”
  • Encourage positive participation – “We need your help to make this change successful. If you have a complaint, see if you can turn it into a solution…and let’s keep it positive”
  • Confirm the direction – “The train has left the station and there is no turning back”
  • Communicate the benefits of the change

o   Will it improve customer experience?

o   Will it increase sales/conversions?

o   Will it provide employees with valuable skills and/or impact them in a positive way?

Making a Sacrifice

While constructive input is valuable to a project, a dissenter will occasionally create roadblocks by influencing others with negativity. Long-term, this can have a harmful impact on adoption of the change. Therefore, it can be effective to involve management in minimizing the disruption.

  • Prepare leadership to immediately discourage negative comments that aren’t accompanied by proposed solutions, particularly if they are expressed in public forums
  • Engage managers to speak directly to their direct reports to address negativity or rumors

Praising the Work

Involve leadership in praising and rewarding “change agents” – individuals and teams who are exemplifying positive adoption of new processes and or tools. Completion of milestones such as UAT, education, launch, etc. are also good opportunities for acknowledging people.

In summary, by engaging and preparing leadership to provide direction and guidance to stakeholders, they can help influence change in a positive and impactful way.