Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cloning Advocates

When we want to invigorate our organization, we blast a change program out there, expecting big results. We maintain a lot of effort in that change program for quite a while. We expect at least half of the crew to get it and come along with us. Later, we believe, the rest will follow and put some energy into the New Deal for XYZ organization.

Unfortunately, 67-85% of change efforts fail depending on which study or expert you find. Instead of half of the team believing and acting on the change, you'll find you get 1 in 6, maybe--the so-called 'early adopters' and 'true believers'. Even with newsletters and company-wide meetings promoting the new initiative, the number of active warriors in this campaign is still low. In time, it might increase to 25%.

In order to increase the level of effort throughout the organization, you need to clone yourself. You need to create more advocates. You start by getting the message out in a variety of methods.
  1. Company-wide broadcasts: whether this is everyone gathered in a single room, or they're huddled around screens across the nation, you need to make sure everyone hears the same message. You might include the same information in an email or newsletter. However, this is necessary but not sufficient. People don't hear everything or read everything you say, so...
  2. Smaller, department or business unit meetings: In these, you can provide more information about how this change affects them and their current practices--policies and procedures, schedules and behavior, etc. What they didn't hear the first time, they have a second chance to catch onto the dream you're espousing. It gives everyone a chance to hear others questions and comments, as well as you to hear what the popular opinions and ideas are. You also need to tailor the message with various flavorings based on different personalities, motivators and organizational responsibilities. In some of these, you might consider less tell or sell styles of communication and more consulting.
  3. One-on-one or water cooler conversations: as you practice "open tour" management you're given an opportunity to reinforce the reasons for change and how it might look for the individual. You might learn more deeply what interests them, what their objections are and why they might be willing to buy into the change and be an advocate. As they learn more and "teach" it back to you, they will be teaching others about what the change means. What you want them to teach is that the change is a good idea, and not teach that it's a bad idea.
  4. Teaching moments: as you go about your daily activities in meetings, conversations, phone calls and negotiations, you will find opportunities to reinforce the change through what you say and what you do in each of those moments. You'll have the opportunity to remind others how to accomplish the new initiative in those moments, if they haven't made the connection between "routine" events and looking at them with a fresh perspective to see how you want to react differently.
People need to hear and see things many times to understand it. They need to practice new behaviors a lot before it replaces an old habit and becomes the new routine. That's why the change effort can't just be one meeting, one oratorial phenomenom and the hiring of consultants to spread out through the organization. You have to clone yourself. If you believe in the change, you have to create the new "believers" starting with those around you, but then moving throughout the organization more than you can afford.

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