Creating a content strategy is the easy part. Affecting the organizational change needed to execute the strategy is not so easy.
Some of us at Content Strategy Inc recently attended the IIBA speaker event, Adding Change Management to a Business Analyst Skillset. Business consultant Alexander Stanisic shared his experience in helping companies align strategy, people, process, structures, and culture in order to execute lasting organizational change.
There were so many great take-aways for us as content strategists! Here are our top five:
A strategy (content or otherwise) is only intent. Culture is the king.
To execute a strategy, you need to change something that will shift your organization from where you are to where you need to be. And when it comes to managing change within a large organization, there are so many things to shift: systems, and processes, and technologies, and tools, and metrics and measures. But by far and large, the most difficult thing to change in an organization is the culture.
Change isn’t easy for people.
The emotional and psychological stages that people often go through when faced with change are very similar to the stages that people experience when dealing with grief: 1) shock, 2) denial, 3) anger, 4) depression, 5) acceptance, and 6) integration. As strategists trying to affect change, we need to respect this process and support people through it rather than denying their feelings.
There are eight critical steps in integrating change.
Management consultant John Kotter had identified eight steps that need to occur for successful change. As an industry, content strategists often overlook step one: the need to create a sense of urgency. Communicating the critical reason for change, and why NOW is the right time, is important or people will prioritize more urgent concerns. Step three, articulating a solid vision and communicating it consistently, widely, and loudly is also something content strategists often don’t do well. We may create a vision, but do we share it at every opportunity, through different channels, across all teams, in ways that people hear? Again, and again, and again, and always? And how about step five? Do we remove the barriers to change by providing our teams with the tools, resources, and support needed? Not as often as we need to.
Change fails most often because of lack of accountability.
It’s important to have your army of advocates and change leaders, but unless somebody’s job is on the line, and a top executive actively supports the change by removing barriers and investing in it, then it’s highly unlikely that change will be successful. In content strategy, we’ve seen this situation time and time again. Organizations know the value of change and pay lip service to it, but when trying to assign accountability for making change it’s like passing around a hot potato! Nobody wants to take it on, so senior management delegates it down to people who don’t have the authority or resources to be effective. And the only lasting change that occurs is that people become discouraged.
Success is more likely when you empower teams and focus on people.
Even though strong leadership and accountability is important, organizational change is more successful when it’s led by a steering group as opposed to an authoritarian leader. Active, rather than passive, communication works best as does dynamic contribution rather than simple attendance at meetings. Focusing the change efforts on the people and interactions, rather than systems and procedures, is a much more effective approach. How many times have we seen a new content management system imposed on decentralized authors, and all of a sudden there are hundreds of content contributors carrying pitchforks around with them, looking for a target for their anger?
All in all, it was an evening of great reminders that we’ll use to help our clients manage content strategy changes in their organizations. How else have you affected positive change in your organization? Let us know!