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How can I engage people in my change?

The Management Centre

In this blog, =mc‘s Principal Learning & Development Consultant Charlotte Scott shares insights on how to engage staff throughout a change process, by first analysing what’s driving the change.

How can I engage people in my change?

Question:

From Charity CEO: We are a growing organisation, and our programme work has grown significantly in the last three years. But we in danger of spreading ourselves too thin, perhaps even over-expanding and not making the impact we want. We need to focus more, and find smarter ways to leverage our resources. That will mean stopping some current programmes and probably saying no to some future opportunities that arise. But how do I explain this change of approach to staff, when they are so passionate about what we do, in a way that engages rather than alienates them? 


Answer:

To engage people in any change, you need to explain why change is needed. If people don’t have a real understanding of what is driving the change they won’t get on board.

These reasons for the change can vary – there could be positive drivers: possibilities or potential we believe is possible. Or there can be negative drivers: problems and issues we need to address.

The reasons for the change might be happening right now, or they might be events that could or will happen in the future.

To engage people in your change you need to identify where your drivers fit within these two factors:

Present

Future

Positive

Opportunity

Vision

Negative

Crisis

Risk

This gives you four ways to present the issues you’re trying to address:

Opportunities: are positive events or issues which are happening right now which we must take advantage of

Vision: are concrete possibilities, which, if we make the most of, will create a positive outcome in the future

Risk: serious problems which could happen in the future that we need to do something about now

Crisis: serious problems and issues happening right now that we have to address or the consequences will be very serious

When analysing the reasons for your change, they will often fit into many of these categories, and maybe all four at various point on the change journey. That’s great. That means you can communicate your change in a variety of ways.

People respond very differently to the way change is proposed. Some people are more inclined to respond to positive messages; others won’t be willing to change unless there is a genuine worry which forces them to. Some people are orientated to think about the future; others will only get on board if they can see there really is an immediate need to do so.

In your example you could explain the need for change in all four ways:

  • Opportunity: if we invest proper time and resources in our key projects right now it will have a massively positive impact on our beneficiaries
  • Vision: by spotting ways we can leverage our expertise and knowledge effectively, through working in partnership with others and advising key decision makers, we will be able to make long lasting improvements and the world we want
  • Risk: if we continue as we are and keep saying yes to every opportunity, our work will get less effective and we will all hit burn out
  • Crisis: by not focussing our energies right now we are letting our beneficiaries down; people are suffering and we are not making their lives better in the way we should.

We all know that in any change programme – communication is key. And explaining the reasons for your change is just the start of your engagement plan. You then need to discuss what will need to be done and what will people actually need to do. And do make it a dialogue – allowing your teams to join the discussion and add to any change proposal. But if your staff don’t understand the reasons why change is needed first, any engagement plan will definitely fail.

Good luck!

What’s next?

If you would like to speak to us about an in-house Change and Me or Managing Change programme please call 020 7978 1516 or contact us online.

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Charlotte Scott

About Charlotte Scott

Charlotte specialises in leadership development, team facilitation and strategy development. Charlotte worked for over 20 years in the not-for-profit sector. Before joining =mc six years ago, she developed and delivered organisational...

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