Do you know what LIFO stands for? Last In, First Out. And it is a plague many change managers run into because when it comes to planning out project resources, budgeting and priority, change management often gets put last. It is the last element of a project that gets in and the first to get kicked out when the budget gets tight. It gets LIFO'ed.
So how can change managers earn a permanent seat at the table? By starting with the why.
The Golden Circle
In Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, why is at the bulls-eye, how is in the second ring, and what is in the outer ring. He explains that it is easiest to describe something starting at what or maybe at how. But it isn’t going to move any hearts or minds. Why? Because, Sinek says, “the problem is that WHAT and HOW do not inspire action. Facts and figures make rational sense, but we don’t make decisions purely based on facts and figures.”
We make decisions on why.
So instead of talking about what you do as a change management practitioner, try talking about why you do it. Why is it important? Why should your listeners—those who prioritize budgets and resources—care?
The Elevator Pitch
A great place to practice starting with the why is your elevator pitch. When a coworker asks you, “what is change management?” and you have thirty seconds before the elevator door opens and you lose them, what do you say?
Don’t Start with the What
If you start with the what, you might say things like, “I conduct readiness assessments, complete impact analyses, build strategies, create change management plans and support integration into project plans.” But that doesn’t tell your listener much about why they should care.
Start with the Why
What if, instead, you reminded your listener about a change that went really, really badly. What if you said, “Remember the software update they tried to implement last year, but only half the office knew about it and it was such a headache because no one would use it?”
I think we all know the type of project like this. It’s the one that completely disrupted your organization’s productivity, that everyone was unhappy about, or that so completely failed it never actually got implemented. And if it is, your listener will most likely groan and say, “Of course I remember.”
And then you say, “Change management makes sure that doesn’t happen again.”
And the light bulb turns on.
Without saying anything about communication plans or project management integration, you’ve won over a change management advocate in your company who knows that change management can’t be last in/first out if they want a project to succeed.
Tim Creasey is Prosci’s Chief Innovation Officer and a globally recognized leader in change management. His work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world on managing the people side of change to deliver organizational results.