There are a wealth of strategies out there that will help you drive and manage change in large and small projects—I’ve shared four simple techniques to lead change here before. Yet these often feel very abstract. The approach sounds great, but putting into practice? Not so easy.
I’ve come to rely on a set of tools that, no matter that project, help me to wrap my head around the problem and put good techniques into action. I’m sharing my three favorites for creating a change management plan: a Stakeholder Map, Source of Influence Map, and a Communications Plan.
Stakeholder Mapping (Influence / Impact / Support)
Before implementing change, I need to understand how the change will impact stakeholders, both individuals and groups, and determine their current level of support for the change. My ultimate goal is to influence all major stakeholders so they, at minimum, no longer oppose, or ideally, become active supporters of the change. To do this, I turn to the Stakeholder Map.
In its basic form, the Stakeholder Map is a 2×2 matrix that plots stakeholders based on how much they support or oppose the change (X axis) along with how much they will be impacted (Y axis). The objective is to understand who needs special attention in the change management plan. For example, a highly impacted stakeholder group with a low level of support will need more attention during the change management process than a minimally impacted stakeholder who already has a high-level of support.
You can build on this further by color-coding the stakeholders based on their level of influence, adding a third dimension to highlight key stakeholders. This added factor becomes important as you plan: the influential-supporters can become your project’s champions, while the influential-opposition should be the first group you seek to engage.
Mapping Sources of Influence on the Current Situation
Once you understand your major stakeholders and the change you want them to make, it is time to identify what existing forces influence their current behaviors.
I’ve heard before that no process is broken; rather, every process is perfectly designed to achieve the current outcome. That means your process isn’t broken simply because it’s not achieving your desired outcome—it’s achieving what it was designed to. You must first look at the existing forces influencing people’s behavior.
While there are several models you can use to map sources of influence, I like to use the model developed by Vital Smarts. They take the basic ingredients for change—motivation and ability—and further segment them by the personal, social, and structural factors that influence them.
The goal with this model, or any model you use, is to identify which influencers exist in each of these six categories AND how you, as a change manager, can combat these influences to encourage a change in behavior. These influencers may be different for each stakeholder group, so each group should be analyzed individually to maximize the result.
As you’ve probably seen, many organizations resort to a simplistic two-pronged approach to change management that’s intended to address everyone at once: inform and train. This “strategy” often results in something like a mass-email with an attached Standard Operating Procedure or Quick Reference guide—and that’s it. However, when you’ve already plotted the six sources of influence above for each stakeholder, you can start to see how many factors are ignored (and I won’t even get into adult learning theory!).
By considering one or two more sources of influence in your implementation plan, you’ll greatly increase your chance for success.
Communication Plan (with Feedback Loop)
Lack of communication is one of the biggest causes for project failure. As such, it is imperative to consciously plan your recurring communications. While a Communication Plan is not intended to capture all of your day-to-day or ad hoc communications, it should outline a high-level plan of ongoing communications with targeted stakeholders.
This should, at a minimum, include how you plan to update your project sponsor(s) on progress and how/when you will communicate with the stakeholders identified as highly impacted and those who are highly interested (sometimes this is the same group). If possible, you should leverage highly influential stakeholders identified in the stakeholder map to deliver some of the messages. Lastly, you should include in your plan methods to receive feedback on the communications.
One-way communications will only get you so far. It is the feedback that will enable you to improve your messages and better understand what your stakeholders really think. In fact, you may want to identify methods to only receive input (e.g. focus groups, interviews, listening sessions) if you don’t have a separate plan to gather the voice of the customer.
It’s the journey, not the destination
These tools aren’t magic. Their true value is realized by going through the process of thinking through these areas and incorporating the results into your execution. A communication plan blindly followed will not provide the same benefit as executing your project with a clear sense of your stakeholders’ needs, what’s important to them, and what may be influencing them behind the scenes that could become roadblocks to change.
Regardless of the methods you choose, anytime you need to impose a change you should consider:
- Who’s impacted, the degree of impact, and who is opposed to the change.
- Barriers that may increase resistance to change and opportunities to make the change easier (i.e. increase motivation and ability).
- How communication will be managed to drive motivation and ability.