One of the biggest challenges in change management is finding ways to motivate the people who power the business to buy into the process. Without that motivation, change may never take hold.
A leading thinker on change, John Kotter of the Harvard Business School, introduced an eight-step change management process in his 1995 book, “Leading Change.” Understanding how critical buy-in is, he dedicated two steps in the process to actions that will help motivate the right people – creating a vision for change (step 3) and communicating it effectively (step 4).
Before you develop a shared vision, you need to understand what a vision is. A vision is a view of the future that lays out what the organization aspires to be. That may be very different from the status quo, or it may be just slightly different from the existing way things are done. The important thing to remember is that the vision is clear. It should illustrate what the organization is striving to be and it should be easy to communicate. If you want it to become widely accepted by the organization and be a vision that people understand and accept, it must have broad appeal. The most effective visions also are created in a way that makes them easy to communicate and share.
Consider what makes an effective vision. It must be imaginable. People have to be able to imagine it and see it in their minds to understand it. It must also be desirable in some way and appeal to the long-term stakeholder interest. When the vision is developed and presented, it needs to be explained why it is desirable. To some extent, the new vision may not be widely desirable because it involves some change. Organizational change could make some people try to avoid it. That resistance makes it even more essential to show why the new vision is necessary and why it will appeal to your stakeholders’ long-term interests.
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For a vision to be effective, it also must be feasible. People want to believe that the vision can actually be achieved, so it must be realistic and, while not necessarily easy to bring about, it must be attainable. At the same time, it should be focused and clear enough to provide guidance to the requisite trade-offs in decision-making.
The best visions are also flexible because they must be sufficient to allow individual initiatives and alternative responses within their scope. This is particularly true for dynamic industries or environments where change is going to be needed in an incremental or revolutionary sense over time.
An effective vision should easily be summed up in five minutes. If it’s not easy for you communicate, it’s not going to be easy for your employees to understand and, more importantly, share and champion throughout the organization.
Moreover, the vision statement can’t merely be stated somewhere. It needs to be prominent everywhere, such as on the website, on placards, in meetings, discussed in speeches. It’s very important that the vision is shared widely and effectively as soon as it has been approved.
We as human beings do not like uncertainty. To resolve it, we’ll create our own vision of the future. That makes it imperative that any change and the vision for the future as a result of the change are unveiled simultaneously. Everyone should see the destination of the vision clearly, and the path that will take them there. Making sure of this will resolve much of the uncertainty the change process creates, enabling the buy-in that’s necessary for positive, successful change.