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stakeholder engagement Archives - Garrett's Change Management Blog

Change Management’s True Start Point

ChangeStartChange starts at the point where the person with the idea tells someone else.

Or, to be more precise, it begins with the next thing that happens. If you are looking for an EXACT starting point it is when a third person gets the original idea explanation.

One person’s idea becomes a dialogue that creates an initial action (almost always involving a third person) and you have started change.

This is not something to shrug off.

Because it is at that second interaction/third person included that Change Management also begins. I posted about this, “Front Loading Change Management” and created the term “Front Loading” because every engagement I had participated in at the time started their change management process waaaay too late. Front loading seemed to stick as a term to reduce disparity of perspective (and make my explanations to senior leadership easier).

Since then the disparity has become even more apparent with clients as companies market a linear, template oriented approach to change. That tends to create a “Big Bang”  that is full of fancy communication and a “start date”.

Front Loaded Change


If you are front loading change you are looking to:

  • Define the make sense nature of the change from multiple stakeholder viewpoints.
  • You are testing the waters for ideas within the change process for specific things, people and groups.
  • You are assessing the environment (which is very different from assessing “readiness”).
  • You are looking for first adopters (which is very different from scouting for “resistance”).
  • You are engaging and developing an inclusion process that is genuine.
  • You are looking for and finding expertise (and lack of needed end state expertise).
  • You are increasing the visibility of change management without asking for or mandating anything (that can, and likely will to some extent, come later).

In general you are working to gather information that makes a start date (the celebratory kind not the mandate for-speed kind) seem like just one of the days in the overall process. “We started a long time ago” is what you should be hearing. The opposite of this is “Change as an Event”.

The actions you take, the connections you make and the level of communication (formal and informal) you have during this front loading should be part of the full change management plan.

If I were to come in and have a conversation about your change with you (keep in mind unless you had the idea talking to me means you are starting the process or are well into it- 99% of the time it is the second option) I would ask a lot of questions. The answers to those questions are all the things you would get with a front loaded process. Good answers would show you truly understand this change from the eyes of the stakeholders, the mind of the owner and the needs of the business.

An idea is heard by a second person. A third person is included in some way. Change has started. Everything you do before firm dates are set and the project process explodes with a Big Bang is the Front Load Phase of Change Management.

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Spreadsheet or Public?

imageI coach soccer.

A parent volunteered to create a website with Shutterfly (quite the smart marketing idea for a photo company to provide this service for free). Looking at the preloaded site I realize most of the things I am keeping track of as a coach are there (the parent loaded what I gave him). But not everything. As the coach I have information that should not be shared (or at least have levels of security)…

For a previous post, “Change Management What to Keep Track of”, I looked at what might go in a CM spreadsheet.

Now I am wondering about the spreadsheet itself.

This is why: My information will always have to be entered twice.

In the soccer scenario when a parent adds  vacation time I can choose to also put it in my spreadsheet. If a parent gives me vacation information, and I want that available for the team, it has to be recorded twice.

The same thing happens on engagements. I have had this double entry scenario when making lists of competencies. It is helpful for stakeholders to know who the experts are. That talent recording will always be in my CM spreadsheet.

Reactions to This

  • If websites (for organizations usually SharePoint) can sort then what is the point of the separate spreadsheet?
  • If the practice was to make most things public then the whole issue of recording to show you have done something goes out the window (and you get others to do the tactical work).
  • CM processes will/would have to change if information is really “web based”. Do we store the things we look at but don’t want others to see separately, or just keep that information in our heads? (I always have a file that looks a little like the red, green, yellow process I pick on to keep my own notes on individual and group stakeholder motivation).
  • What would be the reason for having a public forum? (In the case of the soccer team it could be as a place to share all of the information that might otherwise fly around in emails. The same could be said for the organizational version).
  • If you build it will they come? (hint the answer is not so much).

A portal could replace spreadsheets (or another type of file) or it could be twice the amount of work for the change team. Where is the balance between transparency/information and secure storage/note taking? Thinking this through with soccer as a comparison has me wondering about some assumptions we are making about change management’s engagement process and exchange of data.

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Change- What do Stakeholders Need to Be “Ready” For


Another round of debate about “Readiness Assessments” going on in discussion forums.

Disclosure: I think those assessments were made up to justify some of the work companies wanted to be able to sell.

Having said that, there is a place for pre-work that lines things up so that change can move along smoothly.

I still believe it is entirely possible for people to move along those change paths.

If the road is unlit, full of curves and barely navigable then, of course, they will not be “ready”.

If you complain about the path and act as if 18 wheelers will constantly veer into your lane, participation may become a little weak with your initiative (and if you are a change firm lots of time will need to be spent getting people “ready”). How do we know if we are ready for anything around the corner anyway? It seems a silly question to me…

So a short list of things that DO make sense to get ready for:

  1. The Work
    Change always requires a little work- in our personal lives and for organizations. Being ready might mean gathering a little expertise, or paying to add something to your capability. It might mean setting other things aside to make sure there is space and time to get work done. It might mean acknowledging that for some time there may be more work than normal.
  2. The Motivation
    This may have been the reason for those assessments. Are people motivated to participate? Don’t force yourself, or anyone else (those New Year’s Resolutions to exercise are premeditated change that never really works right- you should have asked yourself if you were ready) to jump into change before there is any information. Readiness Assessments happen before anything else. See the circle?
  3. The Structure
    If the “ready or not” list includes all those things that might be missing or need to be tweaked for these new end states then asking for the list makes sense. Separate from my own kind of Get Ready list (which is made up of questions to get the answers for what is missing not to gauge individual comfort level) I have not seen this. Get ready by creating a supporting structure for the new environment- who reports to who, how people will be rewarded, what part of the status quo will work and be acceptable, etc.
  4. The Activity
    You will have a beehive of some kind of activity. It helps to imagine how crazy (maybe in a fun way?) that will be and prepare yourself. When those stakeholders were asked if they were ready did they get this explanation about the energy and activity level? And did they have a chance to catch their breath before the bees swarmed in?

Perhaps I will give you a list of things that are assumed to be on a “readiness” list that make little sense…

Be discerning in your quest to see how “ready” your stakeholders might be. And maybe start on the readiness of the organization itself, sans people, before you make the change path look like some scary trail through a dark forest?

  1. T

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Pyramids to the Sky


Change is often forced.

I call it the “Pyramid to the sky” approach.

This has to be done because someone said it has to be done.

You are all enslaved here so you will participate.

This change makes no sense whatsoever to anyone but the “Pharaoh”.

The only hope for the participants is to somehow enjoy the journey or the teamwork.

Oh, and staying alive.


How is this scenario much different than the software that is added because some leader got “sold” on it?

How is this any different from the founder who has been the figurehead (and in many ways the dictator) who suddenly decides it is time for “collaboration” (under much the same structure)?

Is this not the change that forces sales people to do something new with zero rewards (other than keeping their jobs)?


Odds are all of these change scenarios will have a modicum of resistance.

Both might even have the nasty hidden kind- sabotage.



There really is a good reason for this change.

And getting there requires distinct skill and expertise.

Understanding and explaining the reason and acknowledging (and rewarding better than, “you stay alive, you keep your job’) skill and effort might just get that pyramid built.

Take a look at your change idea. Is it your own Pyramid to the Sky?

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The Two Change Management’s

There are two change management’s now: one for the end state focus and for attention to impact.

You would think that change management would be about describing the change, figuring out the path to get there and making sure everyone is informed and has a chance to change and be a part of the change.

It is with our first CM. The second is a role of its own- working with those who will either actively participate (the project  and extended team) or will be “impacted” (in quotes because this term is heavily overused within organizations).

End State Focus Change Management

This is the CM that spends time up front (“front-loaded change” was a term I used for a previous client to put CM where is should belong, which would not be front loaded just normal) helping the first round of stakeholders understand the change. The process of developing understanding facilitates end state descriptions- different versions of the end state depending on the stakeholder or group.

End State Change uses time to connect with stakeholders (for this CM stakeholders means anyone connected to the change) as close to the individual level as possible. Time spent early on with this connection helps prepare for participation, for possible behavior change and for resource planning (based on expertise and availability).

End State Change will always focus on the goal(s) before operational needs. This CM knows operations will be different after the change so it is operations that must adapt for the new environment.

This CM knows that change continues in a different form for the life of the company. So this change is a foundation for the next change. Time changes when you have this perspective. The specifics of deadlines, beginnings, endings and milestones are flexible and usually take awhile to become actual dates (if they do at all).

There is plenty of “fighting resistance” with this CM, but it is in the context of finding the core reason for unwillingness and balancing that against the view back from the end state.

Impact Change Management

The second change management is the CM that a middle manager sees- who will be impacted and what do we need to do because of that. This focus assumes that ALL change hits someone hard in some way. This CM spends time looking for all the roadblocks (read people, or more appropriately, persons) that will get in the way of the path forward.

This change management always focuses on operations first. Getting this change to happen with as little disruption is foremost. This change management assumes it will find a way to “integrate” this change into operations (I almost wrote, “the fabric of the organization” but realized that would be a version of our first CM).

Impact CM is a race to loop those to be impacted-potential-resistors into the process as quickly as possible (hopefully in line with incredibly crunched timeframes).

Resistance fighting is key. Getting stakeholders (this definition means people within the organization that will have something taken away or that will not participate just because- they all have their “just becauses”) on board or out of the way is essential. Helping to genuinely change behaviors is a distant second.

Impact CM is controlled by time. In fact in most change cases within organizations this CM starts the instant firm specific dates are set.

Change management has taken two forms- end state focus and impact focus. It may surprise you that I think senior consultants heavily invested in the first version are getting pretty good at the second (do we have a third hybrid version?).

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From My Eyes


Disclosure: I may be guilty of this too.

Are your change practitioners (or you?) looking at change from one perspective?

Are they more interested in getting everyone to “kiss the cook” rather than arrive at end states?

The forum and discussion answers I see for change, executive and function groups sound as if the responders, “know what is good for people”. The more those responders think resistance and the current state are the most important things to pay attention to the more they sound like they know what’s best. When they really get on their soapbox (which usually sounds like the talking points of heavily marketed approaches- not their own thoughts) they have a telling voice rather than an explanatory one.

If your perspective and approach is stakeholder focused wouldn’t everything be explanatory?

I have read hundreds of different approaches, models and business books about change. For every approach backed by “scientific study” there is an individual (or two or three and they are ON your initiative) that is an outlier, represents something the researchers left out or is more like most people than those the scientific work studied.

Yes people have a tendency to do certain things and act certain ways- “human nature”. But they just as easily surprise you both positively and negatively (and that measure is heavily  influence if a practitioners sees the change world from their own blinders).

Here’s a short list of things that make CM practitioner focused:

  • Internal consultants- are measured through the performance system so unless they have humility of steel they will do what is best for themselves first.
  • “Certificated” practitioners-Unless they have multiple certifications (which would simply multiply the initial ridiculousness) this is single minded and solely focused.
  • Project focus- the more narrow the framework the more practitioner focused the approach.
  • The fight to own the change process internally- the more competition to own the internal approach the more competitive (competition internally breeds self centered perspectives).
  • Middle people- middle managers, middle procurement people, gatekeepers, “signer” decision makers all get in the way of the connection between stakeholders and practitioner, or better, stakeholder and end state.
  • A present gap filling focus- looking from here to somewhere is about as inward and self-focused as you can get (versus looking back from a different perspective).
  • The huge “failure” rate of change- this can get to the best of practitioners. The more it seems impossible to move stakeholders toward change the more you feel like being a parent and forcing them into what is best for them. Wrong on both counts.

This change thing is about the end state and the stakeholders, not you as a practitioner. If you are a leader it is the same and then about you as a stakeholder and then about “you” if you want (at that point you have permission :-).

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Work Life Balance Change Rewards

When organizations fall into the, “something is forcing us to cut” perspective, or a new technology is added that increases productivity, or training/development helps efficiency, or collaborative efforts speed up process, where does the savings go? The dollar version goes to the bottom line.

What about the time savings? Where does it go?

The cold hard answer is out the door, represented by “unneeded bodies” (not people just bodies…).

What if that time savings was given back to stakeholders?

This seems like an easy investment in people.

If the time is given back to stakeholders that might mean someone makes a kids soccer game they would have missed (I can vouch for the fact that productivity skyrockets the next day from the warmth those times give you). It might mean, for those who do not have kids or because of that miss this, a stakeholder gets to participate in their favorite hobby. Same principle for that productivity increase the next day.

In a client discussion over time savings and metrics yesterday I realized that productivity metrics could be tracked and then fed back in as the reward system for change. Quite literally it could be languaged as more soccer games and similar stakeholder after work enjoyment.

How different would that approach from  the, “we made things easier for you now get to work” approach?

There are so many little and big changes within the operation of a company that produce time savings. Why not keep track or that and acknowledge stakeholders with results?

Basically stakeholders have the same work load sped up by some change. By not increasing the work load as a result you have made it easier for employees to get things done and/or freed up time for them to use in some way. My guess is productivity would increase even more. Not to mention the overall effect of morale that comes from Kudos and noticeable reward.

For your next change (assuming most change increases productivity in some way) take the benefits the organization accrues and feed that back to the stakeholders who participated in the change. Call it the Work Balance reward. Odds are that will have a productivity multiplier in your organization.

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