One of my clients had a long history of failure in implementing change, particularly those related to technology. They had recently implemented a large HR and Finance system that failed when they decided to implement an organization-wide system that would impact almost every employee and every customer. As this system would run almost all the organization’s underlying operations, they had to be successful. Failure would put them out of business. They asked me to help them manage the change.

One of the first things I did was help the senior leadership team understand that this was not just a technology change. The technology implementation would cause almost all their business processes to change. This meant that people would now be required to connect with each other and work together in ways they had not previously. This change was more about culture than it was about technology. The senior team embraced this and began to align to the true purpose of the change.

As the change project proceeded, we met with the senior team every two weeks to help them engage with the project and intervene to resolve issues and risks where necessary. In a few meetings, we performed a “deep-dive” into the changes that were taking place within a function. These “deep-dives” focused on changes in work process and human interaction. We stopped talking as much about the technology. As a result, these senior leaders began going back to their own teams and talked about the change in different terms. They also became much more supportive of the change.

Ultimately, this project was successful, with the senior management team calling it one of the most successful projects in the history of the institution.

Every change is different, but I have found that there are a few common things leadership teams must do to align and drive successful change:
1. Identify the purpose of the change in business terms, or outcomes. How will the change improve market share, customer satisfaction, and the bottom line?
2. Relate the change to how it improves the employee experience, such as how it helps the working teams, or individual employees.
3. Get real about the implications of the change. The case above cites how a technology change was actually a cultural change. Think through the consequences of changes you are considering.
4. Together, identify how each leader and her function will support the change. Be clear on the role of each senior leader, and hold each other accountable to drive the change.
5. Hold regular status meetings to engage with the progress of the team, and visibly resolve issues preventing success.

Incorporating these three features into your change or transformation will significantly improve your chance of success.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,
Steve

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