The CEO’s Transformation Roll-out

Change ManagementBy Chuck Thomas, president, The Valcort Group

Change has come to your company, division or unit. As the CEO, you’ve done all the research, all the strategy and planning, and the executive team is on board. Now, how do you get your broad employee base to change behaviors to better align to the customer and market?

There is no quick fix.  It’s quite impossible for employees to digest all the research and planning information with one email or one presentation.  Remember, it took you months, or perhaps a full year to get here. How can you drag employees through the same learning process in a flash, then immediately expect attitude and behavioral change that can impact your bottom line?

The messages and habits of change are not going to be delivered quickly.  For every employee to own it, each employee will need to engage, learn, discuss, consider the change needed, take action, and then see a success that reinforces his or her change.

The psychology of behavioral change based on Heinz Kohut’s model of “self-psychology” is the best proven framework to create engagement and change. Here is my take on his steps to behavioral change, which your people must walk through.

  1.  Common structure (The business, its values, history, trajectory, DNA)
  2. Common experience (Market changes, customers change, consolidation, RIF, good friends are gone)
  3. Frustration articulation (Job tasks are changing, new boss, new process, new friends; loss, insecurity, opportunity, excitement of new)
  4. Probing for solutions (What will we do differently?  What will we offer now that our customers really want?)
  5. Listening and absorbing counsel (Time to think, talk, consider; individual processing, group processing, team processing)
  6. Behavioral trial (What would change look like?  Let’s take action, try it. See what happens)
  7. Value reinforcement (Encouraging feedback; metrics show promise and opportunity)
  8. Change (Commitment.  Investment.  Just do it.  Implementing new task and work flow changes, innovating new solutions, more engagement)

It will require consistent and intentional communication over weeks, months and years, building upon itself. (Some say it takes 13-26 times before someone remembers seeing an ad; certainly many more times to understand it and the implications of it on their life and workflow.)

With some employees in certain jobs, initial acceptance of corporate shifts can be accomplished with a video, in 5 minutes. In other cases, it can take a great deal of conversation and reinforcement to drive behavioral change. Other key variables: an individual’s responsibility, risk tolerance and openness to trust others.

As chief executive, it’s likely that you’ve gone through this process over the last year. You saw it, experienced it, bought in, and saw the need to change.  You tested it, saw that it would work, and then drove change through your executive team and out the door to some of your key accounts. Now, your HR and internal communications teams will be key.

It’s time to take your employees through a time of transformation. Sounds tough, but ultimately it will be energizing!

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