Human nature, and most leadership books, drive us to focus on full engagement all the time.
In fact, many leaders I work with feel compelled to spend time and energy engaging all their stakeholders during change. While this sounds like a good idea it ends up overwhelming them and is a poor use of time!
In reality, change leaders can safely and successfully ignore some of their stakeholders as mere annoyances. The tricky part is knowing who you can ignore and who you can’t ignore. An analysis tool created by the Implementation Institute can help you determine where to focus your stakeholder engagement efforts. After you have completed a traditional stakeholder analysis and identified the impact and importance of all your stakeholders their tool examines stakeholder’s resistance to the change and influence on the change to create 4 groups to help you plan your engagement strategy. (Click on the image to enlarge)
- Advocates: powerful supporters who are not to be overlooked. Work to recruit them to help you with your engagement activities and even delegate important communication or influence tasks to them. You can leverage their support and increase overall engagement.
- Allies: supporters with little influence. They are engaged and require little time or energy from you. Be sure to check-in with them and you can invite them to events for their enthusiasm but overall are a small part of your strategy.
- Antagonists: powerful resisters who need your time and attention and must be engaged to ensure success. Your engagement strategy will focus on these stakeholders and this is where you will spend your time.
- Annoyances: resistors with little influence. Due to their limited influence on the current change you can safely spend little to no time or effort trying to engage this group of stakeholders.
To increase the success of your change efforts resist the urge to spend too much time connecting with your allies or persuading those pesky resisters, who do not have any influence, to embrace the change. Your limited time is better used engaging your powerful antagonists and leveraging your advocates.
“The more you engage employees in the change process, the greater their desire will be to support and participate in the change.” – Jeffrey M. Hiatt, ADKAR: a model for change in business, government and our community
If you’ve been in the workplace for any length of time, you will probably agree with me that nothing builds desire for change or ownership faster than direct participation in a change effort. In fact, in my career, I’ve seen employees become passionate about a change effort and staunchly committed to its successful implementation as a result of their participation in it. What leader doesn’t want to harness that kind of positive energy for a change effort? But how can leaders use this knowledge to effectively engage employees in the change process?
Here are a few tips gleaned from Hiatt’s book: ADKAR
Communicate Outcomes. Think about how much control can you give to employees involved in the change. If you can focus primarily on the OUTCOMES (what needs to change) and allow employees to determine how the change is implemented, that can create enormous buy-in.
Engage Your Influencers, Movers & Shakers. Think about which individuals in your organization seem to influence others or tend to get things done easily. Can you involve these key individuals in the change effort? Your change effort will benefit from these individuals and their natural talent for influencing others.
Develop Change Roles. Think about the varied roles can employees play in your change effort. Who should serve on the change management team? Who should design implementation strategies? Who could serve as the spokesperson for their area? Who could participate in a pilot effort? Who could provide feedback for improvement for early pilot efforts? Creating multiple ways for ramping up employee involvement can strengthen the success and sustainability of your change effort.
These are just a few ideas to think about when involving employees in your change effort.
What strategies have you used that you would recommend to other leaders?
Reframing is having the insight to interpret events in different ways – Dr. Richard Curwin. Author and educator.
“What is wrong with what we are doing now?” “They don’t understand,”, ” I’m working as hard as I can,” “We tried that before,” “Why didn’t they ask us….”
How you respond when you hear comments like these will determine the success of any change you are leading. The people on your team are key stakeholders and gaining their engagement is a crucial first step for all leaders. Taking a breath, stepping back and refraining from your initial response and then reframing what you are hearing can actually affirm what your people are saying. That affirmation, instead of arguing, will build a foundation for problem-solving and commitment.
Years ago a physician leader told me that reframing her patient’s challenges, struggles and biggest fears was the most powerful tool she possessed to help them make tough changes. By slightly altering her perspective and affirming how hard it is to quit smoking, change eating habits, follow medication protocols or daily activities she became a partner with the patient. Reframing allowed her to focus on the “dedication” it takes to stop smoking for the 10th time, instead lamenting the repeated failures and “promoting” why the patient should quit. Or to commend a patient for having the courage to share their fears about giving up their favorite food instead of lecturing them on the “vision” of a healthy diet. Recognizing the dedication or focusing on the strength it takes to make changes created a partnership and lead to actual engagement instead of resistance.
Leaders can also reframe what they are hearing from their team, alter their initial interpretations and build engagement. With practice you can actually hear:
- values and beliefs
- concerns and potential barriers
- unexpected complications
- training needs
- new ideas
instead of resistance.
When you hear, “what were they thinking” you can respond with, “I value your experience, what ideas to you have?” Listening with a slightly altered frame will engage instead of detach.
What are your people actually saying when they resist? Can you find it?
As leaders, we know that once we’ve created our strategies and goals it’s important to share them broadly. We need our key stakeholders to be engaged in order to move forward with a change and sustain it over time. However, it can be hard to figure out how to actually accomplish this. Who needs to hear our story, and what kind of story do we need to tell?
An education technology group in the UK has created a toolkit with many good resources for creating and sustaining innovative change. They’re available under a Creative Commons license and may be useful in your work with shareholders. Check it out at https://sustainembed.pbworks.com/w/page/31632855/Welcome
The guide includes some helpful recommendations for communicating with stakeholders as well as a strategy model for five key steps:
- Situation analysis
- Communication strategy
- Communications plan
- Sustaining the project
The guide reminds us that communications should be simple, and based on the principles of why/what/when/who/how. For example:
- WHY should academic/teaching staff change their teaching and learning practices?
- WHAT should academic/teaching staff change in their teaching and learning practices?
- WHEN is the best time to make changes, e.g. at curriculum review time?
- WHO needs to be involved in the change?
- HOW will we make the changes, e.g. is it a DIY approach and what support is available?
By following the five steps and creating consistent messages, a strategic communication plan can help leaders create strategies to engage stakeholders and contribute to project success.
–Dee Anne Bonebright
This month we will be focusing our blog on engaging stakeholders in your change effort. By definition, a stakeholder is any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of your organization’s objectives and/or your change effort.
As DeeAnne mentioned in her blog last Friday, most change efforts fail because the right people weren’t consulted, involved, or committed to the change. But who are the right people? Before launching into your change strategy, it is critical to conduct a stakeholder analysis. An analysis typically begins with a brainstorming session to identify groups and individuals who can either affect change or will be affected by the change effort.
After your initial brainstorm session, you may generate a very daunting list. This is where it can be helpful to narrow the list down by asking the following questions:
- Does the stakeholder have a fundamental impact on your organization’s performance?
- Can you clearly identify what you want from the stakeholder?
- Is the relationship dynamic — that is, do you want it to grow?
- Can you exist without or easily replace the stakeholder?
If you answered yes to the first three questions and no to the last question, this stakeholder group or person is vital to your change effort.
After identifying your stakeholders, you can then determine what actions you need to take to engage your stakeholders and keep them informed. Using a grid similar to the one below, where you determine stakeholder’s influence and interest levels, can help you with strategies to manage your stakeholder relationships effectively.
There are many tools available to help you with stakeholder analysis and stakeholder management. For a set of easily adopted resources, I recommend visiting MindTools.
What tools have you found useful in identifying and managing your stakeholders?
We’ve been talking about setting strategy and goals to help lead change. While each topic can be considered on its own and each has helpful tools, it’s also true that they are strongly interconnected. Before we move on, I’d like to share a couple of lessons I’ve learned about setting strategic goals.
Pay attention to the timing. What else is happening in your organization? Do people have the capacity to attend to your change right now? I’ve seen a lot of well-intended and potentially useful changes flounder because of poor timing. No matter how critical the change may be, if there are other, even more important, activities going on at the same time your change may not get the attention it deserves. If your college is in the midst of an accreditation review, it’s probably not a good time to restructure the curriculum.
Clarify the unstated values. I’ve been helping to develop some training on prevention of discrimination and harassment. The learning goals include things like understanding MnSCU policy, knowing important definitions, and identifying resources. These are important, but by using a new set of design tools to explore the underlying values, I realized that what we really want is for leaders to be committed to furthering a safe and respectful environment for MnSCU students, staff, and guests. This core value will help me to shape more meaningful learning goals for the policy implementation course.
Pay attention to the people. There are many tactical tools for creating strategy and designing strategic goals. But don’t forget that the vast majority of changes don’t fail because of business processes. They fail because, for some reason, the right people weren’t involved and committed. When I lead project kickoff meetings, I always spend a great deal of time helping the team members get to know each other and understand what each one is bringing to the table. Task-oriented leaders may think this is a waste of time, but I’ve learned over and over again that it pays off in smoother processes along the way.
During May we’ll be talking more about ways to engage stakeholders in the change process. What challenges have you faced in the people aspects of leading change?
Dee Anne Bonebright