Change Management on the Road: Wearing the Many Hats of a Change Manager to Ensure Stakeholder Engagement
In my years of engaging with people and change management, one thing has always been clear—this is not a desk job!
Change management is a discipline that requires one to engage with people from all levels of an organization, from a floor sweeper to a corporate CEO. While the tasks may vary, your message is always essentially the same, “I need you to change how you’re doing something.” While events such as town-halls help get important messages across, they are not always viable. Sometimes you, the change manager, need to see to it that the message is delivered.
Never was this as apparent as when I was working with a multinational bank to rehome critical systems back to a single country. A change of this magnitude meant that my car essentially became my office, with varying stakeholders needing individual attention to help drive project success. The Namibian government was implementing legislature to ensure all systems—debit orders, transactions, forex, investments—would now be happening domestically through the Central Bank. Over 1200 companies globally with banks in Namibia would need to be rehomed. This affected everyone, from corporations with employees in the thousands to local fish and chip shops.
The primary challenge with a change of this magnitude was the sheer number of stakeholders. This change would need to happen concurrently with changes in government legislature, corporate systems, and individual behaviours. My employer was one of the banks affected by the government legislature, and I was tasked with bringing clients up to speed on the ability and knowledge side of the new systems. Clients who had been used to systems localized to their own countries now had to provide new documentation, implement new systems, and inform their customers that they would need to change how they were doing things.
We needed to script the communications going out to these stakeholders in such a way as to make all parties happy while retaining customer loyalty. In short, no easy task. There were times when certain banking products were no longer viable because of the regulation changes, and customers were losing faith in the banks. We needed to reengage with those clients while still telling them to expect more changes. As such, we were in a constant state of communication.
The importance of communication in this regard cannot be understated. We were interacting with everyone from the CEO to the client and engaging at all levels of the organization. There was a substantial amount of change fatigue between the business units. The retail units were required to operate as normal, while corporate pushed them to update systems on the fly. We needed to drive all over South Africa and Namibia to train relationship managers to minimize client casualties.
What was interesting to me as a change manager was how much my approach needed to differ depending on who I was talking to or where in the world I was. Our CEO was Namibian, while our corporate head offices were located in Uganda. The staff was multinational. We spent much of our time engaging with the PMO’s to push the roadmap and developed internal and external end-user diagrams. The variance in our approach needed to be vast to accommodate cultural and structural organizational differences.
We learned a ton about engagement. We pushed ownership of the change and empowered people to manage it themselves. Celebrating success is always important, particularly when your organization is so change fatigued, and as such, getting buy-in from the CEO was crucial. We scripted town-halls for them to ensure they were acknowledging the hard work done on the ground. Overall, my primary takeaway from all of this was the importance of communication. When done right, it encourages engagement, gives perspective on the change, and prepares people for what is to come. Remember that when the message comes from the preferred senders, it lends credibility to the change.