I’ve written about change and change management several times over the years, especially last year. After all, customer experience management really is (all about) change management. Change is hard. Well, it can be. But it’s especially hard when not everyone sees or agrees with your change vision.
I recently wrote about alignment, especially among executives, why it’s important, and how to achieve that. Alignment among employees is also critical to success when it comes to change and change management. If you don’t have everyone on board with where you’re headed, it becomes problematic, in many ways. But getting everyone on board is a challenge, so if you can get most people in line with the desired outcomes of your change vision and the work that is required to get you there, you’re well on your way.
I recently read about The 20/60/20 Rule. It seems to come from a CEO of Waste Management, who was hired to turn the company around after a scandal. In an Entrepreneur article, the author, a former Waste Management executive, notes that the rule goes like this:
“Twenty percent of you know where we are going and are on board with it. Sixty percent of you understand the need for change but are skeptical that we can really do this. My job is to win you over. And 20 percent of you do not agree with our plan and have already made up your minds about it. My commitment is to ensure you a fast and graceful exit.”
The Bottom 20 Percent
Well, does that 20 percent deserve a fast exit? Probably not. As a matter of fact, it’s a good idea to listen to them to understand their hesitation and to potentially hear some suggestions and ideas that might (a) improve upon the existing change plan and (b) bring them along and into alignment. That may help bring that percentage down, maybe cut it in half, or more. But, at some point, you will have to decide if the remaining folks after that are truly a good fit for the organization – culturally or otherwise. Some would advocate for that swift exit for this group, as they can be toxic and drag others down. They should be addressed first to ensure that doesn’t happen.
The Other 80 Percent
As for the other 80 percent, the top 20 can help to allay the fears or concerns that the middle 60 percent have. That’s an important role for them and is one way to help them feel like they are involved in the change, as well. As for the 60 percent on the fence, they are an important group to bring along – it serves you well to understand who they are and what their concerns are. Spend most of your time with this group. Give the top 20 percent the tools to help them help the 60 percent move in the positive direction.
This rule actually reminded me of two things:
1. Know Your Audience
When it comes to knowing your audience, I have employed both employee interviews and stakeholder interviews/ analysis to identify who’s on board, who’s not, whether they need to be, and, if not, what their roles are or can be. Take the time to talk to folks to understand why they’re not on board. Personalize the conversation to the person you’re speaking with. What do I need to know about you in order to convey the message in a way that resonates. Close the loop with them on what you heard and what you did with what you heard.
2. Not Everyone Learns the Same Way
How you communicate the change and your change vision is important. Make sure that you are clear on the who, what, when, where, why, and how – and, especially, what happens if we don’t change. Be sure to tell the change story to help people understand. But more importantly, not everyone learns the same way, so talk to them to find out how to best convey the change vision that will help them understand its significance to the success of the business.
Don’t automatically discount anyone in the change process. Don’t blow off folks that you think don’t agree with the impending change. Provide the opportunity to hear ideas, concerns, and feedback and then use that information to decide how you’ll proceed – with these various groups and with your change approach.
If your startup builds a room full of pessimists and you have one optimist at the table, then I think you’re in the wrong business. But the other way around is invaluable and necessary. ~ David Cohen