Can you think of the best cake you have ever had? For me, it was a hummingbird cake that my cousin made for my bridal shower. This was not her first baking endeavor. And the cake was astounding, both in taste and appearance. But it also helped me realize how much effort my cousin put into becoming a proficient baker—hours of planning and diligent execution.
Much like a great-tasting cake, successful change management takes thoughtful planning and diligent execution, repeatedly. You should approach change management the same way a baker approaches his or her recipe: with practice. Although becoming a good change practitioner takes practice, over time, you will become confident and successful in any upcoming change initiative.
To become that master cook in the kitchen of change, let’s look at five key steps I have seen in my organizational change management experience which will provide you with the organizational (not culinary, sorry!) skills you need for change success.
1. Create the change recipe
You need a process (i.e., a recipe) to implement change. The organizations that are most successful in implementing change know where they are and where they want to go. And, perhaps more importantly, they are willing to follow a well-defined process to help them get there. Your recipe for change is just as important as the level of talent executing the change initiative.
Take a bit of time to consider the following change management methodology “cookbook” I prescribe to personally, ADKAR from Prosci.
2. Gather the ingredients for change
Once you have decided on a proven process that you believe will work for your organization and the nature of the change, you should piece together the ingredients for this recipe. Essentially, you need to identify who your strategic initiative’s key sponsors are and vet your recipe for change with these stakeholders.
The best change processes include a rigorous emphasis on alignment, implementation, and sustainment. If you don’t have buy-in from the executive level, your employees will know and likely keep your change efforts from being successful.
When deciding how to approach your change initiative, consider the needs and perceptions of all stakeholders. You can do this by crafting stakeholder-specific plans to help different functional areas laser-focus on what changes are coming their way and see what their involvement looks like in their part of the recipe for change.
3. Follow the change recipe steps
It is easier said than done to act on a change plan. Just like with a recipe, it is crucial that you are diligent in following each step so that the cake turns out just right. It also helps for everyone at the table to have the recipe for change available to them. When stakeholders have the plan, it not only helps with accountability, but it also fosters the desire to change and to be prepared for the change. This also includes taking the time to build people’s ability to adapt to the change via training and support initiatives.
4. Don’t undercook your change
When working on a project, it’s tempting to keep our heads down at all times since it is still in progress. However, it is actually better to engage stakeholders on updates regarding your change initiative, so you do not accidentally get to the end of the recipe and then realize that you have missed a critical requirement.
Creating methods to enable ongoing dialogue at all levels of the business demonstrates a commitment to the change that is authentic and healthy. You can engage stakeholders using mediums like newsletter announcements or manager meetings. In these forums, you can hear what is going well and what may be missing.
You should also align on your change initiative’s metrics for success. Success should not be vague. When your people understand precisely what kind of cake they are going to get and how their contributions matter, they are more motivated to achieve the desired results. Everyone should be visualizing the same thing, and they should be in lockstep on how to achieve it. You should regularly report on defined benchmark progress and goals, so your change initiative does not undercook.
5. Adapt your change recipe over time
After you have executed your change initiative, assess what went well and what you would like to improve for future projects. This way, you can adapt your recipe to what best fits your business for future change endeavors.
All in all, make sure your recipe for change follows a process where you have added in your own flavor—the little quirks and special additions that will make the change truly your own and more eagerly eaten (I mean, adopted). Remember to define your plan for change, involve the appropriate stakeholders, execute against your plan, and adapt it over time. Best of luck with your next dish!