Change Management – Make your stakeholders feel like a winner

Change Management – Make your stakeholders feel like a winner

The Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2015/2016 National Basketball Association Championship. The parade was held last week and a crowd estimated at 1.3 million people turned out to celebrate. 2016 Cleveland Championship Parade1.3 Million! If you count the real champions (the number of people that actually played or coached in the games) and divide that by the number of people at the parade, the percentage of real champions at the parade is less than 0.002 percent. That means that 99.998 percent of the people simply felt like champions. Feeling like a champion is great and you didn’t even have to break a sweat.  There is a simple but powerful lesson here in change management and that is:

You must make the entire stakeholder community feel like a winner!

This means:

  1. You do an excellent job of expectation management by defining and communicating what it means to win in terms of the deliverable of the project.
  2. You involve them in the journey to the deliverable, celebrating and including them on all the small successes and setbacks on the way to the deliverable.
  3. You plan your equivalent of the parade or celebration that involves the stakeholders upon completion of the deliverable and share this well ahead of time.

You have to create this winning/team atmosphere early on.  Sadly many project managers and project teams solely focus on the deliverable and not bringing the stakeholder community with them as the march toward the deliverable. These same project managers and project teams then have the audacity to wonder why stakeholders fight the project or the final deliverable, even when it exceeds expectations or dramatically improves operations.

When you embrace the stakeholder community during the journey to the deliverable you know you are doing a good job of change and stakeholder management if they are saying “we.” If your stakeholders are saying “you” then there is work to do.

Human beings love to win. In any city with a championship team the residents in that city say “we” won. If the city loses “we” is non existent and they talk about the coach or the players in terms of “them.” This is not logical, but it is real and the same aspects of human nature apply to the project manager’s stakeholder community.

Pay careful attention to your communication, evaluate your presentations and slide decks from the specific perspective of “are we creating buy in here?” or “are we just telling them?”  Remember your choice of words matter.  To quote psychologist George A. Miller:

The most powerful stimulus for changing minds is not a chemical. Or a baseball bat. It is a word.

A project manager must be superb at expectation management and creating buy in.  Some of the best leadership advice I ever received applies to this situation and that advice was to read sales books. Great sales people are not slimy or gimmicky and it is not about tricks.  Great sales people are masters at understanding their customer needs, communicating that they understand those needs and creating buy in before during and after the sales process.

Posted by Dr. James Brown in Change Management, Stakeholder Management.


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