A majority of companies say they struggle with strategy execution and even those that don’t admit it find it challenging to do. Problems in execution is sometimes due to poor mapping of strategic goals to projects and tasks. That lack of detailed planning certainly undermines execution, but there is often a more subtle reason at play as well responsible for organization’s struggles with execution. It has to do with failing to properly manage change.
That failure may be the result of not engaging employees in the planned transformation, from overly complex plans or changes that are introduced too quickly and ambitiously and therefore begin to unravel during execution. This article discusses the three “I”s of change and how they can help set execution on the right track and smooth the transformation process from beginning to end.
The First “I” of Change: Introduce
Introduce: Managing change begins with sharing the vision of the future-state with those who will be effected and need to know what is afoot. Information and communication are essential in order to help ease resistance to transformation. Introducing change through a well constructed communication plan is the first critical step in the transformation process.
Change that is introduced without setting the proper vision falls flat in terms of being accepted. This happens because employees (and even management) must see a reason and an urgency behind such initiatives; one that motivates them to accept changes to their daily routine. Even with a shared vision and good communication plan, expect change to be feared, resented or passively rejected by the workforce.
So how should change be introduced in order to succeed? The answer to this question is slightly more complex. One viable solution is to create “personas” for the different audiences where change is being introduced. A persona is a sample profile of the target audience, containing the basic attribution of someone the change leader will be communicating with as the business introduces change. Change leaders need to know their audience well enough to understand what various aspects of the changes being introduced will mean to them. The idea is to get inside their shoes and try to see it from their perspective. Think of personas as a tool used in developing our messaging for our target market. Once messaging is ready, it must be disseminated in cycles to reinforce key points and make sure that the audience has internalized the information. This is the first “eye” of change, seeing it through the employees eyes.
The Second “I” of Change: Implement
Implement: Implementation is the roll-out of planned changes. It may seem at first blush that implementation would be straight forward, enough so that no other explanation is needed. There are, however, actually a few points worth mentioning about how implementation should work.
Implementing change would be easy, if it were easy. Unfortunately, it is not and it confounds many businesses that find themselves in the midst of failing to do it well. That is because organization’s get over zealous and try to do too much too fast.
“We’re going to implement this program, so let’s jump in and get it done now.”
Enthusiasm for accomplishing a goal is terrific, but it is crucial to break up transformations into smaller chunks that can be accomplished and touted as successes along the way. This lessens the complexity of the change roll-out while helping build momentum for the transformation. Positive momentum gradually helps breaks down resistance to change. This is the second “eye” of change. Employees must see accomplishment with their own eyes and the accomplishments need to come often and at a steady pace.
The Third “I” of Change: Institutionalize
Institutionalize: In order for change to stick, it must become the new routine. This means fighting against human nature, which is intent on resisting change and returning to “normal” as quickly as possible. Remember that lasting change is a continuous process; to make change and a new vision part of an organization’s core, the leadership team must keep the vision at-hand. New employees need to be trained and shaped around the vision in order for it to become institutionalized.
To help change persist and becoming part of an organization’s fabric, talk about progress often. Recognize success frequently. Publicly recognize those who contribute so they feel valued. Finally, as key leaders who helped institute the change move on, create a replacement plan that will keep their contributions going.
This also brings up the third “eye” of change. Employees must adopt the vision of the changing environment, accepting it and becoming passionate about it. Without passion the old ways might creep back in – undoing the changes accomplished thus far.
Managing change begins with sharing the vision of the future-state with those who will be effected and need to know. Chunk up change into manageable pieces and tout successes frequently along the way. For change to last, it must become institutionalized and become the new norm.
Stand In Your Employee’s Shoes and View Change Through Their Eyes
Help those that will be touched by the transformations throughout the organization truly see the vision and understand it. Plan change through there eyes as well, so that obstacles to acceptance can be understood and anticipated. Allow the organization to see changes happening and accept the small success along the way as evidence that the transformation is working. Continue to train and educate about the change program so that employees adopt the vision of the changing environment and see ownership of their own role in accomplishing lasting transformation.
Summary of the Three “I”s
|1. Introduce||Unveiling of the future vision and publicizing it through well thought out messaging; perhaps developed using personas.|
|2. Implement||Implementation must be done in small chunks in order to show successes and claim victories along the way. Momentum is important; therefore a steady pace of completed transformational steps along the way helps get buy-in.|
|3. Institutionalize||For change to last, it must become a way of life. This is what is referred to as institutionalizing change. The implemented change must become the new normal in order to avoid reverting back to the old ways.|