Change is everywhere!
Manage It Strategically and Drive More Willing Adoption

As leaders, we’re faced with managing ever-accelerating changes in standards, technology, mobility, succession, transition, consolidation, the global economy, cultural values, the rise of the Millennial and more.

To manage change successfully, we must design, execute, and communicate our change strategy with the same focus and intent that we spend dreaming up our change. If we don’t invest the time to plan and communicate carefully, we risk it failing.

Successfully effecting change requires that leaders:

  • Develop a change strategy and communications plan
  • Execute the change communications and begin implementing their change
  • Adopt the change themselves personally
  • Acknowledge those who are making the change and encourage those who are not
  • Assess progress and identify changes needed to effect this and future changes

In this article, we will discuss change strategy and planning and identify important change motivators you can use to help drive change. In our Practice Perspectives article, we’ll explore change communications and learn how to develop and execute a change communications plan.

Developing Your Change Strategy

As a leader, you must work with your leadership team to develop a clear and unified change strategy. Ideally, you will meet to discuss and document your answers to these what, why, who, when, and how questions of change:

  • What change are we planning to make?
  • Why is the change occurring? What has led us to this change? What benefits will the change produce?
  • What new behaviors or actions does the change require?
  • What steps should those affected by the change expect to take (and when)?
  • What is not expected to change?
  • Who is affected and how so? Who is leading the change?
  • Who will be told of the change, when and how?
  • When and how will the change be implemented?
  • Which people, systems, processes, procedures, or other management structures will change, how will they change, and when will that change occur for each?

Your intention or motive behind any change can truly make or break change acceptance. To effectively drive change, consider these five change motivators originally identified by Everett Rogers, a technology change management expert who coined the term “early adopter.” People are more likely to change when they:

  • Believe they will personally benefit or gain an advantage from the change. To help others accept change, answer their unspoken question: “When I change, what will I gain or what’s in it for me?” For instance, when a midsize firm merges with a larger, regional firm, each firm’s people must believe that the change (the merger) will benefit them. Potential benefits might include being able to compete for larger engagements because of the more recognized brand or expanded technical abilities of the larger, combined firm, accessing better benefits, or having more confidence in the combined firm’s ability to pay expected retirement payouts.
  • Compare the change to the way it is now and see similarities. To agree to change, people want to see something they are familiar with. For example, when a firm relocates to another part of the city, leaders should compare the staff commutes to the new office with the old office commutes and then be prepared to communicate the differences and similarities to the staff and proactively address any disappointments from those whose commutes would be lengthened.
  • Understand the change. People are willing to accept change when it is explained in simple terms or broken into smaller steps that can be more easily understood. The more complex a change, the more critical it is for you to break it down. For example, when your firm moves to completely digital deliverables for client (no paper), the initial change can be hard for clients to understand. Break down any expected actions the client needs to take into steps like logging onto the digital delivery system (portal). Discuss one action at a time with the client to minimize overwhelm and inaction.
  • Test the change themselves. Form a pilot test group to allow a smaller group to test the change before asking a broader group to do so. This allows issues and concerns to be identified and handled, easing the way for those less comfortable with change. When you roll out your change using a pilot program, you allow those affected to feel that they can still have input on the change. This also allows you to roll out the change without the expectation of perfection, which allows for more flexibility and positivity when you experience bumps along the way. For example, when a firm implements a new outsource CFO/controllership service, it would be ideal to identify a small number of team members to be the first group selling and delivering the service—and selecting one or two clients with whom to test the service. This allows your firm to engage a small number of team members to learn “on the job” to save a lot of learning (and potential headaches) when you’re ready for the larger rollout.
  • Learn of others who have successfully made the change. Hearing the stories of people or firms that have already made the change successfully can provide confidence to those uncertain about the change. For example, when asking a group of firm leaders to move away from mandatory work periods during busy season, sharing case studies or articles or referring to other groups that have successfully made this change can help those affected feel more confident in the change being proposed.

As cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Change almost always starts with a small group of well-meaning leaders who must then enroll others in their ideas. When you have a strategic change to unveil, first take the time to craft your strategy and identify which of Everett’s change motivators you’ll use as appeals. When you do, you’ll be far more effective at engaging others in your ideas and driving real change.

What big change will you have to drive in 2016? What’s your strategy for it? If you would like to explore how ConvergenceCoaching can help your leadership team be more effective in managing and communicating change, contact Jennifer Wilson at or 402-933-2900.