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The Journey of Change

Large scale operational change occurs when inspiration meets engagement. The Journey of Change is the process of establishing engagement within the organization. It often occurs in the three stages.

Stages of Change

Stage 1: Make the Case

The business case identifies what will change, what benefits can be expected, who will benefit and how. It also lays out what resources and skills will be required, what they will cost, and how any risks or possible downsides might come into play. Building it is a process that requires the involvement of executives and managers across multiple functions.

An important aspect of this stage of the change journey is the creation of a guiding coalition of leaders. These are early evangelists who will be called upon to play the role of change agents and advocates as the change unfolds. A good business case, therefore:

  • Clarifies what will change in both the operating and the stakeholder environments.

  • Quantifies the impact of change on the key operating metrics of concerned stakeholders.

  • Builds a guiding coalition of leaders to guide and champion the change.

The organization will often refer back to the business case when it needs to choose between competing priorities, develop key messages about the initiative, and manage the transition as changes are rolled out.

Stage 2: Craft the Path

The next step involves developing a roadmap: an ambitious, yet realistic, plan to bring the business case to life. The roadmap describes how we will get from where we are today to the vision outlined in the business case. Often, this involves breaking up the initiative into bite-size chunks keeping in mind both the available resources and the organization’s capacity to change.

In parallel, at this stage, the program governance and decision-making structure is established. More people in the organization start to hear about the change, and the guiding coalition expands to include additional stakeholders, often some mid-level managers. It is time to share the highlights of the vision within the organization and develop a plan for ongoing engagement.

In today’s rapidly changing world, it is often unrealistic to stick to a plan that spans more than a few months. That should not deter us from planning though. The process of putting the plan together and sharing it with the right people in the organization is a very important step in the change journey, even if the plan needs revisions over time. Good plans include checkpoints and assessments that allow such flexibility. As Eisenhower famously remarked, “plans are nothing, but planning is everything”.

Stage 3: Securing Adoption

The final step in the journey involves rolling out the plan, implementing the change and securing adoption. Training programs, internal communications, evident leadership commitment, and additional tactics can be used to achieve the desired adoption.

Adoption itself requires a change in behavior, which is not always easy to achieve from a large team of individuals. A big part of the job is to understand the barriers to change. These could be many: a fear of something new, sheer ignorance of what is possible, or entrenched interests in the status quo. Change strategies seek to overcome these barriers through three types of enablers:

  • Awareness and Knowledge- Exactly what is changing and what will success look like for each team member in the new environment.

  • Sound justification(s) for why the change is occurring, how it will help the organization, and why they need to be on board.

  • Specifically how each team member will be supported through the transition, and what types of hand-holding and guidance they will receive.

When all is said and done, the success of most initiatives is rooted in the capacity and willingness of each team member to change. The journey of organizational change often starts with the dream of a few visionaries but ends with the very personal transition of each and every team member.

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