How to land change (without having to use the emergency evacuation slide)

It’s well understood that whatever the outcome of Brexit, our relationship with Europe, both at a national and at an individual level has changed. For some this will be viewed as a change for the better, for others, a change for the worse. We are all already on that well-trodden change curve of emotions, from shock or denial, to blame and maybe eventually, hopefully, to acceptance and moving on.

We are all, in our individual organisations or personal circumstances driving change and/or are being subject to change. But how well planned is your flightpath to landing that change?

Here’s a scenario: you have invested huge amounts of time and money in the latest technology and process re-design; everyone has been trained and you have made their lives so much easier (of course you have!). Yet months later, people are still carrying on in their old ways. Where are the business improvements you expected? And when will the disruption and noise you're experiencing subside?

Of course, we all know the reality that organisations don't just change because of new technology, streamlined processes or new organisation structures. They change because the people within the organisation adapt and change too. Only when the people within it have made their own personal transitions can an organisation truly realise the benefits of change.

So how can we increase the likelihood of our change landing successfully?

I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing organisations, helping them to deliver complex change and based on that experience, here are three things I’ve learnt to help ensure change lands and lands well (and ensuring that we don’t have to use the emergency evacuation slide!)

“Ladies and gentlemen, we now request your full attention”

I’m stating the obvious I know, that communication is so critical to successfully landing change, but isn’t everyone a little fed up of the same old staid and formulaic channels being used? It’s tough to get across a message that no one really wants to hear, or thinks that they have heard before, so maybe we need to get creative and shake up our communication strategies a bit.

I’m stating the obvious I know, that communication is so critical to successfully landing change, but isn’t everyone a little fed up of the same old staid and formulaic channels being used? It’s tough to get across a message that no one really wants to hear, or thinks that they have heard before, so maybe we need to get creative and shake up our communication strategies a bit.

If you’ve flown on British Airways in the last couple of years you’ll have seen their Comic Relief collaboration safety video. Now I’m obviously not suggesting we can all engage the fabulous Ian McKellen or the talented Thandie Newton for our TownHalls, but we can invest some time and ingenuity in making our content a little more engaging.

Think differently about the channels and tools you can use to bring individuals and teams together in a more natural way. Slack is a great option, a team collaboration tool with easy sharing of information and messaging. What about Workplace by Facebook, already popular within some organisations, use it to create a private group to share information, progress and updates. If you have a breadth of information to share how about creating market-place or speed-dating events where your business areas can be inquisitive with the project teams, have the opportunity to chat informally, ask questions and understand more?

And of course always remember; keep communicating, even if you think nothing has changed!

Time to Check-in

Does your target audience really know where you are heading and why?

People will always want to understand what the change is, why it is happening, what it will mean for them personally and for their job. Reactions that are really just thinly disguised barriers include; “we tried that before..”, “it’s not broken…”, “it can’t be done…”, “we are too busy…” to mention but a few that we have all heard.

So be prepared for these, be proactive with the responses and conversations and absolutely be ready to be patient with those who struggle to “get it”, be able to answer with “..this matters to you because…”.

The context of the change matters far more than content when it comes to winning hearts and minds, so however busy you are, cancel your 1 to 1 time with the people impacted at your peril. In fact, ramp up the amount of time you spend with them as individuals and as a group. Be available, be visible, make time, and ensure people feel that they have access to you and other senior sponsors.

I worked with an organisation implementing a customer relationship management tool to its global sales teams and whilst I drastically increased my air-miles to be as visible as I could to the target audience, I clearly couldn’t be everywhere. So as well as a establishing a credible group of business sponsors to also be visible and “on message”, we created local teams of “champions”, who we brought together, spent quality time with and they became our eyes, our ears and our activists on the ground.

Air traffic control

Air traffic control centres are responsible for tracking the position of all aircrafts within their airspace, keeping them all safe, avoiding mid-air collisions and ensure successful landings.

When it comes to landing change successfully within an organisation consider what your air traffic control team might look like.

Within one organisation that I worked with, we created a Business Implementation Team, dedicated, experienced and trusted resources from the area of the business impacted by the change, who worked with the project team from the get-go. Their role as virtual air traffic controllers was to have over-sight of all the change impacting their business, influencing the change design and execution. Having that team, sourced from the business gave it weight, credibility, helped those impacted by the change feel that they had a voice and a say in what was being done to them and was a valuable communication channel for the project. Ultimately it helped ensure the change was successfully landed.