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When you hear the name Benjamin Franklin, a few thoughts may come to mind: Founding Father, publisher of Poor Richard’s Almanack, abolitionist, face of the $100 bill. We’re guessing you don’t equate him with effective and strategic change management.
Yet, how he communicated and achieved his goals (all while bringing the American public along with him) are some of the reasons his legacy lives on.
So what is change management, and how can Benjamin Franklin teach us to manage change well?
What is Change Management?
Change management, simply put, is an enabling framework for managing the people-side of change. With that comes not only communicating that change is coming, but also supporting people through the transition. This support and employee buy-in significantly increases the chance of success for the team.
Oftentimes change is hard, but changing people’s minds is harder.
What Did Benjamin Franklin Know About Change Management?
While Benjamin Franklin may not have used the specific term “change management,” he knew how to influence others to help them embrace and adopt change.
Below we break down five of his famous quotes relating to effective and strategic practices and what we can learn from them.
1. Change Starts With Leadership
“Well done is better than well said.”
The most important thing about change management comes in knowing you are the one who has to do the changing first — totally and completely. If you can’t make the shift in your head, it will be impossible to make it in others’ heads. In other words, you need to practice what you preach and model the behavior and mindset you’re expecting from others.
After you have reflected on what, how, and where you will start with change, ask yourself: Am I ready to change?
- What will I do differently?
- How will I lead differently?
- How will I continually communicate?
- Who will be a part of the team of people that will help me? Are they ready to change?
2. People Better Adapt to Change When They're Given a Voice
“Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults.”
We understand that leaders and employees aren’t exactly enemies, but they do have two very different perspectives when it comes to day-to-day schedules, business strategy, and workplace culture.
It’s important to gain (and use) honest feedback in order to execute effective and strategic change management.
Start by asking your employees what they think about working at your organization.
And then be ready for all the answers.
Take them seriously and as directives for your future. Ask questions about how employees feel about communication and challenging authority. Ask feedback on how mistakes are handled, teams are formed, and if believe they are heard by leadership.
If the answers to the questions are very positive, drive for areas where people think things can be improved. There are always opportunities.
It’s impossible to change something if you don’t really know what you’re changing, and you can’t know until you ask. Even the most connected people in leadership learn something new when they ask people to give them honest feedback. Just the act of being curious about what your employees think is a huge step in the right direction.
Once you understand where your organization is, you can then lay over the top of that what your goal is, and the path to get there is a great deal clearer. You have also taken the first step in engaging your employees because their responses should have a direct effect on what, how, and where you start with your change initiatives.
3. Change Management is About Motivating People
“Change is the only constant in life. Ones ability to adapt to those changes will determine your success in life.”
Change happens. You either adapt or you don’t, and there are consequences for either outcome. Sometimes people are aware that they will face consequences, and other times they think that denial will make it go away.
The hard part is helping people realize that change is inevitable. If your organization is people-focused, this will be will be easier than if you have a poor workplace culture.
While you could circulate Benjamin Franklin’s political cartoon that’s shown right, we don’t suggest that fear-tactic.
Instead, think about what motivates your team (besides their lives!).
By focusing on benefits of the change– alignment, engagement, efficiency, leading KPIs– change managers can help onboard employees to a forward and positive way of thinking.
Besides metrics, people are also motivated by relationships. While these connections can’t be built overnight, and shouldn’t be created just to get people onboard with change, they are a powerful tool when it comes to loyalty and willingness to pivot in another direction.
4. Change in Methods Will Result in Change in Staffing
“No gains without pains.”
Irrespective of what your culture is, you should probably also accept that there will be attrition. In some cases, a lot. This is frustrating, but also incredibly normal.
While you might lose someone who you think is critical to your new direction, don’t worry. It may sting now, but that person wasn’t critical to your new direction. That’s why they left.
View a new employee as an opportunity to find someone who is fresh to the change and will embrace where you are going.
Without the right talent on board– ready to motivate, encourage, and lead– you will struggle to get your process off the ground. When your team is critical to achieving your strategic goals, having everyone on board will make the difference between success and just trying.
This doesn’t mean you don’t want people who can think differently. You still need devil’s advocates and nay-sayers to ensure you aren’t engaged in uni-think. You just need to make sure after all challengers have been heard and considered, that whatever direction the consensus decides is the one they will support wholeheartedly.
5. We Change Due to Forward-Thinking and Adaptability
“Look before, or you’ll find yourself behind.”
At the end of the day, change is a good thing. It means you’ve reflected on past practices and are adapting to the modern world and market.
But as harsh as it may seem, if your organization really needs to change in order to survive, trying really hard but achieving nothing won’t get you very far. Trying to change and actually being able to successfully change are two different things.
That’s where change management, intentional hiring and growth, shaking up your strategy, and clear goals come into play.
By having measurable goals, your organization will recognize benchmarks and what achievement looks like. This also strengthens your organization’s alignment; if employees know how they play a part in your strategic plan, they’re more likely to be engaged with the process.
Thanks to the above advice of Benjamin Franklin, organizations and change managers will be well on their way to effectively executing their strategy.