BEST WM Show Michelle Bartonico Leadership change management tips

“How do you as a leader bring successful change to your team?” Find out in this episode of Appfire Presents: The BEST Work Management Show by Appfire. Michelle Bartonico explains the change management process, including The Prosci ADKAR® Model you can use to successfully implement change on your team.

About the guest

Michelle Bartonico is a senior strategist and project manager at Trinity University. She is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), completed the Google Project Management program, and the Search Engine Optimization specialization from UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education. Follow Michelle at mlbarto.medium.com for thoughts on project management, marketing, and higher education.

About the show

The BEST Work Management Show by Appfire features smart leaders sharing their secrets for optimizing business processes and increasing productivity. Get the goods on how they handle everything from setting up workflows to automating processes. Every episode is 10 minutes or less, packed with insights you can use right away to supercharge your team’s productivity.


For your convenience, here is the transcript of this episode

How Do You as a Leader Bring Successful Change to Your Team

Kerry:  Today we’re going to address the question how do you as a leader bring successful change to your team. To help with that is Michelle Bartonico, senior strategist and project manager at Trinity University. Michelle has a new book out in January 2023, Stakeholder Engagement Essentials You Always Wanted to Know, available for preorder now and will be out January 24th, so grab that over at VibrantPublishers.com. For now, stick around for 10 minutes of work management advice.

Michelle, thanks for stopping by. The question is how do you as a leader bring successful change to your team? There’s a lot of parts to that, right, successful change? We can all bring about change, but will it help?

Michelle:  Right. I think the important thing to remember as a leader is that it doesn’t matter what you’re changing; if something is changing, it’s important to pay attention to the people who are being impacted.

The first thing that I would give anyone advice about as a leader would be to say think about who actually will be impacted by the change at hand, how might their job be different in the future state, and begin to identify how you want to outreach to those individuals.

Let’s take something really simple that maybe people would overlook. Let’s say that you are moving office furniture around in your department. If you’re a leader, you’re like, “I have a million things to do that are much more high priority. Just move the couch over there, move the TV over there, move the desk over there, and everything will be fine.” Then all of a sudden you get feedback that says this person is unhappy, this person is talking to this person, there is some chaos that ensued. 

As a leader, that one misstep of thinking “it’s just a simple change to me because I have other priorities” is now costing you time and attention away from those things that you were trying to get at anyway.

Kerry:  And productivity on the part of your team.

Michelle:  And productivity on the part of your team. Then, depending on the culture that already was there, possibly a tipping point for morale.

I’m definitely not perfect, but one of the models that I like to subscribe to is Prosci’s methodology, the ADKAR model. Prosci is one of the leading change management organizations and they have a model called ADKAR. That stands for awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement.

Let’s take that simple example, or we can take another one if you’d like, but let’s take that simple example of moving office furniture. Making people aware of what’s going to change and why is what awareness actually means. It doesn’t mean I sent out the email, so now you’re all aware of it. It actually means that you’re aware of what’s changing and why, and you’re then able to field questions or proactively solicit Q&A from your team about why now, what’s changing, what happens if we don’t change. 

Of course, in this simple example about moving furniture, it’s not going to be very complex. If there is a change in staffing, if there a process workflow change, or a software implementation, it’s still going to be this ADKAR model, it’s still going to be what’s changing and why, and hopefully helping people really understand what it means to potentially be in this future state.

Awareness also doesn’t mean that you have a change that is imposed on people. 

Kerry:  Like just letting you know…

Michelle:  “Just letting you know, FYI.” Sometimes you do, sometimes it’s a mandate down to the leader as well, and that makes it even more important to say here’s what’s changing, here’s why, here’s the timeline, I’m here to answer any questions you have or drive feedback up to the people who are mandating some of these changes. 

For the most part, you’re usually in requirements gathering or you’re in some sort of discovery. The best example I can give is when you are part of a project team and there is some sort of process that is about to be implemented. Your department or your office is going to be part of this future process change, but the process isn’t fully developed yet. 

What I would suggest as a leader is you say to your team, “I want to make you aware that I’ve been pulled into a potential process or workflow update. Here’s why we think this needs to happen in general. Here’s what happens if we don’t address this in some way. I want to make sure you understand what our role might be in this process.” Again, get their reaction, get their feedback, because change management is all about the people side of change and the people side of any project that has change associated with it.

Desire would be people’s willingness to actually participate in the change. That might not happen right away for everyone. 

Kerry:  What? People aren’t thrilled that things are changing?

Michelle:  People don’t like change. It’s unfortunately the only constant. As a leader, it’s important to be aware of what it feels like for you to be asked to change as well, and to be aware of just the macro environment, there has been a lot of change over the last three years, so people have change fatigue sometimes, and change has been received differently by different people. Helping your team understand what’s in it for them or what’s in it for me or the organization at large might be triggers for people and help them get on board.

As a leader, the strategy and the approach would be to communicate clearly, often, and be engaging and a listening ear to people. It might not mean you have all the answers and it might not mean that there is a lot of flexibility in what the change may be, but going through that ADKAR model will also allow you to track where your team is throughout their individual change journey. The success of any project or business outcome is a collective of individual change, people have to make the change to then implement the project deliverables, the process update, etcetera.

Kerry:  That’s awareness and desire. What’s knowledge, is that actually explaining what’s happening or is that the nuts and bolts of it, how it’s getting done? 

Michelle:  It’s the knowledge of how to change. If you’re thinking about a process or a software update, it literally is how to make this change, how do I see myself in this new future state, what do I need to do, what do I need to know during and after this change. 

Ability is literally how to do it, what is my capability, what is the training like. As a leader, you’ll want to think about do you need to come up with a training plan to make sure that your people aren’t ill-equipped to be in this future state, whatever that may be. 

One of the reasons why people revert back to desire – let’s say that they’re like, “I’m on board, I kind of know what’s going on in this future state, now train me.” Let’s say that they get in there and they don’t feel adequately trained. What’s going to happen? “I don’t know if I want to do this anymore.” It’s important to be aware that people are not just going to fluidly move forward through this journey. They might say, “I don’t know how to do this. Now I feel threatened. Now I don’t want to do it. I’m going back to desire. Now I’m also questioning why we’re even doing this at all.” Now you have them all the way back. 

Thinking ahead about how to equip people for the change that’s about to be there and hopefully bringing them along the way is really important, but also thinking about making sure that your key influencers are equipped and on board so that if there is a hiccup they can go back to their network and say, “It’s okay. I learned it. We’ve got this,” have a rally cry. 

Kerry:  Is that what the R in ADKAR is for, rally cry? 

Michelle:  No, unfortunately. It is reinforcement, so it’s sustaining the change. I will continue to do X. I have the mechanisms in place, I have the resources, I know how to measure my success, I know how to make sure that it’s fully adopted in perpetuity. 

That is often something that on the project management side, putting on the other hat, sometimes is lost. It’s like check, I have gotten the deliverable, I’m closing the scope, we’re good, I’m moving on. That’s where the change management piece really helps to pick up and say if we’re working in tandem, you can close out your project, but it needs to be handed off to operations, it needs to make sure that it’s sustained and it’s reinforced, and that your project and its deliverables weren’t for naught. 

Open communication, acknowledging that people are going to go through their individual ADKAR journey, as well as yourself. Sometimes if a change is imposed on you, then you have to turn around and cascade. You have to go through your own stages of grief sometimes and say, “Why are we doing this? I need to make sure I understand, I need to make sure I’m on board.” If you sense yourself asking those questions, you’re in effect going through the A and D without really realizing it.

Kerry:  I’m the opposite, I love change. I’ll be like halfway in it, then be like, “Wait. Why did I do this?” 

Michelle:  You’re an early adopter, but you’re not sure what you’re adopting. 

Kerry:  Exactly. I’m sure it will be great. I’m an optimist. 

Michelle:  You’re good at the rally cry, but then you need some talking points that you can do the rally cry for everyone else who still has questions.

Kerry:  I’m the optimist. Michelle, thank you for stopping by. Everybody, go and get Michelle’s book Stakeholder Engagement Essentials You Always Wanted to Know, it’s available January 24, 2023, at VibrantPublishers.com and you can preorder it now. 

If you’d like more episodes of The Best Work Management Show, you can find those at Hub.Appfire.com. Thanks so much for stopping by everyone.

Last updated: 2023-01-24

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