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Don’t Go Changing: 4 Musts for Strategy Activation During Chaos

on June 1, 2020
Blog Managing Change

There likely isn’t a single organization on the planet that hasn’t been impacted in some way by COVID-19. Whether your business is making large or small changes, it is still change. And, we all know that change is rarely—if ever—easy.

For those of us at Root, the leader in organizational change, we’re going through changes too, specifically a dramatic shift in how we do business. Due to the nature of our work, which leverages the power of face-to-face dialogues and interactions, we traditionally travel a lot. Well, for now that is grounded. We have every person working from home, which is strange for a company that loves to collaborate over coffee or beer in a conference room. So like all of you, we’re discovering new ways of working that could alter our business forever.

Change is the Constant

As us Rootsters navigate how we serve our clients using new modalities to substitute for face-to-face conversations, we’re also partnering with those clients to redefine how they navigate strategic change, and most importantly, how they engage and connect their people to this change. And while everyone’s challenges and changes are specific to their business and people, there are things that stay the same. We know that change has and always will be the constant and we know that how you LEAD change doesn’t change.

Foundationally, you need to be sure you’re doing the same things you do when launching quick-moving or short-term strategic initiatives ( what we call, “little s”) that you would do when you’re launching your two- to three-year strategies (the “BIG S”). You must move quickly—especially now, when your quarterly targets are hanging in the balance! But you can’t skip the steps. No matter what.

Whether you’re pivoting to tackle changing buyer expectations, making changes to your distribution processes, or implementing new safety protocols, there are fundamentals for successful change. You must make sure everyone understands the “why” behind the change, “what” is changing for the business, and “how” their role is changing. And, you can’t forget to focus on ensuring the change is sustained, even if it’s only shorter term change.

Get Back to the Basics, But Get a Move On!

The crucial elements for any strategy activation plan are:

#1: Make Sure All Leaders Are Aligned. You might think you’re aligned, but the changes you’re navigating likely mean different things to different leaders. So get clear on what success looks like for your business during this mid-term strategy shift.

    • Move Quick: This doesn’t need to be a two-month process. It can be done in less than a day. You won’t regret taking the time, but you might regret not taking the time.
    • Hint: You can’t visualize fuzz. Draw a picture of what winning looks like for your business – and it’s not usually just a $ or €.

#2: Gut Check It With the Next-Level Leaders. Being clear doesn’t just mean the executive leadership team and board. Your functional leaders need to be just as united and clear. And they need to have discussions to make sure their department, division, or plant is supporting the change in the best possible way.

    • Move Quickly: In two hours or less, you can have your entire leadership teams seeing the big picture. They’ll understand why the change is happening, what’s changing, and how they’re going to enable the change.
    • Hint: I literally mean show them the big picture. As in visual. As in puzzle box top. The powerful effectiveness of a visual paired with fantastic conversations. Change just took off with a blast!

#3: Managers are the Conduit to Change. Your front line employees—truly battling it out on the front lines of your business—need all the support they can get. That comes in the form of managers keeping people engaged, inspired, and motivated. Plus, coaching them through super tough times. Being an empathetic listener. And ensuring that people are up to speed on policies and protocols, which can be changing daily. So support your front line people by equipping your managers.

    • Move Quickly: Skilling up managers doesn’t have to involve a two-day workshop or a three-day conference. Focus on the absolute essentials of manager skills: Do they understand the business? Do they understand their role in bridging the business and the front line? Do they know how to actually coach their people to success? Most importantly, are they focusing on the wins that their people desperately need
    • Hint: There are lots of cool ways to build your managers’ skills quickly. A coaching conversation with their own manager. A micro-module that hits the highlights in short bursts of information.

#4: Your People in the Trenches Need More than a Policy Memo. Never underestimate the power of information. Your anxious and stressed people are slogging it out dealing with anxious and stressed customers. Just knowing that there’s a plan, that you’re not only acknowledging what they’re going through, and that you and the other leaders are working to make things the best you can goes a long way for people’s mental health. And even letting them know that you don’t have all the answers.

    • Move Quickly: Emails don’t cut it right now. Remember that visual we mentioned with your next level of leaders? Actually, everyone MUST see that picture—leaders, managers, and your individual contributors. They need to see there’s a plan. They need to see what they’re all working so hard for and possibly even risking their lives for. While it might feel costly to take time to let people explore the possibilities for themselves (and we know you’ve been hit hard), we’ve found that when leaders don’t find the time for this conversation (yes, it is a conversation, not a tell), it ends up being more costly in the long run.
    • Hint: One-on-ones with managers. Small group conversations. It’s possible to get to the same end results. But they have to be given the puzzle box top if you want to get fast results.

The fact is, the only way to catalyze and accelerate results is through your people. If you’ve talked to Root before, you’ve heard us say this ad-nauseum. You need to move fast right now. There’s no doubt. But you can’t skip steps. Think about the last time you built something from IKEA. You skip a step and that desk becomes a bookcase. You don’t need a bookcase right now. So stick with the process, it’s going to lead you down the right road.

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