Change Management - Building support for change

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Change is hard and requires a lot of support to ensure that it is successful. Before you even get into planning a change, it is essential that you build support for the change and get the right people involved who will help you lead the change forward and overcome any obstacles that might otherwise prevent the change from succeeding.

Define the change

The first step of the change process is to define the change. In order to define the change you need to define two things:

  • Current state (what you are changing from) - You will need to clearly define the problems with the current state and why change is needed. When defining the problems with the current state, you should also identify consequences of not changing as this will help to create urgency for the change.
  • Future state (what you are changing to) - You need to clearly define what changes you plan on making to address the problems with the current state and what opportunities you can exploit.
building support for change

It is extremely important that you have a clear understanding of the current state and the future state before you do anything else, as this is the message that you will use to get people on board with the change.

It helps people to understand the need for change and creates a sense of urgency around the change, which in turn drives them to want to take action.

Identify key stakeholders

A stakeholder is anyone with an interest in the change, whether they are involved in the change or affected by it. By identifying the stakeholders in the change it will give you a greater understanding of the key people that you need to be involved in the change, as well as the people that you need to influence and gain their support for the change.

The latter is particularly important for people who are affected by change as they are (or their teams are) likely to resist the change. Getting the support of key people in these areas prior to rolling out a change means that you have powerful advocates for change where resistance is likely to occur.

When identifying stakeholders, you should consider:

  • Who is affected by this change? - Who does this change affect and who are the influential people in those areas?
  • Who do I need involved in the change? - Who are the key people that I need to play an active part in driving the change forward? Not everyone affected by the change will be a key player in the change.
  • Who do I need to sponsor the change? - Who are the people with the power and influence that I need to visibly support the change? Who has the resources that I need to make the change happen?

Get buy-in

Once you have identified the key stakeholders, it's time to gain their support and get them committed to the idea of change. You need to help them see that change is necessary and it's urgent.

Change management guru, John Kotter, suggests that you need to get at least 75% of the key people onboard with the change in order for it to be successful. This may take a lot of time and energy, but it is essential to have a strong foundation of support before moving on to the next steps.

To get buy-in you should:

  • Explain why the change is necessary and urgent - You need to be able to explain the issues with the current state. Identify potential threats and develop scenarios for what could happen in the future if the change doesn't happen.
  • Sell the future state - Explain the future state (i.e. what you're changing to) and sell the benefits of changing. Help them to see why this change is the right change to make.

Assemble a team of change leaders

No one person can single-handedly lead a change initiative that spans multiple departments or an entire organisation. By assembling a team of change leaders - that is, a team of people that collectively have enough power to drive the change forward - you give the change initiative the strength it needs to push forward despite obstacles and resistance.

Plus, these people will bring with them diverse experience and perspectives that will help to identify and sure-up any potential issues with the change.

When assembling a team of change leaders, you need to consider:

  • Position power - Your team should have enough people with power and influence that progress cannot be blocked by others in the organisation.
  • Expertise - Your team should contain a mix of expertise so that all relevant viewpoints are covered.
  • Credibility - Your team should have members that are credible and respected within the organisation so that people take the change seriously.
  • Leadership - Your team should have enough proven leaders with a track record of success who will drive the change forward.

Learn more

Next: Change Management - Planning the change