Connecting to the Change
CRITICAL ELEMENT #3 is our last element. As a reminder, we’ve already talked about the importance of Critical Element #1: Comprehensibility and Critical Element #2: Manageability. Connectedness is when your employees form an emotional bond with the changes you are proposing – in a good way. They think to themselves – ‘I can make a difference in the success of this change and I want to contribute to its overall success’. Or they think, ‘I can see myself in the new organization that will come about as a result of this change, and I want to be a part of it.’
Your employees won’t do this spontaneously. It needs to be planned for and orchestrated. By taking action on comprehensibility and manageability you are certainly setting the stage. One way to create the connection I’m talking about is to set up formal ‘check-ins’ so you can see how things are going, and how employees are feeling about all that is going on. I call that setting up feedback loops – where employees can give you feedback and where you can send information down as well.
All of Your Leaders Must Connect First
Every department manager has a role in helping create that emotional connection. They can make a huge impact in helping employees envision themselves being successful in their new world. This isn’t that difficult if you have managers who see themselves in their leadership role and are good at carrying out their responsibilities.
I once worked on a project to implement a CRM system both in the sales force and in the marketing organization. When I first joined the team, they had no plans to engage the district managers other than to teach them the new CRM system. At my insistence they also ran workshops to help the DMs envision how using this new system would change their work life and the work life of their sales reps. We also created a ‘change guide’ for them so they could have these kinds of conversations with their own employees. By giving them the skills and the responsibility for contributing to the change success we helped them create their own connection to the new way of working, in addition to holding them responsible for helping their teams create a connection as well.
By having a leader lead the way and find their own connection to the changes, it serves as a basis for further connections. It is like building a spider web. The more connections there are, the stronger the web becomes. The same goes for change.
Piloting for Success
Here’s another example that really brings all the critical elements together. I once worked on a fundamental change to how a sales force sold their products. It was so fundamental that they were now selling differently to the same customers, based on how that customer bought the products. In order for this change to work, everyone really did need to change how he or she sold. Once again, when I joined the project the team had no intention of doing anything other than rolling out the new sales aids and instructions on what to do. At my suggestion we did a pilot first, including district managers and sales representatives at all levels – from novice to 20+ years experience. Through the pilot work and the feedback loops we really ironed out some of the stumbling blocks to success. We made sure the changes were comprehensible. And if they weren’t, we figured out why and made changes to either process or message. We made sure the district managers and representatives felt they could manage the changes. Some had been selling for over 20 years, to the same doctors! We gained valuable insights about what made this new selling method seem manageable or not. If changes were needed and possible, they were made. If not, we figured out ways to ensure manageability was achievable for everyone.
At the big meeting to roll out the new way of selling to everyone, those involved in the pilot talked about their connection to it and how it was leading to their success. As they talked, each person in the room could now envision themselves in the new world, with their managers and colleagues leading the way. We continued the feedback loops and continued to use the time to not only gather important data about how things were going on the ground, but we also were able to use the forums to correct things that needed correcting, or dispel rumors about things like compensation. We used the calls to continue to help people focus on the three critical elements – comprehensibility, manageability and connectedness. It really made a huge difference.
Sometimes in business, we focus away from anything that smacks of emotion. Yet in successful change, focusing on emotional elements such as connectedness can be the difference between success and failure. None of these three critical elements exists in a vacuum either. Your change MUST be comprehensible to ALL employees, your change must be perceived as manageable but ALL employees and ALL your employees must develop a connection to the change in some way. Employ all three and you will guarantee your success, every change, every time.