“Too much WHAT and not enough WHY” was what James Luffman, HR technology and integration manager at Invesco, replied when we asked him to name the biggest barrier to successful change management communications. In addition to his day job, James is a steering committee member on the HR Operational Excellence team, working with his colleagues around the world to instill new mindsets, behaviors and processes so that changes become culturally ingrained and not yesterday’s news. Below are some of his thoughts on change management. Tune in next week for more from James on how to make team members feel valued.
As a communicator, what’s your biggest priority these days?
Explaining the rationale for change – over and over again – without (hopefully) getting boring, and trying to gradually bring people over to what we’re trying to achieve until we get to a change tipping point. When that happens, I can buy a VW camper van, get a dog and head for the horizon.
What are your best practices for change management?
Here, at least, change management has focused on how something is rolled out and communicated. What I’ve learned more recently is that you have to spend a LOT more time up front doing what John Kotter calls “establishing a sense of urgency,” forming a “powerful guiding team” and, especially, creating and communicating your vision using every opportunity and channel possible (Kotter is a New York Times best-selling author, award-winning business and management thought-leader, business entrepreneur, inspirational speaker and Harvard Professor.)
The other big learning point for me has been just how much post-implementation effort is needed to make changes stick and how much you need to keep reinforcing the message to convince anyone who’s buried their head in the sand that this isn’t just going to blow over.
Change management isn’t always easy, and there can be challenges that need creative solutions. How do you think of good ideas?
Personally, I’ve got a big soft spot for ways of solving problems by coming at them sideways, or that turn what seems to be a disadvantage into an advantage. I love the story about the space race NASA researchers who spent millions of dollars designing a zero gravity “space-pen,” when their Russian counterparts just gave their cosmonauts pencils – unfortunately I think it’s just an urban myth.
What do you love about being a communicator?
It sounds corny, but without language and the exchange of ideas, we’d still be living in a cave.