Change is an essential part of any thriving business culture. Leadership at every level must be able to manage the tension between decision-making and effective execution. Here’s the thing, bad execution will tank your best decisions every time.

Often in a race against self-imposed timelines and a rare sense of reality for what it will take to implement bigger decisions and initiatives, many leaders jump right into action without much thought of preparation. As former Secretary of State, James Baker, once said, “Proper preparation prevents poor performance.”   

Preparing for Change

The idea of change management on a personal level has been studied for more than one hundred years. But it is only since the mid-1980s that change management has been explored within the context of business applications.

Today’s change management initiatives have become a business discipline, driving bottom-line results through changes in systems and behaviors. Managing change has therefore become a critical skill, both for leadership — and for workers in an organization.

Defining Your Strategy

It is critical to manage change by creating and implementing a strategy that defines an approach consistent with the unique needs of the organization. The strategy serves as the guiding framework, providing direction and shaping decision-making throughout the change process.

A simple two-step process will go a long way toward ensuring your decisions are implemented with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.  The first step is to ask the right questions.

The SituationWhat changes will the decision/initiative require? How much perceived need for these changes exists? Who will be impacted and how? How long will the change take? What will be the benefits of the changes?
People and Their RolesWho are the “promotors” needed to support change? What functional leaders/groups/individuals should be represented to lead the effort?
Issues for AnalysisWhat will happen if we do/don’t do this? What is the scope of change (how deep and wide)? Are there exceptions or deviations to consider?

This first step will inform the second, which is to create a simple strategy document to serve as a leadership “blueprint” for the initiative. A strategy document should discuss important components of the change. Here’s an initial list of components accompanied by sample verbiage.

Strategy ComponentSample Language/Notes
Description of the proposed change vision, and its goalsTransform the business processes and the technology by which the organization manages the human resources and payroll functions
The reasons(s) why the change is necessaryThese changes will allow the organization to save time and money and provide more responsive HR and payroll services to our employees
Critical success measures and key performance indicatorsRisks have been proactively identified and addressed Employees are prepared to perform their new job on Go live day with a 95% success ratio
Project stakeholders and stakeholder groups and their involvementThe current Phase: Senior management The Pre-Implementation Phase: Senior management, subject matter experts, change champions
Key messages to communicatePre-Implementation Phase:   The business requirements, business case staffing,  and the projected timeline
Roles and ResponsibilitiesCommunications Team Lead: Develop project communications and presentations Change Management Team Lead: Direct overall team activities; Provide team with change management expertise; Manage Project Team Effectiveness, Capability Transfer, & Leadership Alignment activities
Target time frame to achieve goals(This can be a graphical timeline, a paragraph, an embedded spreadsheet, etc.)
Focus AreasLeadership Alignment: Align leaders to the project vision and enable them to champion the effort Organizational transition: Design new employee roles, jobs, and organization structures to support the new processes and technology

Building the Team

To effectively implement major initiatives, it’s best if you assemble a team of leaders with a high degree of skill in six key elements:

  1. Commitment
  2. Contribution
  3. Communication
  4. Cooperation
  5. Conflict management
  6. Connection

It is important to have a team representing all of the functional groups and roles necessary to manage the change initiative. Formalizing the team and providing funding and other resources, sends a message of accountability and responsibility, and illustrates the investment the organization has made in the change.

If there’s a pattern of great ideas and decisions falling short of expectations, there’s a reason. This initial step of preparation will help you create a new one of prioritizing and mobilizing with intention. To do this effectively, you need the right people in the right seats around you.    

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