When selecting a change agent, choose one that can lead well and gain buy-in. Do that and your change initiatives are likely to be one of the few that succeed.
Change is the only constant is a standard idiom often quoted.
To survive, business needs to continuous respond to changing market conditions. They need to embrace change as a constant.
Yet another statistic often quoted is that business change initiatives fail about 70% of the time. With the main reasons being a combination of a poor leadership and a lack of buy-in from employees.
Which is why it is critical to invest in both when implementing change initiatives.
Selecting an external consultant to lead a change initiative
When investing in external change agents make certain they include in their repertoire the skill of achieving buy-in.
Sometimes people on your team are too close to the situation to lead a change initiative. Or worse, too busy with day-to-day tasks to provide the focus necessary.
Bringing in someone from outside to the team for the short term to help implement the change can help make it happen.
At the same time, taking away the management of a change from the natural leaders on the team can be very demotivating. If it robs them of their agency in the decision making.
It can foster a form of silent resistance. Outward compliance without long term commitment. Without real buy-in, change doesn’t stick.
Over time things revert to former ways of doing things.
You wonder why you invested in the change in the first place.
When selecting an external consultant to help you with change, it’s important to make sure that they are capable of leading change that will stick.
They do this by being both advisors and coaches. They consult with the team impacted by the change. That they don’t rely only on their expertise, but compliment with an approach that seeks to learn about your business.
A great external change agent is both an advisor and a coach
The best advisors are also coaches. And the best coaches, know that there is a time to provide advice.
These are both titles and skills.
Sure, titles are impact perceptions of an external person. Titles carry expectations.
Yet, independent of title, it’s important to make sure that your external consultant has both skills. And is comfortable with using both modes interchangeably. Switching between their different skills as the moment requires.
The best external consultants are multi-faceted. Even if they present themselves with one title.
A great change agent seeks to become a trusted advisor
This happens even when you don’t bring in an external consultant but use an internal team to change.
There is more success when these teams are cross functional than when the teams are from one department.
It’s part of why IT teams struggle to get acceptance of new products and processes when they go it alone. When they don’t include the end users in the decision making.
They rely on their expertise as the tool to make the change happen. Then act surprised when business units express a lack of trust. Shocked their expertise gets called into question.
In a similar way an external consultant needs to earn the mantel of trusted advisor.
Expertise is necessary, but it isn’t the only thing required to make change happen. It needs to be complimented by inquiry.
A great change agent creates buy-in through inclusion
Better outcomes happen when the external consultant becomes a partner in the change.
This largely depends on the approach the external consultant takes to lead the change.
The best consultants know how to pull change from a team, rather than push change onto a team. They turn the tables on the approach. They are open to consulting with team for the best ways to implement the change. And consider what they heard when making their recommendations.
You earn buy-in when you enable the team in an implementation advisory role.
Not all ideas turn into action steps. Part of a consultation is to vet ideas, which includes discarding some. It’s more a case that the information from the team blends with the best practices and frameworks of the consultant, to create a tailored way of implementing the change.
In that way, even if the team aren’t actively the ones making the change happen, they retain a sense of ownership and commitment to the change succeeding.
The ultimate success of your change initiatives is measured by the adoption by the team. Even when the team is not the one leading the change.
When selecting an eternal consultant to lead the change, it’s important that they have the skills to lead the team through change.
Change agents don’t just bring with them expertise. They hold both advisory and coaching skills. Great change agents seek to build trust and gain buy-in of your team during the implementation of change.
We all want change to stick.
When the team invests in the change initiative it has a a greater chance for long term success.
Select a change agent that can lead the change well and gain buy-in.
Do that and your change initiatives are likely to be one of the 30% that succeed.