A new year brings with it the kickoff of new programs and new pursuits. It’s likely you’ve done your strategic planning, created a vision and settled on goals. Your team has even crafted the roadmap to get you there. Change is on the horizon for your organization! But what exactly is the fuel that sets your ideas for change into motion?

To power organizational change from the drawing board to mission completion, you need to instill three essential elements into your enterprise: knowledge, ability and motivation.

These elements are mutually dependent on one another, each feeding off the others. Together, they tear down physical and behavioral barriers in the enterprise. Here’s what you need to know about these three elements, and how to use them to power your transformation.

The Elements

Creating Knowledge – Change does not happen unless stakeholders are aware of what is being changed and why.
Developing Ability – To help create new outcomes, stakeholders will likely require a new skill or capability and an opportunity to participate.
Generating Motivation – Humans are often resistant to change unless they have a specific motivation to behave differently.

Creating Knowledge

Too often, change information comes out in either spurts or tidal waves, and neither method actually produces actionable knowledge about the reasons for the change. Too little or infrequent information creates rumors or guessing. Too much information builds confusion or panic. Spreading word about what is changing—and why—in a consumable rhythm is critical. Solid reasoning that accompanies announcements allows both the public and employees to see why change is happening and how it affects them. Here are some ways to create knowledge that cultivates acceptance:

Communicate Proactively: When we rely on ad hoc opportunities to communicate change, we lose the ability to drive the conversation. To create successful change, you need a strong, proactive communications plan that allows you to anticipate and address knowledge needs. Create a plan that segments stakeholder and public communications messages. What do they need to hear? How will they best consume it? What will preempt issues? Be proactive about communicating change – don’t wait for problems to come to you.
Make Leadership Involvement Visible: Senior leader buy-in is critical for any significant change. However, it is not enough to say, “There is support from the top.” To drive change, high-level involvement must be highly visible to the organization. Prove leadership is actively engaged through testimonials, videos, pictures and multiple engagements with those being asked to change.
Provide Data-based Updates: Testing changes and reporting the raw data on performance serves two roles—it proves the need for change, and shows the progress of new change projects. And, consistently sharing key metrics boosts overall knowledge and morale among employees. When organizations hide performance or use gut-feel validation, they tend to create resistance to change rather than momentum for it.

Developing Ability

When change is on the horizon, more often than not, employees will need to learn a new skill so they can create new outcomes. This means the organization must provide training and encouragement to develop new abilities and behaviors, and the opportunity to display them when learned. Here are some strong practices to accomplish this:

Fully Invest in Training: For change to occur, organizational leadership needs to commit sufficient resources to the learning of all new skills or responsibilities required. But this effort must be a full investment—meaning the time, the money and the prioritization of both. To fully focus on training, employees may need to be away from their desks. Organizations need to manage and reprioritize staff workloads and potentially build space in delivery for non-delivery activities. Holding a class, but not building in the ability to attend and focus on learning isn’t fully investing in training.
Set Clear Expectations: To drive the learning curve, encourage strong performance and strengthen it using performance measurement strategies. Avoid misunderstandings by agreeing on expectations for employees and measuring their performance. Beyond just learning the skill, ensure each employee has an opportunity to “strut their new stuff” and address or reward the performance delivered.

Generating Motivation

The truth is most employees need to be motivated to actually change. Even though they may know about the change, and even have the ability to contribute to it, they usually require some rousing factor to change current behaviors. Here are ways to generate this motivation:

  • Empower the Staff-Level: Change demands leadership’s active involvement, but it also requires staff-level support. Seeking buy-in among staff, and then recognizing those early adopters, is a critical task. Engage early adopters to tell you why they are adopting. Then use this knowledge to empower them to help others change. If they have quickly learned a new process, let them teach. If they found a way to overcome cultural indifference, let them coach. By securing buy-in from some staff, then demonstrating and recognizing their support, you help drive behavioral change among the rest of the staff.
  • Find and Remove Roadblocks: Working with employees to identify and solve challenges improves collaboration and involvement. If it’s a company process or policy, be visible in attacking and removing it. If it’s a human performance issue—lack of commitment or acceptance—call it out. Meet privately with staff to discuss their issues, but don’t allow roadblocks to exist and not address them. Unaddressed, roadblocks drain team motivation.

Getting Started

These three essential elements of change all feed off of each other, forming something like a wheel powering the organization forward. After letting employees know about the change (creating knowledge), they need training (developing ability). With training, they need a push to move forward (generating motivation). To give employees a motivating factor, you need to create knowledge—and the wheel rolls on.

While you can begin with any of the elements based on an organization’s needs or readiness, most people find it easiest to begin the cycle by creating knowledge. After initially hearing about the changes, employees are more educated on possible skills they need to develop. And, this knowledge potentially opens the door for motivating them to act. The wheel will turn and demand your attention throughout the transformation process. Some activities used in the early stages may need to be strengthened or replaced along the way. What motivated the team early on may not motivate them later. The communication rhythm that generated knowledge then needs to be more frequently now. But, once you create knowledge, develop ability and generate motivation, you’ll be in a good place to bring about organizational change.

Delivering change in an organization is never an easy task, but by focusing on instilling these three elements within your enterprise, you’ll be well on your way to improving your ambit and putting your change in motion.

– Originally published at GovenmmentCIOMagazine.com

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