How well do you recognize these seven audience personas? During any single initiative, change teams will address many of these end user types. Some of these “personalities” can be more vocal than others. Should the squeaky wheel always get the most grease? Change teams can streamline efforts and achieve more long-term success by carefully assessing audiences and planning for the degree of change required for each.
You probably have a few good stories about projects and those who were open to change and those who demonstrated some form of resistance. In our experience, most employees, managers, and support staff say they are open to making changes. Once the changes become more defined, the sentiment can shift. In the abstract, changes to processes or roles is acceptable. When the changes begin to take shape— that is when resistance starts to become more tangible. By understanding your audiences exceptionally well, you will be able to properly account for both immediate and ongoing change needs.
Meet The Audiences
Sunny generally welcomes change. People in this audience are often most enthusiastic. They look forward to the benefits of new capabilities, roles or processes. They are often willing to actively work through challenges rather than simply identifying them.
Zenny will go with the flow of change. It is important to provide change specifics to this group to maintain their agreeable nature.
When developing your plan, you can use these groups to introduce change to others. These are the early adopters. They can help start the movement and prove the positive aspects of change. Authority figures can drive acceptance. For long-lasting change to take root, positive peer reinforcement is a definite advantage. Include people with these traits in your extended Change Team. Give them a role in influencing others. You may embed them in locations or groups that will be most challenged by the adjustments to new processes, roles or policies. This provides your positive reinforcers with opportunities for growth. In addition, they will serve as an excellent feedback loop to track change readiness.
Judgey, Fraidy, and Whiny are three peas in a pod. All are resistant to change and they can be the proverbial “squeaky wheel” on your change train. Their motivations may be different but the root cause is usually some form of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of losing authority/expertise or negative past experiences are common sources of discontent for these factions. Their resistance is often covert. They will rarely come right out and say, “I don’t like these changes. Once this change happens, I won’t be the expert in my department.”
If these groups have proximity to authority—especially in the early stages—the project can be overly influenced by their opinions. Most of those affected are likely positive or neutral. If a small group with negative opinions have the ear of sponsors, you may spend an inordinate amount of time addressing their concerns.
Whether this is a minority or majority group, their concerns are real to them. The Change team must find the delicate balance of directly addressing their issues without derailing the positive progress for other audiences. This group needs to be engaged but engaged in the right way. At KSI, we have found the following engagement approach to be successful:
1. Include at least two “challengers” on the core Change Team. By directly including them in the decision making, they can reclaim part of their perceived loss of control.
2. In a non-confrontational way, get them to articulate the issues they perceive. They may be very direct or they may position the source of resistance as coming from “others.” Whatever the case, don’t try to guess at the issues. Listen carefully and give them the space and the respect to describe their concerns directly.
3. Once articulated, frame the issues with solution options. In our experience, providing three options seems to work best because it avoids an either/or choice and tends to encourage more discussion. More discussion usually leads to better understanding for everyone. Understanding, in turn, leads to a more cooperative environment.
We would love to tell you that this technique works every time. The hard truth that most change folks know is that it takes skill and a bit of luck to turn the tide in your favor. You will not convert everyone to change evangelists. Enable what you can and reinforce positive progress.
Dazey and Ralph are related. We most often encounter Dazey as a member of the extended Change Team. He/she is usually consumed with day-to-day responsibilities. The added effort needed for your change project overwhelms their already busy schedule. Dazey may be open to new ways of working but is so busy with everyday challenges. Concentrating on your change effort is low on their priority list.
Chances are, we all know a Ralph or two. Ralph means well but just isn’t paying much attention for the months leading up to your project launch date. He or she is a bit taken by surprise when the ways to work actually change.
The remedy to both situations is similar:
1. Deliver very targeted information based on actions. Background information and other explanations will not be successful. People need to take action to feel change. The phase, “Just tell me what I need to do,” is common for these two groups… and that’s okay. Give them the information they need to complete their task(s).
2. Provide your support teams with specific content to quickly bring the Dazeys and Ralphs up to speed but limit the number of tasks. These two groups will take action when the changes are real. Your support teams will likely be stretched to answer questions and solve problems for a whole range of people. Make it easy for everyone by creating “quick hit” packages. Provide instructions for high volume activities. In these instances, learning and understanding have to take a back seat to simply getting the job done.
Each of these seven audiences are represented in your end user groups but they are also part of your project team. All too often, we assume project team members are engaged and supportive. After all, they are part of the group responsible for driving change. No matter the size of the project team, each person tends to concentrate on their areas of expertise. They may or may not be engaged in your change effort.
Pay attention to changes to roles and positions when there are organization or technology changes. Project team members will have early insight into how and when jobs will change. That type of change can be significant. One should not underestimate the effect a perceived job change can have on employees. Address changes to roles early as part of your communication and education plan. It will reduce the chance for negative reactions to take on a life of their own.
Once your project launch date arrives, the truly hard work begins. Sustaining change is much more difficult than the introduction. Knowing your audiences and their motivations during the project phase establishes the foundation for managing ongoing change. That foundation must be well tended. It must allow the right additions, at regular intervals, to address the evolving needs of your organization over time. That’s the thing about change… we have plenty of opportunities to get it right.