We will always make a customized change management pitch for every prospective client. The expectation from the client these days from the prospective vendor, is to understand their landscape, their stakeholders (whom we fondly refer to as ‘personas’). It does not end here. Further to this, they feel it is customary to even understand and feel the emotions of the impacted stakeholders without even talking to them.
In the best of the attempts to paint this picture for our clients, we bring several change management offerings (again relevant to client environment) for them to choose from. While we do all this, it made me think about the essentials of change management. Are there elements, which are “must haves”, aligned with the change management perspective? And this is not just about change which we bring about in organizations, but it also applies to personal change.
I strongly feel – Two elements are critical and if these are handled well, there is a certain amount of guarantee for change to be successful. One of them is ‘Stakeholder Management’. The key here is to manage all the stakeholders right from the top to bottom. Each set of stakeholder will have a different set of expectations with respect to the change program. And yet, there is a common expectation from all of these stakeholders. The need to be informed about the change program at important milestones. This brings us to the second critical element i.e. ‘Communication’. Here I am not talking only about the formal communication aspects that change management brings to the table, but it has more to do so with the other informal communication.
Both these elements form important ingredients in the recipe for change management. Managing both these aspects is easier said than done. Understanding the stakeholders and where they are on the change journey (each one of them could be on different levels in this journey), and then meeting their needs mainly through communication, is a fine skill. Even if it is the start of the project, some stakeholders would be already excited, while others would display a sense of dismay. A common email or a newsletter cannot be expected to handle a vast spectrum of emotions. It requires closer connect specially with the hot spots (stakeholders) to move them to the other side of the game. I remember in one of the projects, there was a stakeholder group who just needed to know about the project status, so when they are flooded with queries from employees, they have a face to pull off. This group was not directly involved in the project or directly impacted by the project. However, as we moved along, it turned out that this group certainly played a role in bringing out employees’ concerns to the fore.
In yet another client engagement, I sensed that one of the key stakeholders was apathetic towards the program. The person was unhappy with the unmet requirements and this experience in the program seemed to be carried in all the interactions this person had. It required an extra effort to engage with this person (it had little to do with the actual problem) by understanding the concerns and apprehensions.
Sometimes the outcome that is seen on the surface because of dis-engagement, is way too different that the actual state of mind of that person. So managing this state of mind by skillfully engaging in communicating with the person, is a recipe for success.