Regardless of the industry or the size of the company, here’s one problem we hear a lot from our client project teams:
“Our organization just made a significant commitment to implement a new system, but the leadership team doesn’t seem to care about change management. What can I do to get their attention?”
If you’re facing this type of challenge, you’re not alone. But you are in jeopardy of having your new initiative fail. Without support from the top, it’s highly unlikely that people will give the new system the time and attention it needs to become integrated into the business. Because when it comes to change—any change—you’re bound to face some sort of challenges. And to move past those bumps in the road, you need the C-suite and all management on board, prepped to lead through those difficult scenarios and guide teams to keep morale up and people focused.
So while it can certainly be challenging to rally folks around change management, we’ve found three specific actions to help you break through.
Three Tips to Turn Leaders Into Change Management Advocates
Tip 1. Frame the issue in terms of your leaders’ priorities. Most decisions to implement a new system are based on sound logic and a solid business case, and leaders expect to realize the benefits. We also know the benefits of having a system don’t accrue automatically—people must use the technology (over a certain period of time) to drive the benefits.
Technology deployment without adoption is worthless.
Adoption without engagement is impossible.
The investment/time curve demonstrates this as well. You might gain some benefits from basic compliance, but you can accelerate and increase the benefits if you tap into personal commitment. So if you want your leaders fully on board with the new system, make the payoff crystal clear and explain what to expect with full support, as well as the outcomes if everyone isn’t all in.
PRO TIP – Write down all the benefits that leaders are counting on the system to deliver and ask yourself these questions:
- How many of these benefits will be maximized if users are engaged and committed?
- What’s the impact on the business case if users don’t adopt the system in a robust way?
- Research shows that about 50% of system implementation projects fail or need significant rework, so what happens if we don’t achieve the adoption we want?
- How will a positive or negative outcome affect the organization?
- What does this do for leaders personally?
Once you have your answers ready, set up a meeting with the leadership team. If your facts are ready, you’ll be that much closer to securing their buy-in.
Tip 2. Use stories to create an emotional connection to the need. Now that you have clarity on why leaders should care, it’s time to take them along on the journey so they can decide what needs to be done.
People will tolerate the conclusions of others,
but they will act upon their own.
Having the facts and answers is only the first step. The task is now to engage your leaders in a way that helps them form their own conclusions about the need. And one of the best ways to do this is by using stories to create an emotional connection. If you can tap into someone’s emotions, they’ll feel drawn to the cause. And if you tell a compelling story, your leaders won’t forget what you said the minute the meeting ends.
Don’t just take my word for it. Scientists and psychologists have been studying this very topic for decades. In fact, cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner tells us people are “22 times more likely to remember a fact when it has been wrapped in a story.”
PRO TIP – Use the power of stories to engage your leaders in the why for change management that drives user adoption. You can find many frameworks online. Here’s just one.
Here’s how your side of the conversation might sound:
Boss, I was thinking about our project and did some research on other companies implementing the same system. Their challenges were similar to ours and they were looking for the same results of X, Y, and Z.
Several companies had a really hard time with their deployments, while others excelled. Here, look at this data about failure rates. Isn’t that interesting? What do you think caused that?
I found that the companies with the most success had real issues until they engaged their users more effectively! Tell me, Boss, how important do you think it is for our users to actually use the system? What do you think will happen if we settle for compliance and don’t achieve commitment? What will that do to our business case?
Great point, Boss. I agree! If we want to see the ROI, we’ll need to manage this change. I’m so glad you had that idea (at last!).
If you can get your leaders on board with a story that resonates with their minds and hearts, your new system has a strong chance at delivering all the ROI you’re hoping for and all that the executives expect.
Tip 3. Bring the solution. So far, so good. There’s one last step. Now that you have your leader’s attention, be ready with a range of ideas about how to proceed. That way your leader can put their own thumbprint on the solution and gain commitment from ownership.
PRO TIP – We’ve found that having three options is quite effective. Too many more and you risk complicating the decision. Too few and you might leave things on the table.
- Bronze: Covers the bare necessities of your change plan
- Silver: An enhanced plan that gives you resources for a solid approach
- Gold: Delivers a first-class experience that causes people to really take notice
As far as the content of a change management plan, we’ll examine the elements in detail in another post. Until then, here are a few areas you’ll want to cover:
- Setting expectations for how leaders need to lead through the change
- Aligning the organization on the rationale and urgency for the change
- Building momentum and excitement
- Sustaining the change
Change Management Is a Team Effort
Creating real, lasting change is no easy feat. At the same time, it’s not an impossible task! If you use the three tips above to gain support from your leadership team and ensure that everyone—from the C-suite to the front line—understands the why and how for the change, you’re well on your way to success. We’d love to hear your stories about successful transformation. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.