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Change Management Tips from a New Dad

September 10, 2018

Succeeding in the modern workforce requires a certain agility and resilience in the face of change. And nowhere is this truer than in advertising technology, especially with the growing focus on using it to automate our work.  Advertisers and agencies are right to embrace the new technology to help deliver effective advertising, more efficiently. But for companies that have operated somewhat consistently for decades, embracing new technology and the subsequent disruption can be very unsettling. 

Much like, say, new parenthood. 

As the excited and overjoyed new father to an amazing baby girl, I can say that everything about my life, from where I live, to what I do, to how I think, has changed. And yet I embrace it as an inevitable part of becoming a parent. So while new parenthood is embraced as an exciting adventure, despite all the sleepless nights and uncertainty, why is it so difficult to accept change in you workplace? 

Here are some things to consider:

Understand the Change.
The difficulty of change should not be underestimated, but clearly framing the benefits of the expected outcome makes it easier to accept the challenges as they occur. Leadership should promote more than just the value to the organization, by also addressing the impact on individuals and groups.  

Ease concerns by clarifying what exactly will change, what won’t, and what is still uncertain. Maybe your company is facing an impending acquisition which will provide more funding, better stock prices, and more options for personal career growth. Or perhaps adopting a new media software solution will free employees to work on more strategic projects.

With the arrival of my daughter, we had a clear vision of what would come our way.  We discussed the changes my wife and I could expect in our dynamic as a couple and as individuals.  I would need to be mindful of my work hours and help more around the house, while also ensuring we each had time every week to spend on our hobbies and friends. Things would change tremendously, but by understanding what would change and what wouldn’t, we could successfully face it.

Change is a journey, experienced in stages. First comes the end of the status quo, then navigating the uncertainty while learning the new state, and finally settling into the new order while sun setting the old.  Each stage in the journey will be handled differently by the individuals and groups that make up the organization. For my wife and I, the journey felt quick despite the time pregnancy afforded us.  We had to part with our normal routines, learn everything about parenting, and incorporate those lessons into our new norm. 

Establish Sponsorship.  
Not just in name, but visible and active sponsorship from the top down and bottom up.  Each change initiative should have an Executive Sponsor who serves as the face and unifying force for the change.  He or she should utilize all opportunities to speak to the corporate vision and benefits of the change while framing it in the context of addressing industry changes understood by everyone. 

In the case of our newborn, this role was filled by my wife. She was instrumental in seeking buy-in from stakeholders and creating a sense of urgency to drive the initiative forward.  She had a vision of what was required for the baby and spoke regularly with our family about their roles to ensure her vision would come to fruition.  Her excitement was contagious and the family was eager for our daughter’s arrival and the part they would play in the exciting changes ahead.

Champions should also be identified.  If Sponsors are the face, Champions are the drivers—the people who want to be on the forefront of the change. They drive excitement and serve as the resident expert. If these individuals don’t emerge organically, Executive Sponsors and the change team should identify and coach them. Maybe this person used the new tech platform at a previous job (and loved it!) or they are simply influential team members. 

Champions were not hard to find when we were expecting my daughter—after all, new grandmothers can always be counted on to drive excitement and provided input on the changes occurring.  (The baby sneezed! Should we go to the doctor?  Babies sneeze too, it is ok.  Thanks, Grandmas!) Much to the same with organizational changes, sneezes and bumps are to be expected during implementation. What is critical is to keep open lines of communication and candor in order to work through them.

Communicate.
Frequently, and in many forms. Change is scary, but information helps alleviate the fear that comes with it.   Having a two-way communication plan across multiple channels, enables a feedback loop that helps the organization ensure the right information is being received. 

This is especially important for global companies with outer offices and remote employees.  By celebrating the small wins along the way, you can keep the focus on the benefits of the change initiative, and break down some resistances.  

As we prepared for my daughter, ongoing communication through email, text groups, and google sheets helped get us all excited. Through it all—results from baby scans and tests, purchases of baby items, and advice from experienced parents, central communication channels kept everyone informed and engaged. 

Train.
In order to support the desired change, the organization must provide a training plan. Depending on the scope of the change initiative, training may mean teaching skills and best practices for using a new system. For major restructures, it could mean developing a new sales script that explains the changes to your clients. 

And, since large changes rarely happen overnight, the training curriculum should include a roadmap so everyone is aligned on the progress and can accurately communicate it beyond the organization. Be sure to account for different learning styles by mixing training mediums such as webinars, classroom training, and eLearning, with support from Champions, to ensure the new processes take hold.  

My wife and I took several courses to prepare for our daughter, supplemented by videos and voracious reading.  The variety of the materials we used helped us absorb the information and put it into action. Having those resources before and after my daughter’s arrival also made it possible to educate our family on the changes to expect when she arrived.

Having the proper structure to support change was critical for my wife and me, and it doesn’t stop here. As our daughter grows, we’ll continue adjusting our support networks and communication strategies accordingly. In this ever-changing technology ecosystem, are you preparing your organization for change in the same way?