Three “people factor” steps for successful change management

Tyler Ferguson

change management

Transformation of any kind starts and ends with people. If you’re implementing a broad change and everyone in your organization isn’t engaged in some way, it will never work to its fullest potential. Period.

I’ve helped hundreds of libraries transform their organizations through technology implementations for ten years, and the people factor is consistently the key to success. But it’s also the hardest, and the most overlooked. What inspires one person may not motivate someone else. But neglecting to apply this lens across how you plan, communicate, and execute leaves so many positive aspects of change on the table.

Involving a large group of people in anything is a challenge. Let’s just get that out of the way. But the process also provides a multitude of opportunities, including the chance to improve morale.

To keep things manageable and actionable, I like to break down the people side of things into three buckets: inform, inspire, and reinforce. This triad helps contain activities and ensure there’s consistency throughout the project.

INFORM with dialogue

You can’t just tell people what to do. Well, you can, and they might do it, but their heart won’t be in it. So, start with a conversation—and make sure it’s a dialogue, not just leadership talking at people. Create tangible opportunities (think town hall or a series of morning stand-up meetings) to clearly communicate your organization’s why. Why are you changing things? And most importantly, why does it matter? To the company. To managers. To front-line staff. That said, your communication effort doesn’t need to be over the top. You manage change every day by treating people with respect, dignity, and speaking to them directly.

INSPIRE personal ownership

Give ownership to everyone. Make it personal. Figure out what gets people up in the morning, what will get them more excited. Provide examples of how people’s passions (or just the parts of their jobs they enjoy or care most about) roll up to the high-level goals of the change initiative. And then invite everyone to share and help create the desired future. Use what you learn to communicate different perspectives that can inspire peer-to-peer excitement.

REINFORCE often and passionately

The dialogue you started at the beginning is important, but it loses value if it’s short-lived. Your change management vision has to be more than one moment, one speech, one email. Change is a process. People need time to understand the facts, assess how it affects them personally, and then work through how it translates into action. The hope is that the process of change becomes a shared experience that makes sense to everyone on a personal level.

All change is hard

Even if everyone is behind the change and excited and participating, it’s going to be hard. This is why all of my work with change management connects the head and the heart—there simply won’t be any progress without both. If people understand the end game, the organizational “why,” and have time to process, it becomes personal—even if they don’t fully buy into every single detail. And when the high-level goals become more than words on a page, real change happens.

Interested in learning more about managing change in your library? Register for an upcoming Transformative Leaders webinar featuring representatives from Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library.