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Managing change is difficult for many organizations. Michelle Seger discusses a practical framework for change management planning and questions to consider before beginning. By planning well in advance and getting key personnel on board, organizational changes are easier to navigate.
Learn why change management plans are important and how to get started.
Greg Corombos: Hi, I’m Greg Corombos. Our guest this week is Michelle Seger, Global Strategy and Change Management Leader at Sales Globe. Today we will be discussing the concept of change management, and how it can be done successfully. Michelle, thanks so much for being with us.
Michelle Seger: Thanks for having me, Greg. I’m pleased to be here.
Greg Corombos: What is a change management plan, and why should business owners have one?
Michelle Seger: I’m really glad you asked that question. I’d like to first step back and put it into the context of what are the things that a business is looking at that requires a change management plan because a lot of people don’t know why they need it, let alone what it is. So when you think about what is called the business triangle, there are three things that companies consider, which are their business processes, their technology, and their people. I’m sure you’ve heard about that. Everybody has heard about that. That goes from enterprise-wise to a small company. People who are your talent and what it is you’re expecting them to do. The processes are the things you put in place to put structure around what it is they’re supposed to do. And then technology is the big enabler.
There’s a fourth element that goes over all of that, and that is the culture of the organization. To me when you think about the culture, that is when you really need to think about the change management piece and why that is important, and what it is.
Think about change management, the impact of the people, but on all three areas of the process, the technology, and the people. When you think about culture and change management, you’re thinking about people’s reaction to the things you’re changing in that triangle, and how you want to address them. That’s why having a plan is really important.
We think we know, when we think about change management, that people only think about--individuals, companies think about--a communication plan, or think about just the people. They’re not thinking about it in the context of that triangle.
Greg Corombos: Get a little more specific if you can, Michelle. What are some of the key benefits of having this, short term and long term?
Michelle Seger: The short term and long term for having a change management plan is that you can actually mitigate a lot of the concerns and issues that happen when you make changes within the organization. So let’s think about the changes you can make. In the process, you could change the way you’re going to be doing something. You may have sold a product or service, small business or large. You may have sold it out of a retail store, for example, and now you’re adding the online facet. You may have salespeople who are asked to sell certain products and services, and now they’re being asked to sell something that has recurring revenue, or it’s out there in the cloud. You’re changing how something is being done.
When you have a change management plan that has just a few key elements in it, you help get people around the change and you avoid certain pitfalls that can happen. Let’s talk about the things you want to think about. We discuss a communication plan, and that’s really key. Really all that is, is clearly making sure people understand what it is you’re doing, and not only what but why. Why usually gets down to the impact it’s going to have on them if you don’t change, and a lot of cases could be a matter of whether people can keep their jobs or not, as an example. Because if you don’t change with a changing business environment, you can make your company irrelevant.
Other things that can change when you’re looking at things in the organization is the talent you might need. Addressing the talent and understanding what you have and level-setting on that and communicating that really well for what it is that people need to do in the new environment is very important. For example, if you change a product and service that you’re selling. Let’s say you were selling video cameras. And now, what you’re selling instead of video cameras or telecommunications, technology that companies use to communicate with each other, now you’re selling this cloud-based service and you’re selling things like unified communications, which would be something managed in the cloud. It’s something where you can bring together people’s cell phones and iPads and laptops.
So they’re going from, I’m selling a teleconferencing kit, a box that I can understand and explain, to something now that involves a whole lot of other pieces and a whole new way of consultative selling. You may have to change the way you’re selling that product and service. A change management plan looks at holistically, what is the change, and then the considerations that you need to put into that.
Where I say, always communicate, because that takes confusion away from people, and anxiety, and helps them understand what you’re doing--that would be one key piece. The other thing that I would look at would be making sure that you have advocates or managers. In a small company maybe it’s just the owner. But understanding and making sure that everyone who’s in a management capacity is on board with the change and why. You really need to keep on top of that one. Because if your leaders aren’t on board with the change, then chances are the people on the front line won’t embrace it either.
So you want to be looking at communications. You want to get people on board around the change, making sure they understand why. Then you really need to understand the organization, what their capacity is to accept change, which is done through a few very simple questions that you can ask. So the capacity to change would be asking yourself and the company when have we changed before? When was the last time we embarked on a small or a big change? If the answer is never, and you’re looking at the grading on that--ten being oh-oh, and one being great--ten would be, I’ve never done a change before. So you need to be thinking planfully how you bring it into your organization.
Another thing to think about is, what’s the level or capacity of your people to accept change. Do you have people who have been doing the same thing for many years? Do you have people working for you on staff who are more adaptable to change? Typically you can tell that about your people. You know that based on if roles have changed, or how they’ve accepted things in the past. So you want to understand individually, or collectively your team, their capacity to change, as well as looking at your management team.
Understanding what your starting point is, is key to understanding how direct you need to be, and how much you need to involve in your change management plan. What I recommend is always start early and start fast--it’s the simplest thing--which is communicated. Even if you don’t exactly know, but you know you need to change, usually your organization knows, and they can tell when people start talking about it, and sometimes you need to hold back until you have a fully baked plan. Being transparent along the way does so much better for a business owner in getting people to embrace the change because they feel they’ve been apart of your dilemma or whatever it is that you’re changing from the beginning.
Greg Corombos: Let’s talk about the nuts and bolts about getting the plan together. Obviously, communicating, getting everybody on the same page, is going to be critical in dealing with change management. But what does it look like on paper? How does the structure play out?
Michelle Seger: That’s a really good question. The structure plays out when you look at, first thing, let’s talk about the communications. So the first thing you want to say is, what’s my key message? That would be the overriding message...and what you want to communicate about that change. The reason that it’s really key to have that key message is that it sets the tone for all the communications you’re going to have moving forward. So, big changes. You want to make sure the message is really positive. Even if it’s a tough change. It could be a cut in workforce, let’s talk about one of the worst possible scenarios out there. But how you craft that first message is key. And what you do after that is have what we call a cascade of messages. And a cascade of messaging is a plan that has dates with it, and with the dates would be the types of messaging coming out and from whom. So it’s a pretty planned one by week that we recommend typically goes for about a month or so, and then you do some follow up. It would involve things like written communications, and then, of course, face to face--how it is you want to communicate to your people. So not only what but then how you want to communicate.
Greg Corombos: What, in your experience, has been the biggest pitfalls in trying to make this happen. Is it poor communication, or are there other factors here as well?
Michelle Seger: I go to tell you, it’s really something else. Communications is the number one pitfall that we have. It’s crazy. You’re always going to have [this]. I would say there are two pitfalls. One is that communication is not done well. But secondly, it’s the follow-up of the communication, which is a really big pitfall. We work with companies all the time of all sizes. What happens a lot of times is that you can communicate and get that message out from the president or the management level. But if you don’t have that management team, that next level down on board, that’s probably the biggest pitfall. And then the continued communication, the managers are then responsible for and held accountable for, meaning that you made sure it’s happened and done properly, is what can lead to the big pitfall. Because a lot of times, it’s not followed through, and people really misunderstand the change.
Greg Corombos: Finally, Michelle, if folks are struggling with this, or if they just need advice on how to go forward with this, how do they get in touch with you.
Michelle Seger: They can get a hold of us at www.salesglobe.com. I’m Michelle Seger. We have a whole change management structure in place, a big practice that we have there. There are articles on our website. We’re very happy to send a change forecast and any other collateral. We would love to hear from them.
Greg Corombos: Michelle, great advice today. Thanks so much for your time.
Michelle Seger: Michelle Seger is Global Strategy and Change Management Leader at Sales Globe. I’m Greg Corombos.
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