What’s in it for me? The critical change question

If you live in West London, reports of a possible 3rd runway at Heathrow will perhaps not have been the best news you’ve had recently.  Convincing potentially affected residents that the expansion is the best plan will be no easy task (see http://news.sky.com/story/1511365/residents-vow-to-see-off-heathrow-third-runway) Not least in, what I imagine is the near impossible task, answering the critical change question “What’s in it for me?”.

We know that, whatever the proposed change, there will always be some who resist, who are wary, nervous, preferring the status quo.  There are others who will embrace change, who will step up and  act as champions and leaders.  We also know that in the NHS and public sector, change is part of everyday life with some amazing results. Up and down the country, fantastic efforts are being made to redesign services to improve outcomes, working lives and make the best of ever more scarce resources.

So what can we do to help make change happen? Well, taking the time to ask two simple questions about a project can really make a difference both to our understanding and to the chances of its success. The first “What’s in it for the stakeholders if the project is a success?” and the second “What power do they have to make or break the project?”

Take each of your audiences, stakeholders – whatever you want to call those affected or with an interest in your planned change – and put yourself in their shoes.  Even better create the opportunity to talk to them directly!  Then ask the ‘what’s in it for me’ question.  Looking at the change from their perspective will give you a wealth of insight to help frame your messages about the change in a way that will resonate.  It’s not about people being selfish, it’s about making the change meaningful, giving it a context to which those affected can easily relate.

The second question about the power they have to make or break the project adds another dimension to help guide the change process.  Consideration of the power to make and the power to break gives you even more insight into where you need to focus your attention and how you may be able to harness or channel their contribution for the good of the project.

We at Kayhill have seen some great results using this  approach – two simple questions that get you and your team thinking about the change from others’ points of view. The answers make a great starting point for both your project and communications planning ensuring that your objectives and key messages address what’s really important to your audiences and therefore have more impact and reduced risk of failure.

Two simple questions, complex, insightful answers.

“Change is good, but no change is better”

“Change is easy…… you go first!”