How to Reframe Your Approach to Change Management: Welcome to the Jungle

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When the topic of home page real estate comes up, 4 out of 5 association professionals are likely to let out a groan. I've heard their stories of sitting in meetings where decisions about home page content are made based on power politics – whoever has the most departmental clout gets the primo real estate.

But this doesn't happen if René Shonerd is on your team

As the Managing Director of Technology Initiatives at the American Industrial Hygiene Association, René has a proven approach to dealing with change management challenges, including website squabbles. She uses a 4-frame model first introduced in Reframing Organizations by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal.

With the first of the 4 frames, the Structural frame, you look at how change brought on by new technology affects the infrastructure or framework of your organization. Which policies, processes, procedures, job positions or descriptions are affected by the change?

The second frame, the Human frame, views the organization through a more human (or humane) lens that focuses on people – their perceptions, emotions, and behavior.

The third frame, the Political frame, views the organization as a jungle. Does that sound about right from your experience?

If you don't have a change management plan in place, alongside change comes conflict. In the minds of many, change results in winners and losers. Some on staff will feel disempowered. Some will use the occasion to make power grabs. There's one thing you can count on: pushback.

Keep on talking – and listening

"Much of this drama can be avoided if you build two-way communication into your project management plan," said René. She warns, however, that "if your communication with staff is one-way only and staff has no opportunity for input, you miss the opportunity to build trust and buy-in with those who will be affected by the change."

René recommends creating arenas for conflict – opportunities for concerns and issues to be worked out in a healthy fashion with rules, referees, and spectators. She used this approach when leading a website redesign project. She heard the "my content needs to be on the home page" argument too, but she had a plan.

The players make the rules

Working with the vendor, René decided to do the card-sort exercise not only with the project team but with senior staff as well so they could have input into the primary navigation and home page elements. She gathered all the "powers that be" together for a facilitated exercise about strategic priorities for the site. Once the strategic priorities were tied to organizational goals, it took the politics out of the discussion. She let them sort the cards and come to the appropriate decisions themselves. Everyone had the opportunity to be heard, but now they all understood how navigation was designed and why specific types of content were given priority on the homepage.

Clever, isn't it? The outcome is a website that serves the goals of the association instead of being a political pawn.

Flickr photo by Richard Elzey