How to Market Change

Almost every element of my work these days involves helping clients anticipate changes, adapt to them, and especially to implement change across customer-facing teams. Here’s what I see working. 

As one example, through my affiliation with DSG I have been helping a Fortune 500 client to better communicate internally about new-product launches. Many of these new products represent substantially different types of solutions or pricing models for the team. How can you best get an organization to transform its messaging for the long term?  

This client follows the change-management model popularized by Harvard Business School professor John Kotter. Kotter’s model has eight stages:

  • Create urgency. The first step is also the most difficult. Most of us resist change. In order to overcome that inertia, the teams need to both get the change imperative intellectually and feel the urgency in their guts. Kotter suggests that at least three-quarters of the leadership must truly buy into the need for change. Which leads to…
  • Form a powerful coalition. Change champions might not always be in the most obvious or highest places on the organizational chart. In our team’s consulting engagements we typically select a team of high performers (with “street cred”) from different units and with different tenures in the company.
  • Create a vision for change. Everyone needs a simple, achievable and compelling view of your destination – something the leadership team and change champions can be comfortable in sharing in two minutes or less (in conversation, on a whiteboard, or on a napkin).
  • Communicate the vision. Your champions should be sharing the vision at every opportunity—not just at kickoffs or regular meetings. The group will need to compare notes along the way.
  • Remove obstacles. The barriers to change may be human, structural, informational and/or embedded within incentive systems. For human obstacles, the leader’s role is twofold: get key current employees on board, and bring in change instigators as needed.
  • Create short-term wins. People will look for evidence that the change initiative is going to succeed or fail. You’ll need one or more early wins that are fairly easy, inexpensive, and that don’t depend on the involvement of internal critics.
  • Build on the change. The natural temptation is to take a long, deep breath, declare victory, and get comfortable again. Savvy executives will over time bring in fresh change agents who don’t own the initiatives that worked well yesterday (while still celebrating the contributions of that original team).
  • Anchor the change in your organization’s culture. This includes sharing success stories as well as embedding lessons learned into onboarding and training activities.  

Change itself, like many other things, needs good marketing. 

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