By: Mumtaz chaudhary

Winter 2020 Issue

As experts in change management, we’re often called to help companies address change. While there isn’t a silver bullet, one key thing we’ve learned in the past decade is that it’s essential to engage people across all levels of an organization to achieve successful and sustainable outcomes.

While some organizations are blessed with a charismatic CEO who can energize the masses, numerous change management research studies over the years – including one from Prosci – support our experience and belief that direct supervisors and managers are often more effective in being the key source of information and inspiration for employees during times of change.

Creating a compelling call to action involves more than simply sending out an email or organizing a quick team huddle. It requires leaders who are willing and able to implement different measures based on the pulse of their operating areas. The effort is worth it. As McKinsey points out, when people are truly invested in change, it is 30 per cent more likely to stick.

So, how can a consulting firm help create a call to action that resonates? Here are some of the strategies and tactics we’ve successfully employed in partnership with leaders from numerous organizations in Canada and the United States.

Stress the How – Not the What
The medium is the message. In simple terms, it is crucial to place greater emphasis on how a message is delivered than what it contains. This includes the language, tone and wording, along with identifying who are the best people to deliver it.

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality”
-Leadership expert Warren Bennis

This can be determined through a stakeholder discovery process by the consulting team. You take the opportunity to learn about the scope, scale and nature of the change involved along with the impact it will have on people and the culture in the organization, which will shape your recommended approach.

This process is becoming more important – and also tricky – as workforces have become more diverse in both background and demographics. All the more reason to know your audience.

Customizing a Plan
Following the discovery process, create a specialized game plan in consultation with senior leaders. It can include some or all of the following:

  • Engagement tactics, including team meetings, fireside chats with senior leaders and feedback loops using a variety of communications vehicles.
  • Leadership alignment tactics such as project sponsor meetings and executive briefings.
  • Learning and development activities such as training and information sessions, demos and online resources such as intranet content and webinars.
  • Sustainment activities, including updates to company policies and employee onboarding programs and use of newer engagement tools such as Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp.

The focus and detail of these various tactics and activities will vary depending on the level of change along with the assistance the leadership team requires. It may be as straightforward as an executive briefing or providing resources such as a set of key messages and FAQs. As change management practitioners, recognizing that every organization and scenario is unique is part of what makes our role so fulfilling.

Helping Leaders Lead
Our experience has shown that leaders who have a high emotional intelligence have the most success in leading people through times of change. They are able to understand and empathize with the emotions people experience during the transition phase.

In cases where leaders need assistance in connecting with their staff, offer coaching or resources – such as briefing material or decks. This can help them convey their messages in an effective and thoughtful way.

Also, stress to leaders that before they can lead staff, they have to make sure they are emotionally and physically prepared for what’s ahead. This includes things we often take for granted such as getting a good night’s sleep or work/life balance.

To stress this point, we often tell leaders in coaching sessions that it’s no different than being on an airplane when oxygen masks drop during a turbulent trip. Before you can assist someone in need of help, you have to secure your mask first. The same applies to leaders who are trying to support their teams.

Change Can Be Rewarding
There’s no question that leading an organization through times of change has its share of challenges, including dealing with a range of scenarios and also emotions. However, one of the truly rewarding aspects of any change is seeing the leaders you collaborate with guide their organizations to successful outcomes such as a national expansion program or major digital rollout.

While we often view this success from the sidelines in our consulting role, knowing that our strategy came to fruition is just as satisfying as being there in person.

Mumtaz Chaudhary is the Executive Director and Co-Founder at Pragilis Solutions—a boutique consultancy that partners with CEOs and executives to anticipate change before it arrives in their organizations. After spending over a decade consulting to companies in the higher education, energy, machinery, mining, financial services, retail and technology sectors, Mumtaz knows what it takes to build change-resilient organizations and change-ready leaders—and it’s not managing change as a one-off event. It’s building change management skills for the future.  

A thought leader for Pragilis, Mumtaz routinely writes for notable publications such as The Change Management Review. Mumtaz often speaks on how companies can properly engage their people to deliver successful change—digital, organizational, strategic or otherwise. Mumtaz has an active interest in helping companies lead people-centered change and looks for opportunities to incorporate agile, design-thinking and lean principles into her distinctive approach.

Mumtaz is a Certified Change Management Professional™ (CCMP) and holds a B.Sc. in Science, Technology and Society from the University of Calgary.