Updated: Sep 16
Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
At some point in our career, we had been Change Agents in driving new processes, implementing significant changes, or setting up new teams. If you have not been one so far, the situation or opportunity may arise anytime.
The intention of this Article is to discuss the 7 Principles that worked for me over the years of being a Change Agent on some huge Initiatives that I led. Let us jump straight into those (00)7 principles!
Define the Goal or Objective
The first and foremost one is to clearly and vividly defining the Goals or Objectives of the Initiative. This sets the context for the initiative and acts as a drawing board to go back whenever there is ambiguity / confusion in implementation. Important factor to keep in mind is that the goals are dynamic and if the situation demands, be flexible to change the goal / objective after aligning with stakeholders and team
Know your Stakeholders
It is of utmost importance to know and engage your stakeholders upfront – these may be from within the organization or outside. Failure to know the stakeholders may severely impact your deliverable and could potentially become a stumbling block. When one of our stakeholders were not engaged in our project initially, we ended up handling escalations that went to the global executive of our department. It took away the energy, focus and efforts that could have otherwise been productively used in implementation. We then had to change course and adjust our goal to keep the project alive.
Decide the Team
Having right team members decides the success or failure of the initiative. If the project demands, one may need to have team members from within the group or outside the group. Do not shy away from asking or including the right resource/s keeping the goal in mind. The team members need not be in reporting relationship with you so be prepared to “Lead without Authority”.
Please also note that having “clones” of you in the team would only give you the predictable results. People with varied skill-sets or different perspectives add plenty of value and give results that you had not envisaged. In one of the initiatives, I had a doubt about a team member as the personality traits of that person were exact opposite of mine. It turned out to be one of the best initiatives that I had worked on till date because we were able to complement each other so well and produce results that I had not even imagined.
Keep Budget handy
Driving change means that you are getting into an unknown territory. You may have to spend your money on some resources that is needed at the implementation stage or after go-live. Make a best estimate of it and prepare a Budget. A few examples of resources that I am referring are – Manpower, Workspace, IT hardware, Software tool, etc… The budget process could vary in each organization and awareness of the same is important too. Estimating the budget and getting the approval from the top management before hand provides you with the financial freedom and helps the team to stay focused on the goal. Please do track the actual expenses and compare with the Budget to ensure that you are staying within.
What’s your Timeline?
This is a tricky and the most challenging one. Lot of us feel uncomfortable when we are asked to provide a “Timeline”. While the primary factor is the underlying accountability that comes with the timeline, the other factor is the ambiguity around the tasks / actions required to meet the project Goal. The best way to deal with this is to start listing out the sub-goals or sub-objectives. Once there is more clarity on the sub-goals, it will be lot easier to plot timeline against each one of them. Continue this for all the sub-goals and you will get comfortable to estimate overall timeline for the project. In some initiatives the timeline is determined by a Statute and in that case the focus for the team should only be on the sub-goals or sub-objectives.
This is another crucial aspect in Change Management. Honest and timely communication is incredibly important to avoid unpleasant and stressful situations.
Team: The first and foremost is regular meeting with the Team. This sets the tone and helps the team to stay focused on the deliverable and the timeline. They can also voice their ideas / opinions which lends direction to the project.
Stakeholder: A regular update to the stakeholder provides you with lot of confidence in the implementation stage. The Stakeholders are at the position of influence, so be open and transparent with them. Do not hesitate to call-out challenges and issues and seeking help or guidance.
Train people, Go-Live and Transition
The initiative that you are working on could impact in the future, the people who are not involved in the implementation. A proper training for them before the Go-Live would get them engaged and reduces their anxiety. It helps them to anticipate what is coming their way and prepare a plan for themselves. A follow-up training around the go-live date (preferably just after) would enhance their confidence levels further
Fix a Go-Live date and be prepared to conclude the initiative or project and exit powerfully by preparing a detailed Transition Document. It is important to let go of the process by doing a proper transition to the key stakeholders. If the process would continue to be handled by you and your team, still exit from the project mindset, and transition it to a regular work.