Daunted by a Big Change? Start Small.

When my clients feel overwhelmed with a big change, they often try to project manage it to death. An excel spreadsheet full of detailed tasks, milestones and due dates offer comfort.

Plans give us a sense of control.

But most of the workplans I see rarely include the most important actions to ensure a successful change.

I always encourage clients to complete 4 tasks as soon as possible.

You don’t need to be a senior executive or expert. Anyone can complete these 4 simple steps.

And the relatively small investment yields huge results.

4 Must-Do Steps In The Beginning of Any Change

  1. Make a list of all the stakeholders. How you communicate and connect with your stakeholders (i.e. anyone impacted by the change) is the most important factor that determines success. It’s critical to document all the groups or people affected by and interested in the change. List them by division, team and possibly by name. Keep adding to the list; it will continue to grow and evolve. Eventually you’ll identify who to manage closely, keep satisfied, keep informed or monitor. But initially, get your stakeholder list together.
  2. Draft a compelling “why” statement. Create a thoughtful and persuasive statement that communicates the purpose and intent of the change in way that’s relevant not to you, but to your stakeholders. Be direct and clear. How does the change relate to their world? What will they gain? What’s the consequence for not changing?  The time crafting the “why” statement is a smart investment because you’ll reuse and reiterate it in every conversation, presentation and meeting during the change.
  3. Identify influencers and idea partners quickly. Your change won’t get anywhere without a small group of people helping you move it along. These are the people who may not be the most senior people or have the loudest voice in the room, but they are knowledgeable, respected and listened to. Pull them into informal conversations, meetings and decisions as often as you can. Test ideas, let them poke holes, solicit their expertise. Involve them up-front and often not only to solve problems and provide perspectives that you haven’t thought of, but to positively influence others.
  4. Categorize the biggest challenges. One of the first questions I ask my clients is “what could or will get in the way of success?” If you categorize responses by culture/people/processes/structure/leadership, you’ll start to see a picture of the obstacles, problems and potential resistance points.  You’re also better positioned to prioritize solutions that address root causes.

Avoid the false starts, push back and lack of engagement that surrounds most change efforts.

Take a step back and jump-start your effort with these 4 must-do planning steps. It’s the difference between smooth sailing and a rocky road.

Marta Steele is a Partner at PeopleResults . Connect with her on Twitter @MartaSteele.