As promised in the first part of our series on adoption and change management, Jive Talks: What's In It For Me? An Adoption St... | Jive Community, this second installment is all about the do's and don'ts of change management. This will not be an exhaustive list, but rather a list of eight items to help you wrap your head around best practices for change management and avoid some of the most common frustrations.
Developing a plan for change management will help increase adoption in your online community.
1. Focus on the early adopters, not the resisters
Change always brings out two camps of people: resisters and early adopters. Our tendency is to persuade the resisters to embrace the change, which is not surprising since resisters tend to be very vocal. The good news: these vocal resisters are usually the minority and they also tend to be chronically unsatisfied. So, what should you do? Don't ignore them (I know it might be tempting). Hear them out, address their concerns and be prepared to hold the line (stick to your plan). Accept that you will have to be okay with the resisters being unhappy. Address their concerns professionally and with only the necessary time then move on to work with folks eager to adopt.
Early adopters will be your advocates. They will be your allies. They will be your enthusiasts. They will be your evangelists. You won't even have to look that far for them. They will likely reach out to you. When they do, find a way for them to participate and be engaged so you can reap the benefits of their desire to help you drive the change.
2. Ask why five times
We know resisters are going to resist. While you don't have to modify your plans to appease them, you can't ignore resisters. When someone resists, ask them why (not why they are resisting, but why they don't like XYZ).
Keep asking why questions until you get at the root cause. In asking follow-up questions, you will be able to determine if a complaint has some validity and if the feedback is more than just a reaction to change. Getting to the root cause can make the feedback actionable, giving you what you need to modify (as appropriate) your plan for the better. The process of diving in deep to someone's concerns also helps them feel heard. Feeling heard can go a long way in shifting a resister to be an adopter. Try to dig until you have that aha! moment of understanding what's really going on.
3. Always think about your audience
Change management requires thoughtful communications. These will help you gain traction during change. Work back from your audience's perspective and formulate your message in a way that will be meaningful to them. We know change can induce discomfort and in some cases, fear. An audience-focused communication plan can help mitigate fearful reactions.
Use an audience-focused communication plan to map out what to say to each audience and when to say it.
At one point in my career, I helped develop plans to reduce a company's energy expenditure. The plan focused on optimization of equipment and processes. At the same time, mass layoffs were occurring. I helped the leadership teams understand that employees made a mental connection between the energy saving measures and layoffs. At one facility, site leadership took this to heart and presented their energy reduction goal both as a percentage reduction and the number of jobs saved. This allowed the site manager to cut through an initial reaction more quickly, have honest communication with his employees, and ultimately secure employee support to help achieve the energy savings goal.
4. Believe you can never communicate enough
We are all busy. We get distracted. Sometimes we don't hear everything said during a presentation or read the message thoroughly enough. We miss important information all the time. It's going to happen and that's why it's imperative to believe you can never communicate enough.
In your communication plan, map out what you need to say to what audience and when. Ensure that communications are meaningful and actionable. If the communications are "just to inform" be sure to include key information. Here's the trick: look at how frequently are you keeping the various audiences informed of the change. You'll know the right cadence for your organization but don't let too long lapse between communications. Basically, it's better to communicate frequently and make every message meaningful and actionable.
5. Be kind and understanding: change is never easy
The only thing harder than making change is accepting it. But seriously, when you're driving change, it's hard to put yourself on the receiving end. You've been a part of the change from the beginning and by the time you start informing people, the change is old news to you. When you've been so close to something for so long it can be a little shocking when people respond negatively and often passionately so. Brace yourself for it. Take a breath. Think about puppies or kittens and drop your defenses. Responding kindly and with understanding will go a long way in disarming a resister and moving them into a productive conversation.
When addressing a negative reaction, try to respond from a calm understanding place in your mind.
6. Assume good intention
When someone offers feedback, especially negative feedback, assume that their intentions are good. Assuming this allows you to process the feedback in a more objective manner. You can then more easily synthesize the feedback into something actionable that will improve the experience and/or the processes driving the change. Plus, assuming good intention will help you stay positive and focused.
7. Share results early and often
As soon as you have results, share them. The change doesn't have to be complete before you share results. Remember, results can be quantitative and qualitative (ideally you'll have both). Let the data tell the story. If it's not the story you want, don't avoid sharing it. Rather, share in context with the course corrections you will make to get the effort back on track. Once you start sharing, don't stop. Report results monthly, and maybe even weekly. The data, both qualitative and quantitative, will help you build and maintain momentum.
8. Celebrate in meaningful ways
Learn how your organization most appreciates celebration. Banners and balloons? Pizza and ice cream? T-shirts? Executive recognition? It's important to celebrate in a way that is meaningful to the audience. What's even more important is to acknowledge something worth celebrating. A celebration-worthy event can be a milestone or goal to which you're working toward. When you're ready to celebrate, don't forget to pause and feel dang good about what you've accomplished.
Celebrating accomplishments is an important part of change management.
These best practices won't alleviate every pain point along the way, but they will certainly help in resolving them faster. They are also a good reminder that change management is hard for so many of us (because change is hard)! Know that you're not alone.
Stay tuned for the final installment in this blog series which will feature a change management perspective from one of Jive's customers.