Part of the challenge with any ‘change management’ is that it is not simply about developing new skills or knowledge, ‘change’ is an emotional issue and if we do not engage people’s hearts as well as their minds, we are unlikely to achieve our goals.
Leading change management
John Kotter (Leading Change, Why Transformation efforts fail, HBR) has some very useful guidance for successful change management. Amongst other things, he advocates establishing a clear vision for your change and establishing a champion team to lead the change. From there it is about communication, feedback and resilience, but engaging with groups of people at an emotional level is often a challenge of scale as much as it about capability and energy.
We believe that mobile devices and digital platforms can make a significant contribution to your ‘change management’ initiatives. Obviously, they can be used to disseminate information and provide access to the ‘vision’ perhaps via video and other engaging media. However, we have found that there are other mobile features that can play a significant role in the change process.
Walking the talk
Leading change is all about ‘walking the talk’, many initiatives are undone when ‘words’ are not congruent with leader behaviour. So, as you are establishing your champion team and sharing the new vision why not invite these leaders to use their mobile device to make a video illustrating how they will respond to likely challenges from their teams. These videos can be shared with other champion team members to share feedback on the congruence of their demonstrated behaviour and language.
Having established and aligned your champion group, leveraging the reach of this champion group is key. Deploying a dedicated digital platform can enable the champion team to reach the target community more effectively, especially if it is mobile enabled. If the platform provides a means for two-way communication such that the community can react and respond to the ‘vision’, so much the better. This enables change champions to identify and recognise adopters whilst adjusting their approach to those who are more resistant, bringing a much more personal approach to the process.
Change management requires those at the heart of the initiative to develop new habits, and as we all know, breaking and forming new habits is immensely difficult. As an initiative moves into the phase of preparing for change through skill development we find that learning tasks need to be both experiential and instructive for real impact. Fear of ‘looking foolish’ is a major hurdle to change and so providing a means to practice new skills and receive feedback before deploying new behaviours can significantly minimise this anxiety for participants. For example, if you were introducing new customer care processes, have participants make voice recordings to demonstrate how they will explain the new process to a customer and share this with a coach to provide feedback. This can enable the change to be both personal and ‘safe’.
Keeping it personal
Furthermore, by using experiential activities which invite people to ‘learn by doing’, we enable participants to discover first-hand how a new process or behaviour actually works – in doing so, we provide participants with ‘choice’ in how they adjust to the required changes. This is profoundly more effective for achieving buy-in than simply issuing a decree on how things should be done, henceforth.
As you move into the implementation phase, further practical as well as ‘emotional’ support is required. We find that providing proactive, scheduled check-ins which enable participants to express personal concerns is a very powerful way of supporting change. If leadership reach is a challenge, mobile technology can provide a convenient ‘one to one’ means for participants to engage with a coach or manager and still feel that whilst the conversation was ‘digital’ it was personal!
As Kotter also wrote, beware of ‘declaring victory too soon’, by which he meant that it can be tempting to assume that ‘all is well’ with the first business improvement. The crucial activity now, is to invite your community to submit ideas and suggestions for further improvement and encourage ‘ownership’ for the new operating procedures. Once again, by adopting an action-based approach and asking participants to submit evidence of how behaviour and process can be modified will provide a tangible basis for feedback and evidence to share with others.
Using a digital platform enables activities to be distributed to large communities and completed simultaneously without the need for large numbers of face to face workshops and local facilitators. It is possible to facilitate change management at distance using the right types of activities and with a committed cohort of ‘change coaches’ who can provide swift, supportive and specific feedback.
We have developed a mobile ready platform which supports resources such video and elearning assets alongside experiential activities where evidence is shared with nominated coaches who provide specifc feedback. Many of our clients have seen very high levels of engagement for their change management initiatives, using Kotter’s principles enabled via our digital platform.
We hope you have enjoyed this article on how to ensure ‘change management’ really is personal via digital facilitation. Please stay tuned for the series of blogs to come, we welcome your views on ‘facilitating change’, how best to support it and how best to communicate it. Please feel free to join the debate and get in touch.