In one engagement early in my consulting career I was asked to help a large community college through a large-scale transformation. It would impact 30,000 students, 2000 faculty, and nearly all the college’s administrative staff.
When I came on board it was immediately obvious that the faculty’s involvement would be required to make this transformation successful. Further, the faculty was unionized and resistant to this project. I learned there had been long – standing challenges between the college and the union. College leaders and I discussed how to win them over. We decided to attend one of their meetings, present the benefits of the transformation, and begin to enroll them in the transformation.
We met the resistance first hand. They expressed several concerns. One issue they highlighted was lack of day-to-day support for them to go through the transformation. It was necessary, and something the project team missed on the project plan.
The faculty union leaders became legitimizers – a term I prefer over resisters. Because they made the transformation legitimate for their peers. Many of the issues they surfaced were valid and we needed to work through them. This had not been effectively done in previous projects.
Over time we partnered. Together we addressed their issues. Eventually we established faculty teams to guide the implementation. Faculty members gladly joined these teams at the encouragement of the union leadership. Interestingly, the faculty implementation was one of the most successful elements of the transformation.
The turning point, simply, was that they wanted to be heard, and wanted to be sure they had a voice.
Call to action:
- Ask yourself, who are the resisters to the transformation?
- Seek them out with an open mind. Learn what they have to say.
- You’ll be able to quickly separate complainers from legitimizers.
- Incorporate legitimizer’s feedback into your transformation.
- Enroll the legitimizers to help drive the implementation and sustainability.
- Celebrate successes with them. Unsparingly give credit.
Dedicated to your profitable transformation,