A company was implementing a new customer service model. The leaders formed a project team, developed an implementation plan and announced the change. There was only one problem; they had neglected to involve the people who would ultimately determine the new model’s success.
Who should they have involved?
If you think it was the customer, you would be wrong.
It was the customer service clerks. The customer service clerks knew the change was being implemented and were given training on the new model and tools. But they had had no active involvement in the way the new model would be implemented. Nor were they involved in any conversations about how it would work in the operational environment. The result was a customer experience that was worse instead of better.
People are Involved by Default
When I heard this story I was immediately reminded me of the importance of the need to create the structure and processes for people to be actively involved (at every level of the organization).
It’s easy when implementing change to get lulled into the belief that your organization is too big or the difference so small that you don’t need to involve everyone. Or to think you don’t have time to include people and that you just need to “get it done.”
The reality is that no real change can happen without the active involvement of the people you expect to do something different. It doesn’t matter if you think the change is small like moving where they sit, or large like the way they engage with new technology to serve a customer. The other reality is that the change-recipients are involved by default. To think that they are not involved is like thinking you will get fit if I exercise.
The question is not whether to involve them or not. You should be asking how do we create the structure and processes to actively channel their involvement so they are helping us work toward the new state? Because without their active involvement the normal human response is to protect and maintain the current state.
The first thing to recognize is that active involvement of the people affected doesn’t mean every person is making every decision. It is not change by committee. It is change through commitment.
Create a Structure for Decision Making
Active involvement ensures the decisions needed to achieve and maintain the intended outcome are made. More importantly, the decisions are made at the right level of the organization by the right people and at the right time.
When I talk to my large clients about active involvement, their rebuttal is that they have thousands of employees. They believe it’s impossible to involve them all. I show them that they can. I remind them that they already have a model to follow—their operational structure.
Think for a minute about your daily operation. Each employee is actively involved. They have a role, responsibility, and scope of decision-making related to that role and your daily operation.
Organizational change can use a similar formula. Each change initiative needs a structure and process that outlines involvement. We call this structure a transition framework and show leaders how to create one. The framework makes decisions easier and more timely. And because the decisions are owned by the people who will live with them, you move toward the new state with higher levels of readiness. People are less likely to protect and try to maintain the current state. The size and nature of your framework varies depending on the type of change and complexity of the transition.
Once you know you need a structure, it’s helpful to understand the kind of decisions made during change, where they are made and who typically makes them.
Three Types of Decision-Making During Change
There are typically three types of decisions needed when facilitating organizational change.
- Strategic –are the decisions related to your organization’s direction. Strategic choices would include deciding what change initiatives are needed to achieve your strategic goals. They may also include the timing of the initiatives and the general approach to enabling change. Strategic decisions also include the amount and scope of changes for the organization.
- Planning –decisions usually follow the strategic decisions. They include the decisions related to the planning, design and implementation of the change initiative. Planning decisions can also include balancing the actions needed to achieve the intended outcome with the tasks and activities of daily operation. The support, resources and people involved to integrate the change are also planning decisions.
- Adoption –decisions define how the change will manifest in your organization. Adoption decisions are internal and personal to the people navigating the transition. Each change-recipient will make an adoption decision (choice) about how and to what extent they will engage in the new environment’s behaviours, activities, and processes.
If you’re like most leaders you’re likely very comfortable with the strategic and planning decisions needed during change. This is because strategic and planning decisions are usually concrete, easily measured, and outlined in most change management methodologies.
The adoption decisions are different. Adoption decisions occur beyond the your direct control. Although you as the leader can create an environment that supports and enables adoption, the change-recipients ultimately decide to adopt the new activities.
Active involvement is the key to whether people commit to the actions needed for adoption or decide to protect the current state.
Creating a Structure Takes Effort
Developing and enabling the structures or processes to ensure people at every level of the organization are actively involved in moving toward the intended outcome is not always easy. But it is worth the effort. A 2017 McKinsey study found only 3% of organizations were successful with change when managers and frontline employees were not involved.
Would you like to learn more about creating the structure needed to prevent resistance to change and use change for growth and performance? Let’s have a conversation.