This week, I was reminded of a lesson I learned many years ago about change management planning. A project leader was resisting making modifications to implementation tactics across teams and geographies. Consistency was important, she felt, since the plan had already incorporated feedback from each group taking on the change. She was fighting for her plan.
What I have learned is that the best implementation plan is the one people will implement, which usually isn't the 'best' technical plan. Most activities are in the hands of those who are closest to the people who are changing. They must agree with the tactics before they will execute them well.
My education was gained on a similar project. I was rolling out an operating model that defined how global, regional and country teams would work together. I spent many weeks developing the roll-out plan with input from the different stakeholder groups – it was a textbook excellent plan.
When I reviewed the plan with regional change leads, I discovered that Latin America had already started its launch activities. They had combined the operating model initiative with a regional culture program scheduled to begin before ours. The Regional President kicked-off the combined initiative with a motivational video and all-colleague meeting. The launch was so good and so 'off plan.’
This experience taught me that different tactics can achieve the same results; the delivery method can be variable. As long as the key information is communicated well, executor preference is the determining factor for achieving results.
I resolved to focus my influence (and fight) on consistent change principles and encourage variability in implementation tactics. I also vowed to never again fall in love with my consistent plan and always celebrate changes that reflect local cultural preferences.
Here are some tips on how to create a plan that will deliver results for different teams:
- View your plan as dynamic – it needs to change with people's needs or preferences
- Define and gain agreement on the core change principles that will guide implementation activities – e.g. transparent and consistent communication to all groups, co-creation with those who are taking on the change, etc. – they need to be consistent and are non-negotiable throughout the project
- Be clear on the results you need to achieve – the plan is only a means to realize the results and needs to be measured against them
- Provide a menu of tactics for groups to choose from – a representative planning team can also choose to align on one set of tactics that meet all of their needs
- Encourage team representatives to share learnings about the tactics that work well – peer testimonials inspire adoption
- Celebrate the successes of implementation teams – rewarding those executing the plan encourages continued tactical experimentation and support of the initiative
The quality of change management support is determined by the results achieved. These results are highly dependent on how well the implementation tactics are executed. Since people invest more in activities they believe in, the best implementation plan is the one they create. This may require sacrificing tactical control or consistency, but never quality.
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