Translating the vision, your role as a leader of change

Think about the projects and change initiatives you’ve supported. Did you focus on mass communications to large audiences? Or did you focus instead on key players, engaging them and trusting them to pass the messages along? How much dedicated time did you spend putting yourself in the shoes of others to specifically understand what the change meant to them? 

As a change leader, part of your responsibility is to articulate the high level vision for the future and to translate that vision into meaningful benefits for every level of the organization. 2018 Harvard review Study notes that, “when employees don’t understand why changes are happening, it can be a barrier to driving ownership and commitment and can even result in resistance or push back.” It goes on to say, “employees’ resistance to change is a leading factor for why so many change transformations fail.”

Our experience working with clients through ERP transformations have shown us time and time again in order for a project to be successful, your change initiative depends on how individuals in the organization embrace and adopt these changes. We have found that for an organization to successfully change, individuals need to change. The success of each project ultimately lies with each impacted employee's ability to understand what the change means to them. They need the clear answer of “What’s in it for me?”.

An Everyday Example

Consider this familiar example: You give a spouse, a parent, or a friend a state of the art new Phone as a birthday present. Let’s call this lucky person Alex. You want Alex to use the new smartphone, because you know all that it can do, how useful it is to so many people, and you are excited about how amazing it will be for Alex to have one as well.

After about a week or so, you find out Alex is using it just like the old phone, to text and to make phone calls only.  Alex tells you that the phone is just OK, and that it is easier to text message now since the font size can be made much larger.  You are perplexed, because that phone is so much more than just OK. That new $1500 investment has so much more to offer, it has so many more capabilities than just texting and making calls.

In this story, Alex just replaced one device for another and is not adopting the use of other features such as FaceTime with friends or leaving real time video messages with family. Alex doesn’t know that you can share a good laugh via video calls with far away friends or use an app to send video messages back and forth in the family chat group. He is unaware of the time and energy savings that are available such as how to look up the public transport schedules and buy tickets. There are apps to manage drug prescription’s, doctor appointments, make payments, and to communicate with physicians. Alex at this point isn’t able to understand what the value of the new phone could be for him.

Let’s take a look at this situation with the vision clearly articulated from the beginning. At the birthday party while Alex is opening the gift you could ask other guests what’s their favorite time saver is with their phone. Maybe one person mentions they use their phone to order prescription refills in less than 2 minutes. Another mentions that it notifies them when the refill is ready to pick up, eliminating several trips or long calls to the pharmacy. By asking these questions, there may be many more benefits others mention that are based on “What’s is in it for Alex”. With this conversation, now Alex will be more likely to want to open the box and be excited to take the time and effort to explore his new device.

Organizational Transformations

Put this story in the context of a change initiative such as a digital transformation project. Your end users are Alex in this scenario and the new ERP system is the new phone. Many of your Alex type of end users will only ever attempt to use the new software for simple transactions. They will only do what they need to do to complete their tasks.  Just like Alex only making phone calls with his new phone, users would miss out so many of the other benefits if they only interact with their new ERP system for those basic transactions. Much like the birthday party attendees sharing the phone benefits, a change network can be set up in any organization to help disseminate the messaging and communicate the value for each group.

Often communications focus on large messaging and are not utilizing the middle manager group to help DELIVER key messaging to individuals. This is an often missed group of influential people on employees.  Studies show that employees want to hear from this trusted group, so use them as part of your change network to disseminate key messaging, value, and benefits for the change.

In our experience of managing change projects, it was this key group of direct supervisors who could provide a first-hand temperature check and tell directly what the end users wanted to know. This key middle management group also were essential is portraying how there staff were accepting and adapting to the changes

In a leadership article from Prosci, the leading experts in change management say, it is much like putting on a play—where actors, directors, costume designers, lighting and sound crews coordinate their unique talents to deliver a single successful outcome. Change management requires individuals in all key roles to engage with the change and coordinate efforts in clearly defined ways. From the highest levels of leadership to the middle managers, then directly to the front-line employees. It takes an entire system of people within the organization to support employees through the transition to make it successful.

Useful Tips

Here are some come key tips and strategies you can refer to as you or your Leadership Team begin a change initiative.

  1. First, it is important to articulate the vision for the future. Leaders must be able to answer these questions and provide guidance to the teams implementing the change.
    1. What does the organization want to achieve?
    2. What is the target operating model?
    3. How will the organizational structure change?
  2. Secondly, leaders must translate the vision into tangible benefits for every level of the organization. Answering these questions is essential to gaining buy-in from all members of the organization.
    1. What value will the change bring to the company?
    2. How will it improve employee satisfaction?
    3. How does this impact my daily job?
    4. Each individual must know, WITFM “What’s In It For Me?”
  3. Lastly and most important, use an often-missed key employee group, your middle line managers.
    1. This is your managers and supervisors, those employees that have direct reports. A large survey of people affected by major changes reported, said that they want to hear from two messengers, the CEO and their Direct Managers.
    2. Clearly defined roles for change agents within this group of leaders. Make it formal, well defined, and well recognized among the company and project team. Without formal definition the role may be overlooked and underutilized.

OCM at Tenthpin

At Tenthpin, our certified team of Organizational Change Management experts help clients identify the value and benefits for all individuals involved with the change. We have a comprehensive Change Management approach and toolkit where we put people at the heart of everything we do. We excel in skillfully translating the vision to all the stakeholders involved by engaging that important group of middle line managers and supervisors, and ensuring the reasons for change is heard at all employee levels.We utilize tools such as Leadership Mentorship and Design Thinking workshops to help you focus on all levels of the organization. 

If you are interested in supporting each person through their individual change journey and ensuring your next project gets it right with Change Management, don’t hesitate to reach out to our PROSCI certified team of change management experts. We look forward to it.  


Please reach out to our Organizational Change Management team to find out more. 

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written by

Afra Corona


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