Why do we need change champions?
7 ‘must have’ reasons!
Think about the last new process or technology that was introduced into your life.
Your recent visit to the doctor may have resulted in looking at a weight-loss diet, and a bicycle to suit your commuter needs. They say this is going to be good for you and is something you need to do. But at the same time, you know it takes time and attention to learn the new process and technology. Your day is way too busy to get some momentum on this. A little push and guidance would go a long way right now.
The same goes for internal change programs.
When they are executed well, people are made aware of how the change relates to them personally. But this is often not enough to get over the initial inertia. We think, ‘I’m so busy, I’ll get to it later’. Or ‘I’ve given this half an hour of my time, but it’s too involved for me to work out on my own’.
In the case of a weight-loss diet, we come to the realisation that this is more than just a diet. You soon find that you need to learn about nutrition and understand what to eat when, specifically for you. You wish someone could guide you through this journey. To learn the essentials, and to help you out when you get stuck or when you’re ready to learn something new. Your day gets busy quickly and your good intentions fall by the wayside, and so does your weight.
If we believe in the importance of continuous improvement, then we need continuous change champions to lead us to these future states. Read about the 7 reasons you must have #ChangeChampions Click To Tweet
Similarly, what we need in change programs is the comfort in knowing that when we’re ready we can get some coaching. This gives us the momentum to get things going, and reassurance in being guided along the way. Commitment to change is a much easier decision when you know you are supported for the long-term in achieving an outcome. Champions are an essential element of a successful change program. Their role is to coach employees in transitioning through a change. Whether it’s adopting the new process of doing document reviews in projects or using a new communications technology to share good practices across metallurgy sites.
Champions live and breathe the nuances and dynamics of the locality, department, and team they work in. Putting them in a good position to influence and translate what the change means for their colleagues.
But now that the change program is a couple of months old, our champions have done their job, haven’t they?
What’s left to do once they have helped deliver communications, training, coaching, and generally advocating the change in their day-to-day conversations?
Well, it depends. How are your adoption rates looking? Are you at the point where you don’t have enough time in the day to share all the stories of people unlocking value from the new process or technology change? Probably not. This is because change takes time. Especially when people don’t want to part with their old things and habits, even if they know the new thing is good for them.
Behaviour change doesn’t happen overnight. Some will take a change from day one, for others it will take time. And there’s always new people onboarding to a group that will need to learn the ropes.
That is why champions are required for the long term. They need to have a presence and be there for people to turn to when they are ready. They need to be there to facilitate and promote a quality of behaviour for better productivity and sense-making.
Why do we need change champions ?
Here are 7 reasons why the role of the Champion is not just a “nice to have”, but a “must have”. Read our extensive guide below to get an insight into the outstanding benefits of a change champion.
1. Understanding people at work is not a one-time investigation, and neither is a one-time “hit and hope” training session.
People find it hard to reel off a list of pain points in one session, often they will recall most of their pain points (and in more detail) in the context of doing work. Similarly, people can only absorb so much information in a training session, and most often need to learn in digests over time so they can better retain and apply what they learn. Learning from co-workers ‘in situ’ is often the most effective way as you have shared context. You are learning (on-demand) at the time of need, and learning by doing (which is an effective way to not only learn, but build knowledge). Knowing this, it’s essential that champions are a permanent fixture in an organisation. Embedded and present in multiple parts of the business to support effective learning methods and challenges/opportunities as they are recalled.
2. New challenges and opportunities are always arising for knowledge workers.
With new challenges arising we require a way to recognise this and enable workers with solutions. The term “perpetual beta” refers to continuous product updates based on data-driven and user-centric observations and feedback. In our context we could think of this as a “perpetual change program”, where understanding people needs, and usability never stops. A new process or technology project is a good opportunity to put a spotlight on enabling people at work. Just because the official part of the rollout is completed, it doesn’t mean we stop paying attention to how our people work, to enable them to thrive and unlock value.
3. It takes time to penetrate the whole organisation.
During the discovery stage of a change program we don’t have time nor the capacity, as considered as we are, to have a complete represented sample of the organisation. Understanding how all parts of the business works takes time and a network of agents. What we learn throughout the launch of the program just touches the surface. This approach needs to continue as a permanent fixture or program in enabling a business to best understand itself.
4. People often have good intentions in incorporating new tools into their existing processes, but find it hard spreading their attention and dedicating time to do it. Learning how to use a new tool or process, and how it benefits both your personal and team work duties takes time and motivation. An adoption-centric approach understands new habits take time to cultivate and often requires handholding. Repeated communications and a coach on hand is essential in supporting this effort. We favour a process approach, rather than a product feature approach, so it doesn’t put all the onus on the employee to work it out for themselves. Let’s face it, often we have low motivation and/or are short for time to even work out things we have chosen ourselves. Champions are the change brokers to help you get you through that change.
5. Before you even open the gate, people are full of pre-wired biases and irrationalities.
The familiar one is people don’t resist change, they resist being changed. Even if they can see the change is good for them, they may resist on the principle of not being considered or consulted. Hence our investigative and inclusive approach in change programs. Champions continue this approach in the growth stages and beyond by holding the torch and lighting up the individual path an employee treads. Another bias is that people can often be loss averse; we value products we own more than the benefits of new ones. Some people need to see others succeed, before they give it a go. Again, champions are present chipping away assisting people, role-modelling behaviour, and sharing stories of success. Overtime there is familiarity and people may come to resist their bias and give something a chance. Some people just aren’t ready, but when they are, champions will be there to support their curiosity and new intentions.
6. People are most influenced by their peers and people they trust.
Are you more likely to see a movie based on a conversation with someone you don’t know, or someone you know, trust and share similar interests? There’s more probability that your friend knows you and what you like better than someone you don’t know. Therefore, your friend’s recommendation is taken with more credibility. Same goes with change programs and technology rollouts. Due to the existing shared history and trust, there’s more chance a new process or technology will be adopted if it’s role-modelled and championed by a peer. The embedded champion is sure to position new functionalities in the context that the receiver understands and resonates with. This will have more chance of converting those that are too busy, or highly resistant to change. Additionally, it has the “Keeping up with the Joneses” effect. If a peer (manager) is succeeding with a new methodology or tool, you too want some of that spotlight. You too want to be seen as being current and modern. You too want the same success for your team, and for your professional growth and reputation.
7. It takes a network of champions.
Understanding the needs of all people and aspects of the business cannot be done by one person or in one shot. They don’t have the capacity, knowledge, nor the influence in every aspect of the business in delivering change. It’s great if individuals change to a better way of working. But if not all on a given team or organisation have agreed to it, then change at the greater level suffers. Transformational change requires network effects, and the long-term presence of a network of champions can support the business on this journey. The launch stage of your change program is just the beginning. Employing your champions to advocate, facilitate and feedback how the change is being interpreted, received and embedded is a long-term thing.
Understanding the larger reasons behind the question… Why do we need change champions, makes the decision for hiring one, much clearer and easier to ensure they are attached to any project.