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What is your company's approach to change management?
In a previous post, I wrote about the customer experience inflection point. I stated: There comes a time in every company’s history, present time, or future when it must change or adapt – or die. In order to change or adapt, there must be some systematic process in place, a process that gets everyone on board and marching to the same beat; that process is often referred to as change management.
On Wikipedia, change management is defined as: an approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations to a desired future state. In organizational change, the approach is structured to ensure changes are smoothly and successfully implemented to achieve lasting results.
Why is change management important? Ultimately, we listen to customers in order to improve the customer experience, and this really means changing how we currently do things. The best way to approach both your customer experience management (CEM) strategy and how you will improve the experience as a result of listening to customers is to have a clearly-defined approach in place.
As you start to think about the strategies and steps involved in CEM, you realize that it is a change management process in and of itself. So the steps to transition to some desired future state are probably no different than what you already know. But for fun, let's run through some of the key tenets.
Executive buy-in is a must if any organizational or other changes are to take place. To win the hearts (emotional) and minds (rational) of your executives, you'll need to build the business case, which will require some quick wins to show not only what can be done but also your commitment and persistence to achieving some outcome. As change is implemented, further quick wins may be required.
Going hand in hand with that ("some outcome") will be the need to develop an inspirational and aspirational customer experience vision; it will define and outline what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It will briefly describe the experience you plan to deliver. And it will serve as a guide to help choose future courses of action. How can you manage change if you don't know what you're changing. Define it. Communicate it. Early and often.
This will be important because you'll also need to get employee buy-in. Change cannot be imposed or forced upon employees; they must be involved in it, understand the what and the why, and help to shape the outcome. When they're involved in the changes, they are more apt to be accountable and to take ownership.
At the same time, empower employees to do what's right, and let them know that it's OK to make mistakes during this process: own up to mistakes, fix them, and move on. Reinforce the right actions, and model and recognize the desired behaviors. All of this will be a reflection of your culture and a relentless focus on a great employee experience. Changes must become a part of your DNA.
Cross-functional buy-in and commitment will also be key. If change is to happen, if the experience is to be improved, silos must be eliminated, and the organization must work together as one.
Beyond developing that framework, some other important things to keep in mind:
- Listen to customers - past, present, and future. Identify not only their needs but the tasks they are trying to achieve. This is the groundwork that must be completed before you can begin to execute on your change management. You need to understand the present state before you can head to some desired future state.
- Design the new customer experience based on understanding who your customers are and what jobs they are trying to do with your organization's products or services. Incorporating principles of human-centered design is a good idea at this point. Bring employees into the innovation and design processes.
- Implement changes across the organization based on who your customers are and what they are telling you. For employee buy-in and involvement, communication and training are key, as well. And model the right - the desired - behaviors for them.
- Measure the changes and their impact. Recalibrate and redesign as needed. You may not get it right the first time. That's OK. Speed of re-innovation and redesign are important testaments to your commitment to change. Don't sit on it.
- Communicate. It's your best and most important tool in the change management process. Use it early and often.
- Deal with objections. Not everyone likes change. Haters will hate - figure out how to bring them into the fold. We need everyone on board. You may have to go back to the basics, i.e., getting buy-in (hearts and minds). Socrates said: the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new. Let's make that the mantra.
Do you need to think about change management? I think you know the answer.
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. -Richard Buckminster Fuller