Friday, 29 January 2016

6 Questions to Ask Before You Create a Change Plan

This week, I wrote two presentations to give at an association conference in June. The two topics are How to Lead Yourself and Others through Change and Building a Project Plan to Drive Change.

The best part of Building a Project Plan to Drive Change is the list of questions you need to ask before starting to write your plan. Like most journeys, how you prepare is the biggest contributor to success.

Most people jump into planning change without stepping back and assessing the environment in which the change will take place. For example, if your change is launching at the same time as three other changes, the odds are that the people you are changing will not have the capacity (time, skill and resources) to implement it as completely as you would like. 

I fell into this trap when I first led global change initiatives. I planned them as if everyone working in countries valued my project as much as I did. I was shocked when my contact in Eastern Europe told me she was the point person for all global change projects (in addition to her day job). Given the impossibility of her workload, she spent just enough time on each project to give the impression that it was being followed. I started asking questions about capacity to implement before planning.

The purpose of asking the questions is to understand the change from the impacted people's perspective. The answers will give you clues on how best to align their mindsets, actions and behaviours to make the change with the least amount of disruption.

Here are the questions that I will be sharing in June and asking a new client next week:

What is the change (in one sentence)? 
All planning flows from a succinct definition  if you can't clearly and simply describe it then you can't plan it effectively.

Who will play a role in its success?
The three key roles are: the senior leader(s) who is accountable for the change, those who have decision-making power about how the change will be implemented and those who will be changing. 

What are the benefits to the organization?
Will it increase profit, decrease cost, increase customer service, decrease defects, better achieve the mission, quickly accommodate market changes, etc.?

What are the benefits to the people who are changing?
Will it make people's jobs easier (reduce complexity, increase speed of decision-making, etc.), build skills, avoid a downsizing, provide more career opportunities, etc.? Providing good things or avoiding bad ones will build engagement and ownership.

What and how are other projects affecting people?
Here you are identifying your competitors for mind space and time. They include operational planning tasks (strategic planning, budgeting, performance reviews, etc.) and other change projects (systems upgrades, culture drives, restructure, etc.). 

What do people need to do to take on the change and how much time will it take?
The answers will allow you to assess the level of difficulty of the change. Comparing them with the last question's answer will allow you to assess the capacity people have for taking on the change. 
Once you have answered these questions you are prepared to build a solid change project plan. It will be designed within the context of your organization and the people who will be changing. 

You might decide to change the scope or timing of the change to improve the probability of its success. You could also influence decision makers to change some of the answers to the questions. One thing is for sure, the more realistic the plan the more likely it (and you) will succeed.


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