Monday, September 24, 2012

10 Questions That Should be Answered Before Any Major Change is Announced

Have you ever received an email from your manager announcing a significant organizational change that left you with more questions than answers? Sure, you could take the initiative and ask your questions, but given the lack of information, you’re not even sure if your questions would be relevant or not. And you certainly don’t want to be perceived as being resistant or “too focused on the details and not seeing the big picture”.

Or, have you ever attended a meeting in which a major change was announced, again, with lots of rhetoric and little substance? While sometimes there may be a few minutes at the end for questions, however, very few hands will be raised.

Now, after the meeting – in the hallways and in back in the cubicles -  that’s when all of the questions get asked. And unfortunately, no one is there to respond.

In either case, the end result is confusion, anxiety, fear, loss of engagement, and hundreds of hours of loss productivity.

Senior managers often announce these changes with good intentions. They want to get the word out as soon as legally possible, and they often don’t have all of the details. They often don’t have the time, expertise, or staff support to spend hours crafting elaborate “change management” communication plans.

The good news is, they don’t have to have all of the details. That’s not what employees need. They also don’t have to turn an announcement into a bureaucratic planning exercise. Really, all they need to do is use the following simple checklist.

If you are either announcing a change, or receiving direction on change, here are the 10 key questions that need to be CLEARLY addressed:

1. What is the change?

2. What business issue (s) is driving this change?

3. Why should we care?

4. How will this change help address these issues?

5. What alternatives were considered? What were the pros and cons of each alternative?

6. Why must this change succeed?

7. Where does this change fit with other organizational priorities?

8. How will people emotionally respond to this change, and how should we acknowledge their feelings (the good or bad)?

9. What is the first action we need to take?

10. What are the milestones we will use to measure progress?

Take the time upfront to answer or get answers to these questions and you’ll see a significant return on your time invested.


Sundar said...

A great post Dan. I'd probably modify, "Why should we care?" to, "Why should we care and what's expected of me?"

My experience is that a specific articulation of the "expectation" helps in creating clarity.

Dan McCarthy said...

Sundar -
Thanks! Good addition.

Colin Gautrey said...

Dan, great list, as usual. I'd like to suggest expanding number 8 into a deeper consideration of the losers, real or perceived. In my experience, those receiving set piece communications first personalise it before considering the bigger picture. If we prepare our thinking about the communities who are going to feel hard done by (etc.) and factor that into our communication we are likely to get a better result first time around, rather than having to.mop up in the corridors afterwards. In addition to minimising the negative reactions it also builds empathy and trust too, which are always handy when it comes to big scale change!

Dan McCarthy said...

Colin -
Thanks, good point!

Granny said...

In the interests of clarity and clear communication I've added to the first question "what will be different as a result of this change".

Dan McCarthy said...

Thanks. Sure, feel free to modify and use!