Like any discipline, change management has a distinct language. This language enables practitioners to communicate clearly, consistently and effectively about what a change means in terms of working differently, anticipated impacts, desired goals, and how success will be measured. However, when you ask change leaders and others engaged with a change what certain terms mean to them, the answers can vary significantly due to differing perceptions of the intent and nature of the change. Change practitioners can use simple yet powerful plain language questions to establish a common understanding of a change, ensure alignment on why the change is needed, and more.
Effective change is ultimately about engaging people, working with and through others to achieve change success. But when working collaboratively with others, using jargon and buzzwords creates unnecessary barriers. Asking simple, plain language questions can remove these barriers and get all stakeholders on the same page. The Prosci 3-Phase Process incorporates plain language questions into each of the three phases.
The Prosci 3-Phase Process is a structured and scalable process for driving organizational change and one of three main components of the Prosci Methodology. Each phase of the Prosci 3-Phase Process includes three stages, which describe key activities to complete along with associated plain language questions that make the Prosci 3-Phase Process easy to understand and accessible to non-practitioners.
Within Phase 1 – Prepare Approach, each of the three stages has associated plain language questions that help stakeholders understand the overarching goal of the change management strategy.
The three stages and associated plain language questions of Phase 2 – Manage Change define the work change practitioners do during the major portion of the lifecycle of a change initiative.
The plain language questions that clarify efforts and activities for Phase 3 – Sustain Outcomes set clear expectations about progress, sustainment activities, and responsibilities for maintaining successful results of the change.
Why should we use plain language questions in change management? Because when we ask, we learn.
Questions spur the exchange of ideas, uncovering often surprising insights. The answers provided can fill in gaps in our understanding, revealing important information we might have missed.
Questions pull ideas from others and engage them in finding the answers. And many minds working together increases the odds of coming up with the best ideas, options or solutions.
Asking good questions also focuses energy and attention, guiding people to think about the right things at the right time. A good question can get a team unstuck and completely shift their energy.
Finally, we know from Prosci’s research that involving people directly in a change management effort builds trust and fosters positive working relationships that produce better change outcomes.
The ability to select and ask effective plain language questions is an essential skill for change practitioners. The plain language questions defined for the Prosci 3-Phase Process can enhance your change management efforts in the following ways:
When we ask questions, we create opportunities to engage people in a change and make them feel valued. Plain language questions offer a simple, yet effective way to get and keep change leaders, impacted individuals and groups aligned throughout the change process—while setting up yourself and your organization for success.
Lisa Kempton is Prosci's Director of Development and a seasoned change practitioner who has been helping organizations excel at change for more than 20 years. She is best known for her work collaborating with Tim Creasey to build and advanced the Prosci Change Scorecard—a holistic, research-based tool for bringing clarity, alignment and credibility to the change management process. Previously, as a senior consultant and change leader in the healthcare, insurance, IT and utilities industries, Lisa led large-scale strategic transformations, established a change management practice and infrastructure, designed organizational effectiveness solutions, and more.
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