Change Management: Establishing Your Vision for Change

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While change is inevitable, the process can often be messy. With some research indicating that 70% of change initiatives fail, change management is no easy feat and requires careful planning to execute effectively.

In today’s quickly evolving business environment, change is no longer a rare occurrence. Rather, it is a normal and integral aspect of day-to-day business management. Uniquely positioned between revenue-facing reps and strategic functions across the business, sales enablement is essential to driving change initiatives forward while maintaining alignment between all stakeholders in the process.

“What I’ve learned is that change management efforts will likely fail if enablement isn’t engaged early or seen as a partner in the process,” said Helen Cummins, sales enablement leader.

For change to be successful, all stakeholders need to understand why the change is needed and what the ideal outcome is. This all comes down to establishing a clear vision that inspires stakeholders to shift their mindset toward supporting the vision and committing to the steps necessary to make that vision a reality.

“You really need to define why change is needed and why it’s the right way to go,” said Cummins. “How many times do we run into occasions where the vision wasn’t clear or is in contradiction to existing core values? Change is really hard. If people can’t share the same vision, then you’re not going to be able to successfully execute in the new direction.”

Sales enablement can help establish this vision for change by crafting the message, defining a course of action, enlisting stakeholder support, and engaging sponsors of the initiative.

Craft a Clear Vision

While most organizations have a vision statement, the change vision goes a bit deeper than this to provide a realistic and actionable goal that can guide the strategy for the specific change initiative. As John Kotter lays out in his book, “Leading Change”, an effective vision serves three core purposes:

  • Clarify the general direction of the initiative in order to save time and streamline processes down the road
  • Motivate people to act
  • Coordinate the efforts of the different people involved in the change initiative quickly and efficiently

This type of vision unifies both those who will be enacting the change as well as those who will be impacted by the change behind one purpose, which helps ensure all actions will be made with the intent of fulfilling the vision. In crafting this vision statement to serve the purposes above, Kotter offers six key characteristics to include:

  • Imaginable: Convey a clear picture of the future state that will result from the change
  • Desirable: Appeal to stakeholders’ long-term interests
  • Feasible: The vision is comprised of goals that are both realistic and attainable
  • Focused: It is concise, yet clear enough to provide guidance in decision-making
  • Flexible: It is general enough to allow for adjustments as conditions shift
  • Communicable: It can be easily explained and simply understood in five minutes or less

“If you can make it very clear to the people who are going to be basically executing the change…what it is that you’re trying to achieve and why you’re trying to achieve it, often that gets more buy-in versus the kind of dogmatic, autocratic, ‘you guys need to change. Here’s how you do it and here’s why you need to do it,’” said Aaron Evans, director of sales enablement at GlobalData Plc. “Telling them the why behind it is really crucial and important.”

During this stage, keep in mind that a perfect vision likely won’t be created in a single attempt. More often than not, there will be many drafts before the message encompasses all of the necessary elements. While sales enablement can be the primary owner of this process, it is important to rely on teamwork in the drafting phase in order to ensure alignment when translating that vision into strategy.

Define Your Strategy

After the vision is drafted and agreed upon, define the components of the strategy that will be necessary to achieve that vision.

“Define an agreed-upon action plan,” said Cummins. “At this stage, having enablement and key stakeholders agree on the vision and plan is critical for the successful execution of the transformation.”

In this stage, it can be easy for organizations to fall into the trap of overemphasizing the goal without putting enough effort into the underlying actions that need to take place in order to reach that goal. In defining the change strategy, consider the following components:

  • Deliverables: What are the specific milestones the change management team needs to meet?
  • Stakeholders: Who needs to be involved in the planning and execution of the change?
  • Timeline: What key deadlines must be met along the way?
  • Metrics: How will the team meet the business impact requirements defined?
  • Budget: What resources are needed to execute all components of the plan successfully?

“It’s not just about getting to this end goal,” said Arriane Emdad, head of operations at DSG. “It’s about the little changes that we all make along the way…Those are changes that need to occur to get to an outcome. But if we just talk about the outcome, people will fill in the blanks with how they think they should get there. It’s going to create separation within the organization at a time where you really need unity.”

Prepare Your Team

Once stakeholders are identified, assess how each will be impacted by the change and who needs to be involved in what aspects of the plan to ensure that impact is positive. To do so, consider the following questions recommended by “The HBR Guide to Project Management”:

  • Who will be affected by the outcomes?
  • Who is contributing resources?
  • Who will benefit from the outputs?

By understanding who all will be impacted and how, sales enablement can identify the right partners to involve and delegate roles accordingly. At a minimum, the team for any change initiative should consist of the following roles:

  • Sponsor: The project champion. This will often be a member of the executive leadership team
  • Change manager: Identify the core problem and craft the plan to tackle it. Sales enablement is well-positioned to assume this role.
  • Team members: Subject matter experts with the skills needed to solve the problem. Consider a wide range of skills that might be necessary for effective execution, including technical skills, interpersonal skills, organizational skills, and more.

Ideally, the team should consist of cross-functional partners from across the business who have some stake in the change or potential for influence. As the change manager, sales enablement can facilitate collaboration to ensure all members of the team are able to contribute their unique expertise. Additionally, the change manager is also responsible for building alignment and instilling a unified mindset across the team so that everyone involved feels accountable for success.

“It’s key to be prepared and to have partners that share that vision at the onset and frankly, who will collectively help achieve results when the organization hits roadblocks,” said Cummins. “So, partner early and partner often.”

Develop the Sponsorship Model

Once the team is assembled, ensure sponsors are engaged and supportive of the change initiative and all of the actions that need to take place for the change to be successful.

Presenting potential sponsors with a solid plan inclusive of the change vision, the strategy, and the team will help increase the likelihood of achieving buy-in because they will be able to see a clear overview of not only what the change is and why it is needed, but how it can realistically be achieved. Throughout the vision and strategy, ensure the key priorities of the executive team are emphasized throughout so that they can also seamlessly connect how the change will further their overarching goals for the business as a whole.

“By going through the planning and making people aware of the plans that you’re doing, you often get the buy-in through that process, and often you can make them feel a part of that plan as well by often canvassing their advice and their opinions,” said Evans.

Additionally, develop a sponsorship model to set clear expectations with sponsors in terms of what is needed from them to ensure the initiative is a success. In crafting this model, consider the following questions recommended by Prosci:

  • Are sponsors aware of the role they play in contributing to successful change?
  • Do they know what their responsibilities will be throughout the process?
  • Are they going to be active or visible throughout the execution of the initiative?
  • Will they advocate for the success of the change with other leaders?
  • Can they communicate directly with employees impacted by the change?
  • Are they prepared to help manage resistance?
  • Will they help celebrate success?
  • Do they have clear priorities that they are willing to commit to? Do they understand how the change initiative influences their priorities?

With clarity around what exactly is needed from the sponsor and the level of engagement expected outlined upfront, it helps avoid misalignment during implementation and also builds momentum for the change from the top-down.

Defining a clear, actionable, and motivating vision for change is not just the first but arguably the most important step in effective change management. Having messaging that is well thought out and easy to articulate behind why the change is needed – and how to get there – will help sales enablement secure buy-in from leaders and sponsors and get the right team on board from the onset of the initiative. Ultimately, establishing a clear vision will also make it easier to communicate the change to those that will be impacted most.

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