5 Essential Change Management Principles

Despite how common the practice has become, many organizations continue to struggle with change management.Change Management

That’s because too many smart people mistakenly believe they can design their way into change.

This misplaced ambition isn’t surprising.

Smart people have a winning mentality. They’ve had great historical success, come from great schools, and have enjoyed rocket ship careers.

Many of them occupy analytical and strategic roles, thinking they can create the perfect plan for organizational success.

What they don’t realize is that many of the problems with change management have very little to do with the plan itself.

The key ingredient is execution.

In fact, it’s better to have great execution of a poor design than poor execution of a great design.

Successful change management requires blending strategy with leadership.

At XANT, I work with our Momentum Team. It’s our responsibility to not only help our clients come up with winning strategies, but to assist with implementation as well.

To simplify this process, we follow these five change management principles with every client.

I will approach this piece from a sales perspective, but the principles are universal.

1.   Executive sponsorship

At the end of the day, all employees report up a chain of command.

Employees respond to what their leaders ask them to do. That’s how they get paid, that’s how they get promoted, and that’s how they advance their careers.

We can’t ignore this dynamic. Instead, we must work with leadership and get them on board with the plan.

This is what we call executive sponsorship.

When the top in command buys into a particular strategy, she has the ability to influence her troops to follow it.

But this immediately begs the question: How do we get executive buy-in? How do we encourage her to lead?

The only way to get executive sponsorship is to align a design with that executive’s agenda.

We must understand how she’s managing her career, how she’s measured, how she’s paid, and what her next career objectives are.

If she believes this thing we are trying to accomplish will help her along her path, she’ll throw her support behind it. 

2.   Governance

Once we have the support of a field general, the second step is to form a supportive cast around her.

A governance model allows organizations to pull different personality styles together and create a team that is going to help the field general get her job done.

This team requires a few key players.

First, we’ll need a sales operations manager who gets things done.

We’ll also need a demand generation expert and representation from someone on the front lines, like one or two sales managers.

Lastly, we include someone from our Momentum Team to represent XANT.

The governance model isn’t only about assembling these people, but also putting a cadence together.

At XANT, we recommend creating an executive steering committee that meets weekly. This team, under the direction of the leader, is responsible for handling the high-level topics of the project.

Below them is an operations committee that meets multiple times a week. These are the people rolling up their sleeves and getting the work done.

3.   Process

Now that you have your leader and supportive teams, you need to map out your current process.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to point out that before you can attempt change, you need to understand what you’re doing now.

Truth be told, this can sometimes feel like a walk of shame.

You might realize some of the things you do are well out of date.

Maybe you’re still cutting and pasting leads into a spreadsheet.

Maybe you’re still taking a highlighter to the names and distributing them to your sales team.

That’s OK. It doesn’t matter. You need to suffer through the shame to understand all the moving pieces contributing to your end results.

For example, sales come from opportunities, which come from appointments, which come from outreaches, which come from leads, which come from demand generation activities.

This defines my funnel.

Once you’ve determined your current process, you can begin to understand what changes you need to make in order to improve your future state.

But before you can do that, you also need to understand and measure your current state.

4.   Baseline

In order to truly be successful, you must understand what will define your success. Otherwise, you are just meeting for meeting’s sake and executing a project for who knows what reason.

If you don’t define what success looks like, not only will you not know how to get there, but you won’t even recognize it if you do.

Like the famous lesson taught to Alice by the cat in Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, “If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

In the world of sales, we measure success in terms of dollars and cents.

In order for anyone to truly measure progress, they must have something to compare it to.

This is the baseline.

It’s important to remember that when we measure one thing against another, they must have a common denominator.

For example, I can’t say I’ve improved my sales process if I’ve increased sales from 90 units to 100 units while also doubling my sales force.

The best option is to use ratios that compare output per quantum of effort over a set period of time, such as sales per rep per month.

Once I’ve mapped out my current process and have my baseline sales metrics, I’m finally in a position to begin thinking about my future state.

This is where process and baseline often intersect.

My future state is a combination of the sales metrics I hope to attain and the changes in my process I’ll need to make to reach them.

5.   Ongoing measurement

The final step in this change management process is ongoing measurement.

Change doesn’t result from a few minor adjustments over a short time.

Permanent change and long-lasting success will almost certainly require tweaking things along the way.

The best way to handle ongoing measurement is to create a clean dashboard as a basis for the ongoing cadence of steering committee meetings.

This dashboard displays the key sales metrics you’ve chosen as indicators of success.

The dashboard also allows your governing body to determine how these metrics are trending compared to baseline and how they are trending compared to goal.

This will allow them to spot any problems and make the necessary course corrections.

For example, if you’ve set a goal of 80 calls per rep, but are falling short at 55 or 65, you’ll want to know why.

It might be because you’ve implemented new sales technology and your sales reps require additional training on how to use it properly.

Great. Now you know exactly where you stand, and what steps you need to take to find your way back to the path of success.

It doesn’t matter if you have 10 top strategists from 10 top schools. Brilliance isn’t the catalyst for change.

Successful change management stems from an analytical process of putting the machine together and field people driving it and making decisions.

Following these five management principles will close the loop. They satisfy analysts and strategists because it’s their machine, but also satisfy field generals because it’s their leadership that inspires human beings to do things differently.

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Dave Boyce

Image credit: SomeDriftwood

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