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.