Making Change Happen – Gaining People’s Commitment

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Making change happen - gaining people's commitmentGaining people’s commitment to anything new, or to any significant change, is something that takes time and happens in distinct stages.  As a leader of change, you need to recognise this, and understand the stages people go through.

You need to take proactive and explicit action to identify who is at what stage of commitment, and address it accordingly.  This is a critical success factor in making change happen.

These are the stages that all people go through, just some people go through them quicker than others!

First, there is no awareness.  There must be some contact with each individual to generate their initial awareness that there is a problem, or an opportunity.  Of course this must be compelling.  They must believe that the problem or opportunity is real.

Then there is a period of confusion.  This must be addressed by helping people to understand the change that is needed, or desired, and how it will help with the problem or opportunity you are facing.

Then, there is often a negative perception.  This may be based on valid concerns, false perceptions, or possibly based on fear of the implications.  Now you must be prepared to listen to those concerns and overcome them.  You need to help people to let go of any fear and see the positive implications, in order to generate a positive perception.  Otherwise they will make a conscious or unconscious decision not to implement the change, which they will probably not tell you.

They will then go through a period of testing or validation, where they are establishing and assessing the validity of the change and its impact.  Here they must be supported in order to avoid losing their buy-in at this stage.  This is a good time to introduce information that helps to prove that the desired change is the right thing to do, for instance external case studies, research, etc that backs it up.  At this stage they believe in the change, are intending to adopt it, and are just looking for confirmation that they are doing the right thing.

Only then will they really move into the stage of adoption.  At this point, the people who need to implement the change need to be educated.  This is a good time to consider formal training or coaching to make sure they are fully equipped to make the change.

Only after extensive, successful implementation will the change be institutionalised, to the extent that it is now your new norm.

When selling any change and trying to gain people’s commitment, you must pay careful attention to the above process for all key stakeholders; not just the people that have to implement it, but to everyone potentially affected by it.

Set out a clear plan for communication and education that addresses each of the above stages for everyone involved or affected, to ensure you gain and retain their commitment throughout their own change process, until the change is successfully institutionalised.

So, in summary, the types of actions you could consider at each stage are as follows:

  • Unaware – build awareness by sharing visibility of the problem or opportunity.
  • Confused - hold presentations and discussions to help people understand how the desired change will help with the problem or opportunity you are facing.
  • Negative - proactively address concerns and highlight positive implications.
  • Validating – offer more information and access to convincers to back it up.
  • Adopting – provide training and support to help people adopt.
  • Institutionalise - share learnings and success stories until you have extensive implementation.

I hope that helps you to gain and retain people’s commitment to your change, and helps you to make your change happen.


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