How to Take a Practical Approach to Manage Change

Bones Of Dominoes On Wooden BackgroundMany practitioners of Change Leadership (or Change Management, or its more accurate description, Business Readiness) need a new way to approach managing change. I’ve recently been reminded of the criticality of doing some really practical, but effective strategies … the hard way. I often see many leaders and consultants over think this and deliver the “Cadillac” version of managing change when we really need a very effective “Ford Focus” to manage a change effort.

Don’t get me wrong; change models, methodologies and strategy are incredibly important because they anchor the way you approach change. Having the right strategy for managing stakeholders, creating buy-in for change, etc., are essential.

However, in order to effectively lead through change, you must have buy-in from business stakeholders who need it to be simple and easy to do. To make change leadership practical:

  1. Be a translator. Don’t worry about explaining the detailed differences and pros and cons of using various approaches; focus on defining what each kind of change intervention really means. How are you going to engage and manage stakeholders? What result do you get out of doing an audience analysis? What does it mean to assess “change impacts?” How do these activities feed the communications that need to be delivered? Define these terms in ways your key stakeholders can understand.
  2. Create and utilize your change toolkits and templates. A good practitioner should have a multitude of tools and templates to use, depending on the situation. For example, I have about 5-10 different tools I like to use for different situations when approaching communications planning, impact analysis, stakeholder heatmapping, etc.
  3. Take Action. A great change plan is only worth the piece of paper it’s documented on. Know when to say “good is good enough” on your strategy, methodology and approach and move forward! Take action on what needs to be done, deliver short-term wins and give yourself time to adjust on the back-end.
  4. Give your stakeholders a voice. I’ve found that one really useful way to get your stakeholders engaged in the end result is to enable them to have a voice and input to the plan. Can someone in your change network deliver the update to your business sponsor? Would the junior resource with extra bandwidth be able to take a crack at drafting your communications messages? Enlisting others, including other resources in your broader network and change team, is a great way to get input from a fresh “voice” and can create a cadre of strong change supporters.
  5. Write the script for your sponsors. If you’re lucky enough to have willing and engaged sponsorship for your project, you know that just simply saying that you want them to “visibly and personally support the project” gets lost in a black hole for them. For many of my clients, they get the principle of the idea, but need some help to translate what to say or do in certain meetings or situations. Write the script for the meeting; give them the bulleted talking points to kick off a steering committee … these are valuable ways to ensure the right messages get delivered.

Remember: Business leaders don’t care about the how. They want to know the impact on the top line!

Sheri Browning is a Partner at PeopleResults and loves Change Models – but is happier taking action that drives value for her clients. You can reach her at or on Twitter @sbPResults.