What do we know already about results and how change happens? How do we adapt and adjust our knowledge to better serve us in the changing world we live in today? We certainly have different experiences and different hands dealt to us. But as human beings, we experience successful change similarly. And grounding ourselves in what we know about change and results can help us achieve greater success in the unknown environment ahead.
Today, we find ourselves stepping into shifting transitions toward unknown future states. We can be successful when we ground ourselves in six things we know about results and change:
Human beings need context to make sense of anything. For example, a water molecule consists of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. But if we consider water in the context of a river, we must also consider the fact that it's a life source to an ecosystem, and part and parcel to everything else that lives around it.
Context gives us clarity, purpose, meaning, awareness, perspective and direction. Providing context helps others know where to put spend their finite time, energy, mindshare and focus. How does a change relate to all the other change we’re managing? How does it relate to organizational strategy and direction? How is it anchored to our values, who we are, and our purpose as an organization?
Change always begins with a reason, and we must understand it. Your job as a practitioner is to bring it forward in a compelling way. Karen Ball’s webinar, "Craft a Compelling 'Why' to Inspire Action," explains why creating a compelling why for change is so essential and how to present it to the rest of your organization.
A compelling why connects with people on one or more of four different levels. A logical why presents the reason for change using facts, figures, features and lists. An emotional why connects with the heart through principles, values, beliefs or ego. A visual why might translate destinations, steps, progress and benefits in ways that people can see such as graphics, images or other visualizations. And the final level, story, enables you to connect with people as human beings by combining imagination, context, actions and results into a compelling reason for change.
The third thing we know to be true about results and change is we must bring together the people side and technical sides if we want to be successful, and they must stay in lock step with each other.
As we move forward over time, we design, develop and deliver on the technical side while employees engage with, adopt and use the solution on the people side, using the ADKAR Model to work through the milestones of Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement.
Prosci's Unified Value Proposition
We also need to consider the complexity of the technical side and people side. In other words, how big of a challenge do we expect when we design, develop and deliver a solution to meet technical needs? And how big of a challenge do we expect to ensure that employees engaged with, adopt and use the solution? (The video clip above offers a bit more detail on how to evaluate complexity using a complexity grid, and I think it is going to be especially important as we plan our return to the workplace.)
Defining success is the flag on the horizon, what we’re setting out to achieve. The sponsor’s role is to clearly articulate why by defining what we want to achieve when we put time, energy, financial resources and people into the project or initiative. The practitioner plays the role of extracting and then packaging that definition of success, so we can bring it forward to the rest of the organization.
To be successful, every definition of success needs two parts: the project objectives (what the project achieves) and the organizational benefits (what the organization gains).
The definition of success will change as conditions change, and we must be ready for that. This is especially true with today’s shorter time horizons. But we can't let this keep us from defining success in some way to get the alignment we need. At Prosci, we developed “solution laps” to address this. Lap one is for solving the issue or opportunity immediately in front of us. Lap two is for improving once our lap-one solutions stabilize. And lap-three solutions help us become who we want to be in the future.
We must focus on adoption and usage because that's where results come from. If we don't support and equip and prepare our people to successfully adopt and use the change, we get a Swiss-cheese future state and bumpy transition states.
Remember, the Swiss-cheese future state is when Andre, Becky, Carlos and Dharma don't all make it to the future state. When we defined the future state, decided to fund the charter or project, and made return-on-investment assumptions, we did so believing we would realize the full future state.
But change doesn't happen by chance. We must prepare, equip and support our people. If we don’t, we experience frustration, failure, chaos, confusion, inconsistency, inefficiencies, anxiety, friction and more, which make the change sub-optimal.
Prosci's States of Change
The last thing we know to be true is that we realize desired results and outcomes if all the pieces come together. We call this the Unified Value Proposition because the value we strive for is achieving results and outcomes in times of change.
Capturing people-dependent portion of ROI and value is the name of the game. It's why the discipline of change management exists. It's the value you can bring as practitioners. And to achieve the value of change, we need much higher levels of employee adoption and usage.
The world we are stepping into requires us to adapt our perspectives about change. Whether it's change related to the pandemic, equality and social justice, return-to-the-workplace, or re-imagining the workplace, we need to understand how we want to move the changes forward. As change leaders, we have a huge opportunity to help people through change by leveraging what we know to be true about results and change in this new environment.
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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.
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