“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” – Sir Isaac Newton
The thinking on how best to manage change has evolved considerably since Sir Isaac first laid out some basic principles for us to ponder. Although he may have been thinking about physical systems at the time, his wisdom translates well to what we experience when interacting within human systems.
As anyone who has implemented a change initiative knows, more often than not
CHANGE = RESISTANCE.
The great change management question is “How can you minimize resistance and increase buy-in to change?”
We think the answer comes in the form: good communication + dialogue = buy-in
It’s not just about communication
The common sense response to resistance tends to be better communications. And good communication is important. However, to paraphrase Sir Isaac, pushing harder can have the unintended effect of strengthening the resistance. And sometimes that’s what communication is: simply pushing harder by telling people why change is such a good idea.
We believe that to truly mitigate the resistance to change, you must not only communicate the rationale clearly, but also fully engage the people who will be affected by the change. In other words, speaking to the people may not be as effective as getting the people talking amongst themselves. Of course, keeping the stakeholder dialogue focused on results remains a challenge that the change management team must be ready for.
But communication is still VERY important
That said, the clarity of the communications used to support a change initiative remain critical to success. In his book “Changing Minds”, Howard Gardner outlines the 7 important elements of good communication that enables stakeholder buy-in. It’s not only about the critical messages and how you say them, but also how many different ways you say them.
Another factor in sleuthing out the right messages: personalize it. Craft each message to provide an audience with the relevant information they require to support the initiative; through decisions, actions or simply not resisting. It’s not about how great this initiative it – it’s about them The communication strategy for the change initiative should have this concept as one of its cornerstones.
Good communication + dialogue = BUY-IN
This gives us a new step on the stairway to success in change management. Clear rationale that is well communicated AND stakeholder dialogue leads to buy-in. Another way of saying this is “Collaboration transforms complexity and resistance into clarity and commitment.”
We have found that when we layout the irrefutable logic behind the rationale, communicate it clearly in multiple perspectives and then engage in open collaboration with our stakeholders on how to achieve an intended outcome, it works.
In summary, the path that eases transformational change is one that is open and adaptive yet well-conceived and designed. If you start with the principle that every critical action in the change program must be worked on by the people who it will impact, and allow it to be refined through collaboration, it will greatly improve your chances of success and everything else gets much easier.
For a more detailed example of how you can use good communication and buy-in as part of a successful change management strategy, take a look at this shared services implementation in New Brunswick.