Principles of Implementing Change - Involve As Many People As Possible
This of course doesn’t mean literally everyone. But in practice the following two philosophies are key;
- The “Magic Triangle”
The three basic levels in an organisation consists of the following hierarchy,
- Senior managers
- Middle Managers
- The Workforce
At Newleaf International we use a colour code to define these;
- Greens for seniors,
- Reds for middle management
- Blue for the workforce
Wherever you view a part of an organisation draw a boundary around a slice of the business and, inevitably, there will be Greens, Reds and Blues within it!
The diagram below illustrates this in a simple form (don’t forget, simple is smart).
This could represent a total organisation or just a department and anywhere in-between, depending where you need to draw the boundary around the triangle to implement improvement.
When implementing a significant change all three levels must be involved. Take a significant project or initiative, reds should lead it, blues should be team members and greens should be actively sponsoring the project/programme by giving direction, support and helping address issues and roadblocks.
These projects should be chartered with clear scope, strategies, outcomes and measures, but that is for another day!
The absolute key here is all three levels are involved albeit with clearly different roles.
2) The “Three Thirds Rule”
It’s a myth that “no one likes change”. Unfortunately if Managers believe that, they will look for it and find it! Only some people in an organisation will not like change. A third actually! From my experience you can divide an organisation into thirds when it comes to attitude to change.
- A third of the employees will embrace it
- A third with will dig their heels in and resist it
- A third will not have a strong opinion and watch where the attention is focused
This is why facilitators of change and senior sponsors must understand that programmes should be started and not spend endless time trying to convince everyone to join in the process.
The first third will embrace it so they will be a critical mass to start behaving differently and trying new methods of work. When these people are seen to be supported by senior people, the middle third will join in and start to change their behaviour accordingly to the first third. This means before long two thirds of the workforce are aligned and joining in the change.
This shouldn’t mean that the final third, the negative people, who are resisting new ideas should be ignored. These people will have a lot of experience and they may have good reason why certain things won’t work, but that doesn’t mean that leaders should “bow to their whims”. If they have concerns that some things may not work, those things should be considered and passed to the enthusiastic first third before they get carried away and make blunders.
Often the final third, like the proverbial squeaky wheel gets all the oil, are seen to be the more dominant group, the danger is that the middle third who are looking for direction will join their attitude and this will become very difficult to change the culture, where two thirds are appearing to become negative.
So involving everyone, as a principle, means;
- people at the three critical levels in an organisation
- both positive and potentially negative people too.
Martin Gummery, MD NewLeaf International Ltd
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