3 Things I Learned while Leading Change at a Company that Teaches Change Management

Graphs and file folder with label  Change Management.At The Ken Blanchard Companies we don’t just teach people in organizations to lead, learn, and grow—we live what we teach.

Recently, we began implementing a company-wide change process that included redefining our organization’s values. As you might imagine, leading a change initiative in a company that teaches change management poses a unique set of challenges.

I helped lead the rollout of our new values. In the process, I learned three things I want to pass along in case your organization is considering a similar move.

Don’t be afraid of top down. Vision and direction need to be set in stone by executive management. People may get nervous or annoyed that the ones at the top are making these decisions, but it doesn’t need to be framed that way. It’s really a matter of perspective.

When I was young, I took a trip to Washington and climbed to the top of Mt. St. Helens. The view at base camp, where hundreds of people were checking their gear, stretching, and prepping to make the ascent, was very different from what I saw when I reached the summit. By far, the best views of the abundant vegetation, wildlife, and beautiful Spirit Lake could only be seen from the top of the mountain. In the same way, a change initiative must start with the people who have the responsibility for the larger view of the company. Take advantage of that perspective. Have senior leaders begin the conversation on the vision, mission, and values that correspond to the organization’s five, ten, or twenty year plan.

Get buy-in early: The biggest misconception people in organizations have is that buy-in should happen toward the end of their change process. On the contrary! The buy-in process needs to start at the beginning of the initiative. This part should be a collaborative effort with everyone’s input. In our company, we rally around the phrase Feedback is the breakfast of champions. Once the initial vision is formed by senior leadership, others need to be involved in shaping the plan.

For our values initiative, we conducted several half-day online workshops so that everyone in the company would have the opportunity to review, discuss, and weigh in on the proposed values. More than 80 percent of our total workforce participated. Senior leaders were delighted to hear the many ideas shared during the process and enthusiastic about the values that ultimately rose to the top—including two that were dubbed Kenship and Getting to D4. (Email me at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com if you want to see the final list.) Taking the time for feedback and buy-in made for a stronger final product.

Fully integrate values into systems and procedures. Values are great to display on the wall—and trust me, we are posting them everywhere! But if they stay on the wall without actually being integrated into organizational systems and procedures, they will end up merely as outdated décor. No one wants that. Ultimately, values drive behavior. To this end, we are working to develop ways that our performance management system, recognition programs, and hiring procedures will fully integrate with our new values.

The steps we are taking in this direction include a redesign of our annual recognition program that includes the addition of specific awards that match values-based behaviors. We have also created a private Facebook page where all Blanchard associates can share real-time praise of colleagues (to highlight a sale, great teamwork, successful training) for all to see, along with a hashtag to the particular value that is being demonstrated such as #Trustworthiness. These are two great ways for us to reinforce the positive behavior that we believe will drive success in the organization—and there’s more to come.

That’s Us—How about You?

That’s how we are approaching our change initiative. How does it match up with your approach? We know the process of implementing organizational change is never easy or quick. But we also know if we work together, make the effort, and take the time to do things right, we will succeed—and our organization will be the better for it.

2 thoughts on “3 Things I Learned while Leading Change at a Company that Teaches Change Management

  1. I led organizational change in my department at a large company. Getting small victories and a champion are always helpful but I found that real and extra hand holding to make everyone feel comfortable are great. People faced with change don’t want to be rushed into change but want to begin to get comfortable with it slowly. Communication to everyone involved is also another key.

  2. Thank you for sharing Gus! I’ve been a raving fan of Blanchard books for two decades. (Although I admit, that there was a time in my life that I started to wonder if what I was reading actually existed or if these books filled with vision were actually business fairy tales.)

    Now – I love knowing that the concepts in those books really work and that they create amazing workplaces.

    Reading your post ignited my curiosity and made me wonder what life inside Ken Blanchard Companies looks and feels like to people at all levels of your organization. Fascinating.

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