Change Management Process: Step 3 – Form the Strategic Vision and Initiatives
We previously discussed the first two steps of Dr. John Kotter’s change management process (CMP):
Now we will point our attention to the third step and talk about how to form a strategic vision and initiatives.
Jack Welch once said…
“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentless drive it to completion.”
Change management can be one of the best or worst experiences. It all depends on how it’s handled. This post aims to discuss and analyze best practices to develop the strategic vision and initiatives.
What Is a Change Vision?
According to Dr. John Kotter, Harvard Business School professor and entrepreneur, every successful change management project has a clear change vision.
A change vision is simply:
- What the organization, department, product, or service will look like after the specific changes have occurred
- The picture of the desired state that the change will bring to the organization
The concept helps connect essential steps and actions that need to happen to make the outcome a reality. Furthermore, the change vision statement should be easy to understand.
Simply put, everyone from an entry-level employee to the CEO should have a clear and solid understanding of the change vision.
Why Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives?
A clear strategic vision removes ambiguity as to where change managers should focus their efforts. It puts everyone on the same page and therefore helps reduce confusion. Managers are less likely to offer different interpretations of what change is desirable. And they are also less likely to provide conflicting solutions on how to achieve the change.
When you form a strategic vision and initiatives, you can look forward to the following benefits:
- Clear objectives allow you to make decisions easier and avoid pursuing wasteful projects.
If the vision is clear to all, it will be easier to identify what initiatives will best achieve it. It will also be easier to spot and eliminate irrelevant and counterproductive initiatives. Then the organization can focus its resources on the most advantageous actions, plans, and projects to achieve successful change. Plus, the company won’t be wasting time and resources on making unproductive decisions and initiatives.
- A clear target motivates people to take the action necessary to reach it.
A clear vision will motivate stakeholders because they'll see the benefits they can expect from the change. As discussed previously, people tend to resist changes that remove them from their comfort zones. But if they understand how they will benefit from the changes, they're more likely to put up with short-term sacrifices.
Furthermore, even if the outcome won't be all roses, people are more likely to rally around a common cause they understand. That means:
- What the vision is
- Why it is necessary
- How the outcome of continuing along the same path is worse than adopting the change
- A vision helps to coordinate the efforts of the parties involved.
If managers see the big picture, it's easier for them to coordinate and assign responsibilities and tasks. A clear vision also helps team members to see how their efforts are producing desired results. Clarity, in turn, will improve the efficiency of the organization’s efforts.
- The change initiatives are the stepping-stones needed to reach the vision.
The vision needs to be clear to make sure initiatives align with it. If the initiatives are specific and in line with the vision, the organization is more likely to achieve the desired change.
How Is a Change Vision Created?
The best practices associated with creating a robust change vision include the following:
- Easy to understand
- Easy to deliver via written and verbal communications
- Intellectually robust
- Emotionally appealing
Creating a vision that is easy to understand is pivotal. The message should make sense, be specific, and allow people to see where the organization is today vs. where it will be after the change.
The delivery of a vision message is also essential:
- If done via writing, it should be no more than half a page.
- If done verbally, it should be no more than sixty seconds.
- The substance of the message needs to be intellectually robust and have emotional appeal.
What Does Intellectually Robust Mean in Terms of Change Vision?
Intellectually robust means that the vision makes sense and is logical. The audience can see why the change is relevant to them. They also can see that going from the status quo to the proposed state makes sense.
What Does Emotionally Appealing Mean in Terms of Change Vision?
Emotional appeal ties into the energy associated with the proposed change. The objective is that the change is appealing and sets the ground for the essential buy-in of the change initiatives. Feeling optimistic and excited about the change will help move the change forward from concept to reality.
The more positive and eager the audience is about the change, the more likely the change vision will become a reality.
What Are Change Initiatives?
After creating a change vision, you need to design clear change initiatives. The change initiatives are simply the actions required to get from point A to point Z. The steps may vary from organization to organization due to the nature of proposed changes, change agents, resources, and so forth.
The change initiatives need to align with the change vision. The proposed change must make sense, and so must the actions to implement and sustain that change.
To form a strategic vision and initiatives, real-world data is essential. Without accurate information to inform the process, the business efforts will flounder in the dark. Therefore, your organization should collect and analyze relevant business, marketing, and economic data in its decision-making process.
The internal coalition can work with change management consultants to create the initiatives and help identify, craft, and deliver the specific actions.
Furthermore, the more specific and customized the initiatives, the more likely the change agents will receive, implement, and maintain the proposed actions.
It takes a lot of work to form a strategic vision and initiatives. However, this step can’t be skipped. The acts of creating and communicating the change vision and initiatives are essential to the change management process.
- The vision and initiatives should be clear, precise, and described.
- The vision and actions must align.
- The delivery of the communication may vary.
However, the communication outcome should be easily understood, intellectually robust, and emotionally appealing.
Establishing the vision and initiatives aids management in enlisting a volunteer “army” in the next step. To be successful, they should be ready, excited, and see the urgency in implementing the change initiatives. Keep an eye out for the next post to learn how to enlist a volunteer army.