Launch Your Change Initiatives on a Sound Foundation
Launching your change initiative on a sound foundation is essential to speed, cost containment, good stakeholder engagement, and to achieving your desired outcomes. We have identified several actions for creating a solid foundation for your change initiative:
- An effective launch strategy
- A project briefing
- A change audit or change risk assessment from past changes
- Change education for your leaders and project teams
An effective launch strategy and a project briefing are always necessary. Change audits or risk assessments, and change education may not be required for every change initiative, but consider if they would add value and insight before you start your launch work. Each of them builds change leadership awareness and capability.
Create an Effective Launch Strategy
Creating a launch strategy involves addressing a series of questions to establish clarity and alignment among your leaders and your initiative team members. You and the other leaders may not have all the information you need to make final determinations on these questions, but you can begin this process and add to it as things become more clear, or change it when more information comes to light. Ask yourselves the following:
- What is the initial reason for making this change? Why change? What is the risk of not changing? What is the benefit of making this change?
- What is the initial direction and initiative outcome? What are the desired business benefits and purpose (value proposition) including but beyond the metric numbers? What do you hope to achieve with this initiative? What is the highest possible vision-level outcome?
- How will you establish initiative governance? What are the appropriate change leadership roles? Some examples: Sponsor, Change Leadership Team and its members, Change Process Leader, Project Manager and team, Initiative Leads/Work stream leads, and change consultants. What will be the decision authority for each role?
- What is the high-level scope? (Scope must include both the organizational/technical changes as well as the behavioral and cultural changes required) What are the boundary conditions, and leverage points (aka, key initiatives) for making the change? (more detail will come from doing your in-depth Case for Change work and organizational assessment).
- Who are the key stakeholders whose needs must be considered and who are the target groups who will be essential to making the change work in the organization or the field?
- What other events or projects are happening in the organization that may impact this effort? How will you take these into account when planning this initiative?
- What is the level of leadership commitment to ensuring adequate capacity (i.e., time, attention, bandwidth) and resources (initial budget and materiel requirements)?
- What is the degree of urgency? What is the desired or projected timeframe? (actual timeline will be determined when the full scope and realistic workload required by the initiative are known)
- What is the best strategy for kick-off communications and initial stakeholder engagement to ensure understanding and buy-in?
Perform a Project Briefing
A project briefing is essential to your change strategy because it enables you to discover what work has already been done on this effort, the current status of the organizational factors influencing this effort and knowledge of any solution, and the degree of alignment among both leadership and the stakeholders for this direction. It is important to do this early work with everyone singing off the same song sheet!
Conduct a Change Risk Assessment
Reviewing past change leadership practices and patterns to determine what leaders want to do differently with this change initiative can also assist in your change strategy. A Change Audit or Change Risk Assessment can be used to clarify the practices and patterns that the leaders consciously want to improve or do differently. This investment will reap the rewards of a faster, cheaper, and more successful change initiative. It will also raise leaders’ awareness of their change leadership strengths and weaknesses –for this initiative and likely all others.
Implement Change Education
Change education ensures that the leaders are working from a shared level of understanding, terminology, type of change, process model, role accountabilities, and mindsets. Change education, if the change initiative is transformational, also includes the personal leadership development and cultural work required for the initiative to succeed and sustain. That involves changes in mindsets, behavior, and relationship required for the desired outcome to sustain over time.
We previously outlined recommended change leadership roles to discuss and determine how to accomplish these three start-up actions. This is not work that can be handed off to a team or consultant to do autonomously and then present to a sponsor for “head nod” agreement. While a consultant can prepare options and offer them as a starting place to generate discussion, the sponsor and change leadership team members must think these requirements through and overtly align on them. What a consultant can do is design the process, with the sponsor’s agreement, to get this early launch work done to satisfaction so that the change initiative actually gets lift-off.