As I see it there are two ways to manage change within organisations. One of those is to constantly communicate information about what is happening and to collect information to inform your change activities. The other is to engage leaders and employees in the process of change so that communication takes place rather than information and you create a paradigm shift that the change process is owned by the leaders and employees in the organisation, not the change manager.
So here are a few examples of what I mean. Let’s say as part of the change process you decide to undertake a stakeholder analysis. There are two ways of managing this, the first is to get a template and circulate it via email and ask managers to complete it. If they have filled out the form they will let you know who the stakeholders are, what their issues are likely to be, how they recommend they are communicated with and how frequently. Another way of doing a stakeholder analysis is to use the same template but this time with the leadership group in the room facilitate a session where they have to discuss and reach agreement on all of the issues. This is definitely going to create a more robust conversation and sense of ownership. After the session as part of the signoff process you distribute the outcomes of the session via email and ask the leadership team to confirm via email that they are happy with the content of the stakeholder analysis. Both of these actions create a sense of ownership and responsibility that you would not have had if you used the first approach and just circulated the stakeholder analysis template via email or completed it by having brief one on one discussions.
Another part of the change process for any project is around risks and issues. It would be easy for any change manager to sit down and complete on their own or with the HR manager the people risks and issues during any change process. However you want the leadership team to own the people risks and issues, and even before this step to understand that there are risks and issues regarding employees and they should identify what they might be and what mitigation strategies they suggest. And then after all of this they assign various members of their leadership team to have accountability to deal with the risk should it escalate as an issue. So again if you facilitate a session with the leadership team to complete the risks and issues template you are creating another paradigm shift in thinking about their accountability for the change process to be successful.
And this is the difference, it is subtle but the results are significant. You will never achieve engagement with the leadership team for owning the people issues around change if you do all the work for them. You need to get them thinking, talking, discussing, arguing and finally owning the people issues regarding change if you are going to have any level of real success.
As always I am interested in your comments and feedback about the approaches you have found worked in engaging leaders to own the change process in your organisation.