For change management to be very effective and acceptable it should involve every layer within the organisation. Strategic planners often fail to take into account the extent to which midlevel and frontline people can make or break a change initiative. The path of rolling out change is immeasurably smoother if these people are tapped early for input on issues that will affect their jobs. Frontline people tend to be rich repositories of knowledge about where potential glitches may occur, what technical and logistical issues need to be addressed, and how customers may react to changes. In addition, their full-hearted engagement can smooth the way for complex change initiatives, whereas their resistance will make implementation an ongoing challenge.
Planners who resist early engagement at multiple levels of the hierarchy often do so because they believe that the process will be more efficient if fewer people are involved in planning. But although it may take longer in the beginning, ensuring broad involvement saves untold headaches later on. Not only does more information surface, but people are more invested when they’ve had a hand in developing a plan. One common aphorism in change management is “you have to go slow to go fast.”
IBM recognized the need for such an approach in 2003, when rolling out a new initiative on culture. The leadership team had met intensively to develop clear definitions of the cultural traits the organization would require going forward. They then declared a “values jam,” a website set up for a 72-hour period, where anyone in the company could post comments, responses, suggestions, and concerns. Leaders then made key changes based on the feedback they received and communicated clearly how the input they’d received was being incorporated.