I've spent a large portion of my career in change management. It's a field of varied theories and disciplines and methodologies governed by a single standard of conduct from the Association of Change Management Professionals, an organization of which I'm a founding member. I am certified in one of the aforementioned methodologies and I'm one of the first 500 people in the world to achieve the Certified Change Management Professional credential (I'm really proud of that). All of this gloating is meant to demonstrate that I'm a big change nerd.
But let me back up. What is change management? I define it as managing the people side of organizational transformation. Hyatt and Creasy, who are rockstars in the field, define it as "the process, tools and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve the required business outcome." No matter where you work or live, you've experienced change management. For example:
Contents of each example go on to specifically call out how the changes benefit you (and the business). I'm over-simplifying, of course. And because change is constant, there are fleets of change management professionals working behind the scenes on behalf of the people who are impacted by proposed organizational or business changes to make the transition as seamless as possible; who address business goals and genuinely seek to improve things for people on the journey from where they are today to where they need to be, tomorrow.
But Kari, why are you writing about change in a coaching blog? Since change management supports people as they undergo organizational transformation and coaching supports people as they undergo personal transformation, there is dynamic crossover between disciplines. And whether we're talking organizational or personal lens, people look for a magic bullet to make the change stick; to guarantee success.
I wish-- oh how I wish-- there was a magic bullet to make change easy to implement and to adapt to, but there isn't (I know, bummer... but are you really surprised?). In my 13-plus years in this field, I can share key questions that boost the likelihood of success if they're addressed in planning for change (and how they apply to coaching). So here we go.
What is the problem you're trying to solve? I love this question, and my clients are sick of me asking it. It gets to the "TO BE" of the change equation. If you're introducing something new, what is it in response to? Is something broken or inefficient? What data do you have to support that it is broken? Have you asked the people who are potentially impacted by this change if they have any thoughts/feelings/beliefs about the situation? If we don't change at all or only change a little, what happens? Or, if nothing is broken, where is the desire for this change coming from? Without clarity of the problem from the outset, you don't know what you're working towards. If you lack cohesion, vision and direction, you've failed from GO. There has to be a reason.
Why now? We've clearly defined the problem and we know where we're going, together. But is this the right time? What is driving the timeline? What's occurred that points to Exactly This Moment as the time to rip off the change bandaid? As my PMP friends like to ask, are there any precursors or dependencies impacting the timing of this change? How much change have people recently experienced, or may be experiencing, that contributes to their ability to be open to change? Do you have the time and can you make the time do introduce the change in a way that allows for peoples' awareness, desire for the change, knowledge of and ability to change grown at a manageable rate? While we can Kool-aid Man changes, it's more effective and less disruptive to business if we can be reasonable with the timeline. For everyone involved.
Who is sponsoring this change? The change sponsor is the uber-champion of the initiative. "They must be visible, trusted, and engaged throughout the change effort. The [Sponsor] provides strategic direction, vision and leadership... fosters collaboration and communication... and ensures the realization of benefits and sustainment of the effort" (Ginsburg, 2018). The success or failure of a change initiative can hinge on having the right sponsor.* Sponsors can be up-skilled to be most effective in their role, especially if they are enthusiastic, genuine and well-respected. If they've none of those attributes, or if they shift their focus to the next shiny thing mid-change, your change is at risk.
Where are the barriers that might result in resistance? It could be technology, time, abilities, willingness to change, fatigue: learn what's in the way of people easily saying "yes" to the change. Have you spoken with them, or are you relying on assumptions and what the organization thinks people might need? Conversely, do you understand what motivates the people who are being impacted by the change, to help shift focus to how the change adds value to their lives?
How will this change be sustained in the long-term? I've worked on too many project teams where the mentality is that the work is over once a planned change is live. That is, in fact, when the hard work begins. That's when the change slowly morphs into routine and becomes part of a person's daily life. That's when everything can go horribly awry. The changes need to be reinforced. People need to be reminded how to think, act and (possibly) feel about the change as they start to own their post-change experiences.** Sometimes, people need additional support and nudges until they have the confidence to do it on their own. If new changes come along, they also need support understanding how this new change relates to the old one.
Think about the changes you've tried to introduce to your life that maybe haven't stuck. Where did you lose track of your goal? Which question led to the breakdown? How can I support you as you navigate the in-between-- the funknown-- between where you are today and where you want to be?
* I believe in this so much that I published a white paper in 2018 about the effectiveness of sponsors that I'll gladly share if you'd like to nerd-out with me.
** Think about it this way: you get a puppy. You enroll with the puppy in obedience training to make sure they have good little puppy manners. The puppy learns that you're a helper and they look to you for guidance. Together, you work hard and they graduate from training. And overnight you stop reinforcing the training. You stop calling the cues, gently correcting bad manners, and perhaps finding additional training. You expect the puppy to have it, but they fall apart. They still needed your help and guidance. The failure of their manners isn't theirs; it's yours. You gave up on them at a critical developmental period.