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Guest blog: 10 steps to close the gap between leadership and grassroots perspectives on change

Time and again change programmes fail because of a disconnect between how leadership and employees view the change. 

It’s about helping leaders build the bridge between their perception of the change and that of their employees. Let’s take one example: “Leaders see this change as an opportunity, the grass roots people see it as a risk. What can you do to close the gap?” 

The Five Step Transition Plan

Taking the leaders through the following sequence should give them the structure they need to begin the process:

  1.  A communication outlining the nature of the planned change (often neglected through fear of stirring up trouble, but it’s the absence of it that causes the trouble).
  2.  A quick survey to get initial feedback on main elements of the change e.g. “on a scale of 1-5 how comfortable are you with X” – be sure to communicate the results, especially if they don’t look great!
  3.  Using the data from the survey, understand the real nature of the people challenge associated with the change and not just the leader’s perception of that challenge.
  4.  Get a group of people together (a good cross section from functions and levels – again, usually avoided because of time constraints)
  5. Support them to figure out what to do about the gap in perception e.g. with the example of opportunity v risk leaders can create an Action Plan

The Five Step Action Plan

Based on the outcome of the survey:

  1. Give people a vision of a bright future they can get excited about and believe in (no easy task, but incredibly important) e.g. how great the end result will be, what are the benefits for them, provide visuals, videos, anecdotes from people who went through the change and found to their amazement that it was all good.
  2.  Identify things they are already comfortable with to help them along the way – find or create things that will provide anchors of security and positive feeling – for a merger for example, ‘you will keep your own desk’, or ‘X isn’t going to change’.
  3.  Identify what is ‘active’ and therefore what is ‘attractive’. For example, if you find from the survey that people’s main concern is being overwhelmed (active), give them things that will minimize this e.g. break the process down into manageable chunks (attractive) that people can relate to
  4.  Don’t push, attract! Move from ‘do as I say’ to ‘this is going to be great for the following reasons, what do you think?’
  5.  Facilitate mutual understanding – create feedback loops, two-way conversations, free people up to make decisions about things that affect them instead of imposing things on them that you think they will want e.g. a particular office layout or design.

Following the steps of the transition plan and the action plan should take leaders a fair distance along the line of progress to closing the gap between the different perceptions of change and have everyone arrive at a place that works well for all!

Paul Harding is a UK based independent Organizational Change consultant with over 20 years’ experience. He has had senior change roles in the US and Europe. His work covers the full range of change projects, from organization redesign through to major culture change programmes like the one he designed, project managed and rolled out across 32 sites for a major corporation in the US. 

Paul can be reached at 00 44 75539 68142 or 

See him on LinkedIn – paulharding100