Executing a change initiative is hard but executing it globally is even harder, says Hazel Greatbatch.
Coming up with the change initiative is the easy part. Executing it is the tough bit. Timelines get missed, priorities overlap and communications collapse. But execute change on a global scale and the process becomes uglier. Multiple stakeholders clash; time, cultural and language differences emerge; and global teams, with their own conflicting priorities, have to be met.
A lot can go wrong when executing a global change programme. So it is imperative that a change programme comes with a clear instruction manual of how it will be executed at every stage and across every region. Clear stakeholder management processes, communication strategies and tight operating policies are the glue that will help hold it together.
Getting stakeholder buy-in
One of the biggest derailers of any global initiative is failure to get stakeholder buy-in from the beginning - at the planning stage, before the programme is launched. It must be a strategic part of the project and not treated as an after-thought.
Before launching the change initiative, consider the various stakeholders involved at every level and in every region. How will the change programme impact them? What's important to them? Who do you need to influence, sell it to and get buy-in from to ensure it is a success? Partner with your learning provider to use this information to map out a clear communications plan and strategy to ensure the programme reaches the right people, at the right time and with the right messages. A corporate mandate to roll out the project doesn't automatically get you local support so make sure that all communications are continuously 'selling' the project in a way that's tailored to the regional stakeholder.
At the launch stage assess the stakeholders to find out who, if any, haven't bought into the programme and why, and then develop a plan to get their support.
Garnering support from senior sponsors at the outset, at a global and local level, to champion the programme can be critical in getting everyone on board as well as removing any potential barriers to success. A team is more likely to adopt the change programme if instructed by their local manager than a central L&D department, so leverage local management and get senior leaders involved in shaping and driving the programme so they're fully on board.
Your global and regional team
A successful global change programme needs a core global team to plan and co-ordinate with the support of a regional team to implement the programme locally. But the more regions involved means the more time zones and cultural differences to consider. This can slow down decision making and impact progress. Keep the global team small with a wider regional team so decisions are made quickly and implemented swiftly.
"Partner with your learning provider to map out a clear communications plan and strategy to ensure the programme reaches the right people, at the right time and with the right messages."
When outlining your project communications plan and strategy consider how to overcome certain regional barriers to ensure you're engaging with all core team members despite location. For example, rotate your team conference calls so it's not always at a time that suits you and remember that holiday seasons and weekends vary across regions such as weekends in the Middle East are on Thursdays and Fridays.
Set out communication guidelines for the team that bear in mind cultural differences such as language, working style and the way to address people. And ensure any partners you work with can meet your global demands and are the right cultural fit.
Adapt your design locally
A great change initiative has a global consistency running through it but is flexible enough to adapt to suit the way regions work.
Work with your small global team at the design stage to understand the local perspective and appreciate what each region wants to get out of the programme. Get them to work with your regional teams to understand the local markets and culture - how will the programme be translated into the local languages? Will the wording need to change to suit the region and will the style of communications and delivery fit the local culture?
Then identify the elements of the programme that are common across all regions and what areas need adapting for each country. Showing this flexibility whilst retaining the global theme will go a long way with staff and increase levels of engagement in the programme.
Implementing the programme locally
Before rolling out your programme globally, it's vital to test it first in a region. This is where your relationships with senior managers and stakeholders globally and locally can really help.
Pilot the programme in key regions first and leverage local managers to encourage their teams to use the pilot scheme by demonstrating its importance. Work closely with them to understand how it will be received given other activities in their market and to feedback on the success or failures in their region - information which can be used to adjust the programme before rolling out globally.
Capture the success stories of the pilot and share these between regions to help 'sell' the programme. But be conscious that local resources in other regions may be stretched so ensure to engage with them rather than 'tell' them to adopt it, so you can work with them to make it a success.
Measure and sustain
Measuring the results of the change programme is crucial so you can demonstrate its success back to senior management and identify areas to sustain and develop it further.
At the planning phase, set out lead and lag metrics and decide how this data is going to be captured throughout implementation. For example, a lag metric may be how much have sales increased at the end of the year whereas a lead metric is able to be measured much sooner such as are staff engaging better with clients?
Finally, work out a plan to sustain this behaviour change such as via coaching and refresher courses, access to learning material centrally, and the opportunity to share success stories. And appoint key senior people, globally and locally, who are responsible for driving the sustainability of this change programme.
Planning and preparation are key to the success of any change management programme, especially one on a global scale. Don't be tempted to rush it out. Senior management won't thank you for it in the long run when you're faced with problems and delays, costing time and money. Get management buy-in from the outset and set their expectations and you'll soon be sharing with them a set of healthy results, demonstrating how your international programme has brought great change to the business.
Hazel Greatbatch is head of delivery for Forum EMEA, a global leader in leadership development and sales performance training
About Jon Kennard
Jon Kennard is a freelance writer and social media manager, and former editor of TrainingZone.co.uk.