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Steps to Usher Positive Transformational Change in Your Organization

Tim Cunningham, CIO, Grange Insurance
Tim Cunningham, CIO, Grange Insurance

Tim Cunningham, CIO, Grange Insurance

Transformational change can be very unsettling and uncomfortable for individuals, teams and entire organizations. When change events are managed poorly they typically have negative impacts on both individual contributions and the overall performance of the business. Making change a positive event, however, can be energizing and motivational to individuals and teams bringing higher performance, improved confidence and improved business outcomes.

  ​Communicate why the change is necessary. It’s very important to describe the change in terms that each individual can understand   

Over my 25+ year career, I’ve had the fortune of working for organizations that have undergone massive, complex change, both as an individual contributor and as a leader. Some changes have gone exceptionally well, while others unfortunately fell short of expectations. But we learn a lot from those changes that didn’t go according to plan, as those often provide the best insights on what should have been done differently.

There are no shortcuts to implementing transformational change successfully. I’d like to share a few of my personal observations and lessons learned that I believe when followed, will increase the likelihood of bringing successful change to your organization.

Establish a Solid Foundation

1) Clearly define why the change is necessary. Some of the more common drivers, include:

• Improving business results/profitability
• Eliminating expense and reducing unnecessary waste from the organization
• Reducing known risks from the environment
• Complying with new regulations, laws or policies
• Responding to competitive threats

2) Establish clear and simple performance goals that all members of your team understand. The goals should measure specific outcomes, not activities, and cascade through your organization.

3) Identify key team members that have the “skill and will” to positively lead the change agenda. These internal change agents should already have trust and respect across your organization.

4) Selectively add external resources with prior experience that complements your existing team. The fresh perspective and experience of an external resource is a “staff multiplier.” They make your entire team far better by raising the bar for your internal top talent.

5) Pick an organizational change management methodology and fully commit to it. Make sure all team members are trained on the OCM methodology.

6) Establish the proper level of senior management sponsorship. It’s important that the senior sponsor is visibly supportive of the change agenda. His or her actions should demonstrate full alignment with the change. Confirm the senior sponsor will have adequate availability in his or her schedule to support the time demands of the program.

Kickoff Phase of the Change Program

1) Communicate your vision. It should be clear and concise. Emphasize the sense of urgency and explain the “Why now?” Helping folks understand the burning platform creates a sense of haste and unity.

2) Describe the expectations for each key role within the change program. Insure that each individual understands their role. High performing teams “play in position” and everyone knows the playbook!

3) Communicate why the change is necessary. It’s very important to describe the change in terms that each individual can understand. Getting to the “what’s in it for me” sets the foundation to build trust, understanding, and buy-in from all involved.

4) Describe what will change for your team. Individuals want to understand how their day-to-day activities will be impacted. If you are not precise and forthcoming, folks will fill in the blanks by making up their own story.

Closely Manage the Delivery

1) Frequently inspect your change progress, focusing on meaningful results and measurable outcomes. Invite others into the inspection process, especially those individuals that are not directly involved with the change event. That fresh perspective and independent set of eyes can spot issues that those closest to the details often overlook.

2) When milestones are achieved, celebrate the success. The celebration should be noticeable and memorable!

3) Demand transparency. Face the facts and don’t embellish. Problems and issues can’t be dealt with properly if they are camouflaged.

4) Nothing goes precisely to plan. When something goes astray that requires your attention deal with it promptly. Use the mistake as a learning opportunity and adjust accordingly. It’s better to find the problem early and course-correct than to ignore it and then risk running out of time or money to fix the problem.

5) Make the tough calls, if you need help raise your hand. People are always willing to help and they will feel even more appreciated when asked.

6) Survey the team periodically. Review the feedback and take specific actions including sharing the themes and improvement plans.

7) Have a little fun along the way. Everyone understands that transformational change is big, complex stuff; you’ve certainly earned it!

I hope you found a few ideas that will be of benefit as you prepare to lead your own organization through a transformational change journey.

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