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I originally wrote today’s post for CallidusCloud. It appeared on their blog on March 28, 2018.

Change is hard. But it’s even harder when you don’t have a clear sense of the outcome – and how you’ll achieve that outcome.

Your culture transformation, your employee experience transformation, and your customer experience transformation are not cake walks. I call the whole thing a journey for a reason. It’s never-ending. And it’s a lot of work – a lot of really hard work. You can’t change the culture and the way you do business overnight. It’s just not going to happen!

And it’s definitely not going to happen if your employees aren’t on board! As a matter of fact, if they’re suffering from change fatigue, if they can’t stand the thought of yet one more change initiative, then it’s going to be really difficult to make change happen.

How do you get them on board?

You need to start with a vision for your change. A change vision is a statement or image of some desired future state, i.e., what the company will look like after you change, along with details about why this future state is desirable. It will give employees a sense of the magnitude of the change and the overall impact on the organization.

John Kotter, the master guru of change management, states that a change vision serves three purposes:

  1. It simplifies and clarifies the outcome of the change.
  2. It motivates people to make the change.
  3. It aligns individuals around the goal or outcome, giving them a shared sense of direction.

Just like your company vision or your CX vision, your change vision is inspirational, but it is realistic and drives strategy, as well as the execution of that strategy.

In his book Leading Change, Kotter says that an effective change vision has six important qualities. It is…

  1. Imaginable, conveying a picture of what the future looks like
  2. Desirable, appealing to the interests of employees, customers, shareholders, and other enterprise constituents
  3. Feasible, setting forth realistic and achievable goals
  4. Focused, providing clarity and guidance for decision making
  5. Flexible, allowing for individual initiative and alternative solutions due to changing conditions
  6. Communicable, being easy to communicate and explainable in less than five minutes

The latter point is a great one. Communicating your vision is an important piece of change management. If no one knows what it is or why it’s taking place, then people start to ignore it; they certainly don’t want to be a part of it. Of course, the key is to communicate the right information. Early. And often. Keep communicating.

Employees want to know:

  • What’s changing?
  • Why is it changing?
  • How long will it take?
  • What’s the impact on the business?
  • What does it mean for me?
  • What’s my role?
  • What’s in it for me?
  • What happens if I don’t get involved?
  • What happens if I don’t change?
  • What happens if we (company) don’t change?

Kotter outlines seven key elements to effectively communicate your change vision. They include:

  1. Keep it simple: don’t use jargon and language that is confusing to those who need to understand it.
  2. Use metaphors, analogies, and examples: paint a picture of what the current state is and what the future state will be. Tell stories about where you came from, where you are today, and where you’re headed.
  3. Use multiple forums: there are different channels and methods to communicate the vision, including meetings, town halls, memos, email, conversations, etc.
  4. Be repetitive: it will really sink in when employees hear the vision over and over again.
  5. Lead by example: executives and leaders must be the role model for the change they expect to see; their behaviors cannot be inconsistent with the change vision.
  6. Explain seeming inconsistencies: if inconsistencies go unaddressed, they will derail the whole effort and kill the  credibility of the entire change effort.
  7. Give and take: use two-way communication; don’t just talk, listen. Employees will have questions and feedback. Listen, answer, and address.

I would add that you should message with empathy and caring. Don’t dictate. Don’t ram it down their throats. Communicate in a way that lets people know not only that it’s important but so are they and their feelings and perspectives about the change.

Of course, you can have the most amazing change vision in the world, but if you don’t actually execute on it, you lose credibility, and you lose a great opportunity to improve the experience for employees and for customers. There’s a Japanese proverb that states: “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” You can’t really have one without the other. Set your vision. Outline the strategy to achieve it. And go do it.

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world. -Nelson Mandela