The Change Communications Doctor is In
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Disclaimer: Felicia Empey is not an actual doctor, and the following information provided is a resource and should not be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.
Are you experiencing any of the following?
- Resistance and Pushback
- Loss of Productivity
- Morale and Engagement Drop
- High Turnover Rates
- Missed Deadlines and Targets
- Blaming and Finger-Pointing
- Inadequate Training and Support
- Unrealistic Expectations
- No Feedback Loop
- Stagnation or Regression
You might be experiencing poor change management – but don’t worry, it isn’t fatal, and we can reverse the adverse effects since we’ve caught it in time!
When poor change management is identified, it’s crucial to take proactive steps to correct and improve the situation. But before you can begin, you need a strategic approach and a willingness to address the specific issues that have contributed to the poor execution. Here are some steps you can take to rectify a situation where change management has not been effective:
- Identify what went wrong, admit it, and get help!
First, identify there is a problem – a robust change plan should include change behaviours you want to be adopted along the way – as your plan unfolds and you’re taking note of the process, you should be able to see if the changes you are making are yielding results. If your plan is moving, but the people aren’t, then somewhere along the line, the change management process needs to catch up. Take your time to identify specifically what went wrong with your change; trying to fix a problem quickly can lead to more problems.
Admit that there were shortcomings in the change management process. By taking responsibility for the missteps, you take back control of the process and can confidently assure stakeholders that corrective action will be taken because you will be the one taking the first step.
Seek feedback from employees, stakeholders, and leaders to understand their perspectives on what went wrong. Bring your findings to and have them consult and fill in the gaps you might have missed. Remember to find the balance between the data and the opinions – use data to inform your questions when seeking feedback and also use data to correct other assumptions about what when wrong.
- Pivot your plan
Review the original change plan and objectives. Identify areas needing adjustments or enhancements based on the feedback received and the data reviewed.
Keep your stakeholders in the loop with these updates to the plan, especially leaders. Ensure that leaders are fully committed to the revised change and are actively supporting it. You gain their buy-in by communicating the importance of their involvement in driving the change forward.
Sidenote: I don’t always mean in the traditional hierarchical sense when I write leaders. When it comes to organizations, there are movers and shakers of change regardless of title that can be the difference between success and failure at times – team leads not directly involved, highly engaged employees, early change adopters, etc., discount these unofficial leaders at your peril.
- Improve Communications
If your change plan needs revision, your communications plan should also be revamped. Make sure it is clear and transparent and addresses the issues identified, possible solutions and timelines – I don’t care if it takes an hour to fix my internet connection, but just let me know it will take an hour. Ensure that messages are clear, consistent, and tailored to the needs of different stakeholders.
Identify areas where employees may need additional training or resources to adapt to the change. Offer targeted training programs and support mechanisms (subject matter experts or passionate early adopters of the change) to bridge any gaps in knowledge or skills.
Demonstrate a commitment to open communication and responsiveness to concerns – have a digital suggestion box, host open office hours, and/or reach out directly to impacted teams and leaders. Don’t rely on one communication channel (email is the worst culprit) to keep people informed. Establish regular channels for employees to provide feedback, ask questions, and voice concerns. Actively listen to this feedback and use it to inform adjustments to the change plan.
- Win hearts and minds
Address resistance head-on, identify the sources of resistance and develop strategies. Don’t bulldoze over those who aren’t being swayed to change – if they don’t understand the benefits or why it’s happening, that isn’t their fault; it’s your responsibility. In constructive conversations, engage with resistant individuals or groups to understand their concerns and find solutions. Seek to understand and be a bridge builder between people and change. As you’re implementing your pivoted change plan, be transparent about the corrective actions being taken and the improvements being made.
Recognize and celebrate achievements, no matter how small, to build morale and momentum. In your change and communications plan, you should have milestones towards the goal – make sure you take the time to celebrate those as you hit them – call out the people supporting you along the way; it will rebuild trust and encourage people to keep going.
- Keep up the great work!
Continuously track the progress of the change implementation using key performance indicators (KPIs). Leverage the feedback mechanisms you’ve set up and measure them with your data insights. Be willing to make further adjustments based on real-time feedback and results.
The best way to overcome a mistake is not to let it go to waste. You’ve done the most challenging part, owning and fixing it, so don’t let that effort fade after the change is completed. Document the lessons learned from the course correction process. Use this knowledge to inform future change initiatives and avoid similar pitfalls.
Remember that change management is an iterative process, and it’s normal to encounter challenges along the way. The key is to be adaptable, responsive and committed to making the necessary improvements for a successful change implementation.
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