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10 Questions Leaders Should Ask When Introducing Change

Transformation is a multi-dimensional journey. We start with our current way of working, discover ways to adopt the practices, and then executing in the new way

A lot of my work involves guiding large organizations through significant change. As part of that work, I’ve developed a list of 10 questions leaders should ask when they are considering asking their teams to adopt something new. After sharing this with a few people they wanted to see it posted publicly to be able to reference, so here it is!

Before I get to the list, there’s a couple of key principles that guides this. First, as I first learned from Alan Chedalawada and Al Shalloway, transformation is a multi-dimensional journey. In the book Managing Transitions, Bridges talks about how people don’t just go from the Old Way to the New Way – in between is a dangerous Neutral Zone that requires significant vision and leadership to get through:

Transformation is a multi-dimensional journey. We start with our current way of working, discover ways to adopt the practices, and then executing in the new way

On top of that, we bring in the concepts that people have to have time to grow into new ideas. It starts with the introduction of the idea, then initial implementation, then execution, then sustainability and flexibility. When it is first introduced they will need clear guidance and direction – including rules of use – to help them. As they move towards operation, they will rely less on the rules and more on intuition. As it matures to sustainability, they will be able to not only intuit the actions, but flexibly respond to changes.

Below is a starting list of questions you should ask for any change initiative. Remember that people are looking to you for guidance, leadership and clarity, so your job is to continually guide them on the path with the right messaging and direction.

Question Notes
What is the change? Self-explanatory, but you should be able to clearly articulate the change in a short sentence.
Who is responsible for leading the change? Self-explanatory as well, but important to articulate who is the actual responsible leader for this change.
What does success look like? This is perhaps the most critical line to define. If we can’t objectively define what success looks like, then the teams and managers will likely not be able to understand or measure success, leading to frustration
Who is impacted? (Primary, Secondary, Tertiary) Nearly every change will impact people beyond the initial group. At a minimum it will impact their managers, staff or peers. Think about these groups as you fill out the other questions as secondary and tertiary groups may require similar change management
What new behaviors do we expect? Similar to defining success, we should be able to articulate the behaviors we want to introduce or stop. These may not always be directly on the team or people themselves – for example, changing a way of reporting may mean other groups stop emailing the CTO directly.
What behaviors do we expect to stop?
What performance management impacts are there? (How do people know they’re successful? How do their managers know they’re successful?) This is especially applicable to role changes. Are we expecting people to take on new roles or responsibilities? How would that be reviewed and monitored?
Who needs to be trained? What do they need training on? Self-explanatory, but may be far reaching. For example, a new role may interact with groups in a new way, so those groups will need (even informal) training and communications of what to expect.
What is the timeline for implementation?

  • Comms plan
  • Trainings
  • Start of new process
  • Cadence for check ins (recommend 2-3 within first 6-12 weeks)
It’s worth taking a little bit of time to map out a timeline. People need enough time to process the change and be trained. In addition, for certain experimental changes you may want a cadence for getting feedback on how the process is going and whether to adjust the roll out.

Make sure this timeline and plan is available to the people impacted by the change whenever possible.

What does the Maturation framework look like?

  • Infrequent to Frequent
  • Ad-Hoc/Informal/Heavyweight to Structured / Formal / Lightweight
  • Inflexible / Incapable to Flexible / Capable
  • Inconsistent / Early Adoption to Consistent / Maturing
From an operating perspective, people are initially going to be just starting with this process, using inflexible methods of implementation (e.g. rules-based) and will likely have to explicitly think about it in order to implement the change.

As they mature in adoption it will become more intuitive and resilient to variances.

As a leader it’s worth thinking about how we can measure and guide people through this process to make sure they’re appropriately heading down the right path. We can’t assume we can tell someone something once (even if we write a doc) and they will get it. What checkpoints will we need? What types of behaviors do we expect 4 weeks in? 8 weeks in? 16 weeks in? Will we need additional training or examples?

If you have any questions or you or your organization are looking for ways to be more effective, don’t hesitate to reach out today for a 30 minute call that could change the impact of your entire organization.