How to expose senior management to the consequences of their change decisions?

by Admin

I recently received this message:

"One thing that could help in succeeding in leading, managing, and surviving change would be an approach to get the executive to understand that when they make an organizational change they need to think about the processes that they will break as they move those people around.

Who will now be looking after that function or a piece of that function?

They make the structural changes without thinking about the work done by those individuals."

This was my response:

Thanks for your message. I totally understand and empathise with what you say. In my view, the ignorance and arrogance of some senior management is directly proportionate to their level of disconnection from the consequences of their decisions.

The failure - by senior management - to identify and take full account of the impact of a change initiative on those people who will be most impacted by it is yet another major reason for change failure and thus another significant component of a change management risk assessment. And as any half competent change practitioner will understand, a thorough stakeholder mapping and impact analysis is a key component of the programme based approach to managing a change initiative.

However, as Pat Zigarmi and Judd Hoskstra of Blanchard's say:"Bottom line - people who plan change rarely implement the plan."

So, the challenge for us is how to convince senior management that the "just do it" approach has a significant chance of failing.

In my experience senior management are most responsive to firstly, an actual (or perceived) personal exposure. By that I mean an issue that will give rise to a personal accountability for the executive - that will challenge or threaten threaten them (a) at the political level i.e.their ego/position/status and (b) at the performance level i.e. any key performance metric by which they are evaluated.

Secondly, senior management are most responsive to things that are expressed to them in a language they understand - namely ROI.

So the key to this is to remove that disconnection from the consequences of their decision(s) by bringing to their attention the personal impacts and implications of their plans and decisions, and to employ structured approaches that translate the impacts of decisions into the language of ROI.

Here are 4 dimensions to achieving this:

(1) Understand and exploit the political dimension

Please find attached a one page extract PDF from a business-to-business sales training course I wrote some years ago that addresses this:
The political dimension

You will find quite a lot of resource in this article which addresses many related issues of senior management "not getting it":
Senior management "not getting it"

Focusing senior management on failure - and the likelihood of it is a great way of identifying and exploiting the political dimension. Here are a couple of articles on change failure:
Failure reasons
The horror

(2) Understand the concept and practise of "influence without authority"

For those of us with little of no power in an organisation it is easy to feel that there is nothing we can do. However it is possible to exercise quite a lot of influence without authority. These resources address this:
Influence without authority
Conflict resolution tips - scroll down to the section on "Conflict resolution tips - influence without authority" - and especially the "Cohen-Bradford Model"

(3) Employ a structured approach to asking the right questions

This article, based on the "Change Management Templates" featured on this site outlines the basic approach:
Change management templates for non management employees

N.B. I recommend a particular emphasis on focusing senior management on "benefits" and building an approach based on questions that expose their lack of a clear benefit management strategy - as this is directly related to ROI (see point 4. below):
Realising the benefits of change

(4) Understand the language of ROI - how to turn "soft" issues into hard financials

The broader context of the "change readiness" has been discussed in detail here:
Change readiness assessments

For the specifics of how to develop a quantified analysis and business case in a language that the Board understands - i.e. the impact on the ROI of the change initiative/project - take a look at Peter Duschinsky's work which is featured here (and on his site) he is pioneered some services and tools that directly address this and expose senior execs to the likely/inevitable fallout of a failed initiative and he gives an assessment of the likelihood of this happening. (Peter is UK based.) These concepts can be adapted...
The change equation

Trust this helps?

What's your view?

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