Top executives’ tentatively agree on the BIG Rocks (strategic changes). Then provide the Big Rocks to managers and staff and ask them to identify what they think are the Big Rocks. The result is that 90 % of the resulting “synthesized” Action Plans are implemented. The process catalyzes inclusive leadership.
The success rate of business change project is poor. Too often, the implementation of the change project involves:
- Engaging the managers and employees (i.e., getting them on-side)
- Implementing the planned change and achieving the desired results (which may include transforming the culture, etc.)
- Overcoming resistance to change
A real cause for failure is that, according to managers and employees, the planned changes are sub-optimal or, even worse, ill-conceived and not the best way of achieving the desired results. Consequently, they are not motivated to support the planned change or transformation. At the end, the project does not meet expectations or outright fails.
Our proven Moving Forward Check-Up is comprised of five steps that are applied prior to commencing implementation:
- Test readiness
- Gather input
- Management Assessment
- Employee Engagement
- Synthesis and Action Plan
Prior to commencing Step 2, executives should:
- Commit to do a “high five” at the completion of Step 5, with managers and employees who will be impacted by the change
- Establish a Guiding Team whose members are trusted and respected throughout the organization
Our experience is that gathering input needs to be comprehensive. We often conduct an Organization 360 Feedback survey with input from everyone in the organization as well as external stakeholders, plus interviews with the opinion leaders in the organization.
A practical approach to conducting Step 3 is for the Guiding Team to analyze the findings and identify proposed Big Rocks (strategic actions), and then provide to executives for discussion (not as recommendations). The objective is for executives to identify what they think would be best, rather than debate recommendations.
Step 4 begins by providing managers and employees with the results of Steps 2 and 3 and then ask them to identify what they think are the Big Rocks that need to be moved in order to achieve desired results. The process for Step 4 depends on the number and location of the managers and employees to be involved, which is determined by who will be impacted by the planned changes and whose support is critical to move forward. Options include using a web-based collaboration tool or organizing focus groups.
Step 5 is led by executives with significant involvement of the Guiding Team. There are two sub-steps:
- Synthesize the outcome of Steps 3 and 4. Significant differences need to be reconciled by involvement of all concerned. If necessary, executives need to explain the rationale for rejecting any proposals from staff that are not acceptable from a corporate perspective, in order to keep them engaged.
- Develop an Action Plan that has traction, i.e., supported by sufficient number of persons and the right persons (e.g., opinion leaders) to be able to move into implementation and have a high likelihood of success.
We humans don’t like to be told what to do. We don’t embrace new possibilities until we have an emotional connection. This is what is achieved in Step 4: Managers and staff are empowered to identify what they believe would make a difference and achieve the desired results. This is distinctly different from asking them to review and comments on the Big Rocks.
The same concept is applied in Step 5. Where there are differences of opinion between executives and staff (managers and employees), these need to be resolved. Yes, executives have the final say but if they provide a compelling rationale, staff will “bend” their thinking.
To gain experience with the Moving Forward Check-Up, a pilot project would be to test it with an ongoing project (e.g., an IT system implementation) where there is a sense that there are opportunities for improvement. The first steps would be:
- Gather some evidence that there may be opportunities for improvement
- Present them to the project champion (representing both the IT supplier and the users)
- Propose a methodology (the Moving Forward Check-Up) to identify and develop agreement on (if any) opportunities for improvement (i.e., the Big Rocks)
- The first credit goes to a research organization that, twenty years ago, faced a need to prioritize research programs and projects. Their approach provided ideas on how executives could both lead (provide over direction) and still empower managers to be involved based on their knowledge of the programs and projects.
- The second credit goes to a client who, ten years ago, engaged use to perform an Organization 360 Feedback to catalyze a culture change. It was here that we incorporated ideas from (1).
- The third credit goes to the client in (2) who has engaged us to conduct what we now refer to as the Moving Forward Check-Up in subsequent organizations that he led and who recommended us to many others for whom we have applied the Moving Forward Check-Up.
We at Traverse Group (www.traversegroup.ca) have been fortunate to be at the right place at the right time to lead the evolution of Moving Forward Check-Up.