Don’t Overlook the Manager in the Middle of the Change Process

As the practice of organizational change management (OCM) has continued to evolve, the recognition of the importance of executive sponsorship and end user advocacy have remained constant. Both OCM and project management best practices indicate a direct link between an active, visible sponsor and project success. Without end user adoption, the investment in a change will not be realized. As a result, organizational change management practitioners know how to engage stakeholders at the top and the bottom of the org chart really well. But what about the stakeholders in the middle, the managers and supervisors? Has the role of the manager and supervisor in the middle of the change process been overlooked?

A client was implementing Salesforce.com, a cloud-based CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software that helps organizations to streamline their sales and marketing operations. Prior to the implementation of Salesforce.com, the sales managers had little visibility to day-to-day activities of the sales force. The salespeople golfed with their clients and took them to football games; as long as these activities turned into sales, everything was good. The primary metric for performance was number of sales, and the sales managers measured, managed, motivated and rewarded their salespeople accordingly.

With the implementation of Salesforce.com, salespeople were now expected to enter information about their selling efforts into the system on a daily basis: number of cold calls made, new leads, interactions with customers, and sales conversion likelihood. For sales managers, this was a completely new and totally different ballgame. Overnight, sales managers had gone from having no visibility to the day-to-day activities of their salespeople to having more information than they knew what to do with! What did “good performance” look like now? How did the sales managers’ ways of managing need to change in the face of new requirements to enter all selling activities into Salesforce.com? What were sales managers supposed to do with the trove of never-before-available data, waiting in Salesforce.com to be mined for insight into sales success?

We have long known, recognized, and leveraged the important role that managers and supervisors play in the organizational change management process. They help communicate about and advocate for change, coach their teams through the transition, and help to overcome resistance along the way. However, the effect of system, process, and organizational changes and how they impact the way managers measure, manage, motivate, and reward their teams is too often overlooked. While organizational change management consultants do a great job of proactively engaging managers so that they are prepared to answer their team’s questions about the change, often overlooked is the need to prepare managers and supervisors for the implications of the change for the way they will manage their teams in the post-change environment.

Often, the change faced by supervisors will require the development of skills beyond understanding how to use the new technology. While preparing supervisors would likely require some system training, equipping supervisors to successfully manage their teams will also require new managerial mindsets and approaches. To properly equip managers and supervisors, to ready them to effectively manage their teams in the new environment, comprehensive development of managers should include the following topics:

  • What metrics and KPIs are currently measured to manage, motivate and reward teams?

Ideally, these topics should be chunked and delivered over time in a series of short workshop-style sessions to introduce managers to the new tools and data, to explain the implications of the data, and to provide an opportunity to engage in peer discussions about how they might change their management approach. Providing participants with real-life homework assignments following each session, to complete and share with their peers at the next session, can help facilitate valuable peer-to-peer dialogue. An experiential simulation involving data analysis of a fictional team, role playing, and coaching based on new performance data can be an effective exercise to help managers begin to envision and develop new ways of managing.

It is important to note that depending on the relationship between organizational change management and HR, OCM may be politely encouraged to stay in their “OCM swim lane.” Regardless of who ultimately facilitates these conversations and the supporting work, it is critical that we raise the issue of managerial alignment in the new operating environment.

As we engage managers and supervisors in the change process, it is important that we look beyond their role as communicators, advocates, and coaches and ensure that we effectively prepare them to measure, manage, motivate, and reward their teams in the new environment. While we must continue to leverage sponsors and ready end users, effective stakeholder engagement and development of the manager in the middle is critical to ensure that the change is institutionalized throughout the organization.

Contact ChangeStaffing to learn how our organizational change management consultants can help your organization effectively engage your managers and supervisors as key stakeholders.

A special thanks to Lesa Lozano, contract organizational change management coach and consultant, for her thought leadership and for collaborating with us on this blog.

Originally published at https://www.changestaffing.com on January 12, 2021.

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