Driving Organizational Change

Making large changes in any organization is seldom easy and making changes in a business is no different. Over time, organizations, like people, can become entrenched in their habits and changing old habits can sometimes be hard; but it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks! Making change is possible and sometimes change is absolutely necessary to save or transform an organization. It is the intent of this module to outline a simple, well proven, successful process for driving change in an organization.

Most change starts with a senior member of the organization announcing a new initiative. Many times, these announcements are made at a big kick-off meeting with large fanfare and excitement about what the organization will change. However, too often the excitement for the change initiative begins to decline as soon as the kick-off event ends and eventually, the initiative dies on the vine like a raisin in the sun. Why does this happen? What does an effective change process look like?

In reflecting on the many change processes the GenNx360 senior operating team has experienced over its combined 130+ years of experience, we’ve learned that successful, effective change processes can be described as: E = Q x A

E is the effectiveness of a change
Q is the quality of the idea, or the change
A is the acceptance of the idea or the change by those individuals who are being asked to implement it

If we use a scale of zero to 10 to score our Q and A, with 10 being perfection and zero being complete disaster, then you can see that a perfect score on E (effectiveness) is 100. It’s also clear that a perfect quality idea or change, a 10Q, coupled with poor acceptance, a low A, will yield a low E, i.e. 10(Q) X 3(A) = 30(E).

The implication of this is simple. A great idea or change coupled with poor acceptance by those who must implement it will fail. It’s not enough to have a great idea or great change initiative. You must also build acceptance and buy-in from those being asked to implement the change! This is the first step in any change process if you want it to be effective.

The obvious $64,000 question is, ‘How do you build acceptance and buy-in for a change or new idea?’

Building buy-in and acceptance for a change or new idea starts by identifying the key stakeholders. Who are the key members of the organization or business that you must get to buy in? Who are the people that, if they buy in, others will follow? Don’t take this step lightly. Spend quality time thinking this through and identifying the key stakeholders.

Once you’ve identified the stakeholders, you must answer these questions…
• Why should we change?
• What will happen if we don’t change?
• What are the benefits for the business? For their department?
• What’s in it for each of them?

Once you have the answers to these questions, invest time to talk with each of the stakeholders and walk them through the answers. This will take time and may require multiple discussions with several of the stakeholders. Do not try to shortcut this part of the change process as it is crucial to having an effective change. Remember, even a 5 quality change (Q) with a high acceptance (A) will beat out a perfect quality (Q) with very low acceptance (A).
Building acceptance for change is not always easy and it may feel that you’re going slowly early in your change process, but going slowly here will allow you to go fast later in the process and, most importantly, to deliver an effective change that will last.

Once you have buy-in from your key stakeholders, you’ll want to involve them in helping to develop how you will roll out the change solution. You want the stakeholders to invest in the process by helping to define the solution or how you will implement the change. You might be tempted to say, ‘I already have a great idea on how to do this’ or ‘My solution is a better one than what the stakeholders are proposing,’ but remember that you want to implement the solution that has the biggest acceptance(A) by your stakeholders.

While this approach doesn’t make sense in an emergency situation because you’d never wait to build acceptance before yelling fire, for most change processes in an organization, this is the best way to drive an effective change.

After you have buy-in from your key stakeholders and they have agreed with you on how to implement the change solution, the next step is to Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! You will need to spread your change message as broadly and as deeply across the organization as possible. This is another place where the key stakeholders can help you as they become your ambassadors of change. Keep in mind that organizations don’t change overnight and this will take time. That’s okay. Stay focused and consistent in your efforts and you will slowly make progress. Keep driving the change using rhythm and rigor and over time, you will be successful.

March 2012

Note: This Best Practice Module (gMOD) was developed by Art Harper, Founder and Managing Partner, GenNx360 Capital Partners and is part of our Value Creation Tool Box.