Community persona for change management

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Toby Elwin, change management, change

“Something has to change.
This is the 3rd umbrella this month.”

Today organization success is a study on how to lean into the wind.  With the on-going game focused on more of less our organizations are expected to not only run lean(er), but to lean further into the winds of constant change and constant constraints.

This operating climate highlights change management as a competitive advantage, those that figure it out excel around an ability to pivot, to be resilient, and to maintain an engaged workforce.

Change management seems a focus on the next quarter where nothing counts, but more expectation of even less to work with.

This 8th post in the community persona for organization development series provides a case to adopt a community persona strategy to improve an organization’s ability for change management.

The Rational Case for Change

Advocating change, no matter the level of change, no matter the intended improvement outcome, is never easy.  Why?  Because your case for change, though seemingly rational to one group, has little with people’s need for change:

  • You = Logical, Rational, Low Maintenance
  • Them = Emotional, Irrational, High Maintenance

Change is no longer an event to manage and move on, organizations realize change is the only constant and change management now relies on resilience to, not only, thrive, but, simply, to survive.  The reasons that surround change, though seemingly logical, rely not on logic to change because people, when involved, are emotional.

Emotion trumps logic.  Emotion trumps change.

Organization Development (OD), as a concept, a field, a profession, a competence, a body of knowledge, or a function, requires behavioral science application, unlike the field of economics, OD realizes people are not rational actors.

As we move from the industrial age to the knowledge workforce we rely more than ever on people engagement to release knowledge capital.  If the new workforce requires the knowledge workforce than change must include a knowledgeable change engagement.

Change Management:  Hearts and Minds of Engagement

Change management is neither a rational prescription nor a repeatable process, but a range of options.  Not all options in every instance, as not all change goes as planned.

Change management success relies on a end-user adoption and utility.  Adding design and marketing methods, such as a community persona methods, increase options to improve change management.

Social media engagement principles improve upon people and change engagement strategy.  To resonate with a host of stakeholders, free from jargon, delivered by people they trust in a language they speak means engage or die [as Brian Solis says].

Social media shook the pillars of marketing.  How?  Social media confounds mass marketing.  Social media exposed to entrenched, marketing theory a new reality:

  • The need to join conversations where conversations are;
  • To understand and use the language the community uses, (not marketing-babble features, sales rhetoric, and talking points); and
  • That transparency is the trust agent, when transparent you show there is nothing to hide

Social media engagement goals are strikingly close to goals Organization Development (OD) hopes to achieve; see 21 Rules of Engagement, highlighted in another blog, for a more direct comparison.

An early shot across marketing’s bow to change came from this missive that advocates conversation:

These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.

Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal.

Same old tone, same old lies.

No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do. But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about “listening to customers.” They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.  Cluetrain Manifesto [emphasis added]

These reveal nuggets change management can equally gain traction with.  Stakeholder groups disrupt the view that there is a mass market that one change affects and as a group of people to engage:  accounting, human resources, sales, legal, within your organization these are the smaller markets for change management.

Change What to Why

Anyone who has read or worked any branch of change management knows a fundamental key to change is to cascade the case for change to all levels.  This change management cascade goal has lost it’s way as today the common cascade is too often a forwarded email, an organization announcement, or a staff meeting agenda item.

The failure to realize no one likes to have to read and discern meaning, few like to get lectured to, be talked at, or spoken down to is why change efforts continue to fail around an alarming 70% of times.  The intent to cascade is the intent to create provide a voice of ownership from words that resonate.  A voice of ownership is the opposite of mass market messaging where all things meet no one’s need.

Change management as a social, marketing strategy offers a view to change managed from announcements and pronouncements to change managed from understanding and engaging.

The basis of the community persona strategy starts with understanding and requires engaging; in marketing circles call this a the buyer persona strategy, since I work within organizations and in non-profits, I use the term community persona to replace buyer person; the intent carries the day:

A buyer persona is distinct group potential customers [stakeholders in our case], an archetypal person whom you want your marketing to reach. Basing your marketing on buyer personas prevents you from sitting on your butt in your comfortable office just making s#$@ (stuff) up, which is the cause of most ineffective marketing.  Nobody cares about your products and services (except you) — David Meerman Scott

Change advocates a cascade of change from the top as an earnest effort when the top leads by example, the message is appropriately modified from that business case and becomes a personal case for those to heed change.  Take the executive (top) need to the foundation (bottom) adoption; take the minority view to the majority can-do.

Again, this fails to win the hearts and minds.  Who in the organization relates to the C-level What’s In It For Them? (WIFFT?) as the majority of the organization want to know What’s In It For Me? (WIFFM?)?

What to change rarely resonates with case to change and the key to change is bottom up not top down.  Change to engage organization levels requires multiple messages to resonate with multiple need and a message most resonates from someone who creates the link to what changes for them.

A message on the importance of change from some empty, C-level suit with stock options, a golden parachute, quarterly bonus, and private car is like marketing to middle American from Madison Avenue.  The goal of cascade, again, was a compelling message from a direct manager or peers has more impact because peers are trust agents who use the words you use and understand how you work to get work done.

Message the persona for the persona to message the reality:  this, we in change, can borrow from social media.

The Socialization of Change

Change process is linear, the path, though, has more of a butterfly effect to flight:  seemingly erratic and bouncing about.  Change is about communication and training design that helps people understand what it is they are to stop doing, what they are to start doing, and what they are to continue to do.

What a division lead needs to start, stop, and continue is different than what the finance department, the sales team, the support team, the human resource team, and the host of other roles across functions has to potentially start, stop, and continue.  Design for users, the people who need to adopt and own the message, means you design to accomplish their goal.  It also means you do not design the same message for their manager or a support team.

To understand buyers, or people who change will impact in our discussion case, and to build an effective content strategy that reaches them starts comes with clear links from content to the place where actions occur.

Monologue has given way to dialogue.

The message is clear. Social media has created and magnified a new layer of influencers across all industries. It is the understanding of the role people play in the process of not only reading and disseminating information, but also how they share and create content in which others can participate. … [t]he socialization of information and the tools that enable it are the undercurrent of interactive media—and serve as the capital infrastructure that defines the social economy.

… focusing on multiple markets and influencers that will have a far greater impact on brand resonance and the bottom line than trying to reach the masses through any one message, venue, or tool. — Brian Solis**

To design a plan, start with research.  As early as possible an impact assessment to show the groups and stakeholders who the change touches and the positive or negative level of influence perceived.  From an impact assessment further look, by persona to:

  • Investigate words and phrases communities use to describe problems;
  • Identify community persona problems the change solves;
  • Find the media your community persona uses – where do they hang out;
  • Identify ways your community persona speaks and match that;

Different people have different needs on what change means and how change affects their work as well as who they get work from and who they deliver work to.

Community Persona Twist to Change

Toby Elwin, community persona, change management, Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

“For MORE!’ said Mr. Limbkins. ‘Compose yourself, Bumble, and answer me distinctly. Do I understand that he asked for more, after he had eaten the supper allotted by the dietary?”

The sum of people’s motivations is greater than the community.

Think of communication to support change or a new policy, all of it or any of it, as a marketing campaign for people’s motivation.

The goal is engaged change agents.  The objective is to meet their goal of What’s In It For Them?  (WIIFT?) from their point Whats In It For Me? (WIIFM?).

  1. Persona perspective is the foundation for community
  2. Design affects human behavior within community

The stakeholders, the impact change has on them, and the voice they have on the impact remains a stronger voice for change than any amount of company flyers, magnets, and town halls.

Where marketing looks for ROI as return on investment, community persona marketing for change management measures ROI as return on involvement.

Similar to crowd sourcing your company strategy, a community persona change management strategy invites people into the voice of change, as the lead voices, not the grumbling masses.

Engage or Die

People rely on filters to survive the daily communication that saturates each of us.  We simply can not process the barrage of information and communication, to process the flood would send us into sensory overload, and many of us try to manage the effect of sensory overload, unsuccessfully as it is.

To manage we build filters to process and place things into patterns we recognize.  It helps us cope.  Many times new items hit us and we try to find a something it relates to get a bearing on the impact:

  • Have we seen this before?
  • Have we seen something similar?
  • Is this close enough that I can just leap to a conclusion without too much mental processing?

The communication that saturates our world survives to become a message when it gets through on of our primary gatekeepers to sanity:  the What’s In It For Me? (WIIFM?) gate.  Just as we need this filter, others rely on their version of their WIIFM? filter to survive.  The biggest deception to our brilliance is that your WIIFM? matches your target’s WIIFM?.  Disavow yourself of this as soon as possible and you begin your journey to end-user adoption and product/project/change utility.

You must now think like a publisher. You should develop an editorial plan to reach your buyers with focused content in the media they prefer. Your first action might be to create a content-rich website with pages organized by buyer persona. — David Meerman Scott

Toby Elwin, community persona, template, design

select to open Word .docx Community Persona template

Steps in a community persona change management effort:

  1. Create a change impact assessment;
  2. Use the Community Persona Design Template, on the right, to build archetypes of people you need to understand to engage;
  3. Go into the communities and engage them, simply ask, and find out:
    1. Words and phrases they use;
    2. Problems the change intends to solve;
    3. Preferred media and message – and always augment this effort and develop a press kit or FAQs for their direct manager;
    4. Ways your community persona speaks and match that;
  4. Create messages through persona preferred channels;
  5. Pilot, test, measure, rinse, tweak, repeat.

There is no formula, this is not alchemy.  When you stop trying to hit on a formula to turn lead to gold, you move on from a fool’s pursuit towards engage people as people pursuit.

… customer-centred design: the idea that the design should be focused on the customer’s wants, needs, and context of use. If the process is truly customer-centred, then customers should be involved throughout the design development. From the outset, where you spend time understanding the customers’ world: who the customers are, what they do and how they do it, to getting them involved in collaborative design or user testing throughout the process.

… while it’s good to understand the users of the system and their context, it’s equally essential to add the business and technology concerns into the mix too. — Lindsay Ratcliffe and Marc McNeill***

Sometimes leaning into the wind helps you soar.

Community Persona Change Management Design Sources:

Community Persona Design for Organizations

  1. Buyer persona for organization strategy and development
  2. Community persona for organization development
  3. 4 design tools to meet persona context
  4. Community persona resource and influence timeline
  5. Communication with goal-oriented design and community persona strategy
  6. Community persona for SharePoint intranet design
  7. Community persona reaction for functional design
  8. Community persona for change management
  9. Community persona for project management

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