While every implementation has unique aspects, there are also some universal truths across all types of implementations, in all cultures, and in all industries. Chief among these is that every target of organizational change (whether they are managers or at the frontlines) has two questions that he or she wants answered: First, what does this mean for me? And second, what’s in it for me? The questions are the same, but the answers are very different, depending on the individual’s Frame of Reference. By employing an implementation management strategy that takes into account differences in Frames of Reference, you will increase your chances for implementation success, especially in this time of business recovery
Individual and Collective Frames of Reference
Whether you call it a perspective, a paradigm, or just “the way I see it”, Frames of Reference are not optional. Frames of Reference serve a valuable purpose, because they enable us to take in a wide variety of information and process it based on our past experience and values. In fact, an individual’s Frame of Reference promotes life-stability and quicker decision making.
Like individuals, groups develop a collective Frame of Reference over time. On an organizational level, this is the “culture.” Collective Frames of Reference (and individual Frames of Reference as well) are very difficult to change, and can’t be ignored.
Frame of Reference is much more than a theoretical concept; it has significant practical implications as to how individuals and groups will react to organizational changes, whether small or large in scale, such as business transformation
. Organizational change management is the attempt to manage these Frames of Reference.
Implications for Implementation Success
Implementation plans must be built with an understanding of Frame of Reference. During times of change, the impact on Frames of Reference can be maintained or buffered by placing strong emphasis on three things:
- What will not change (serving as anchors to the current state)
- Why change is necessary
- Providing some type of compensation for giving up key elements of the old Frame of Reference
More specifically, addressing individual and/or collective Frames of Reference is a core tactical element of the key steps in AIM (Accelerated Implementation Methodology). As one example, the methodology includes strategies, tactics and tools designed to increase readiness for the change:
Develop Target Readiness (Identify, measure, and manage the sources of resistance to the change among those that are most impacted):
Keep in mind that resistance is very simply someone’s attempt to protect or defend his Frame of Reference, so the ability to manage resistance is directly linked to the ability to understand the impact of the change from the individual or collective Frame of Reference.
We often use the Individual Readiness Assessment
to prospectively predict where we will find sources of resistance. Valuable information can obtained by having this measurement tool completed by sponsors, change agents, and/or targets, and then comparing the results. The data provides important insights into different Frames of Reference about the specific change so that appropriate strategies and tactics can be put in place.
The notion of Frames of Reference is equally important to designing an effective Change Approach, Reinforcement Strategy, and Communication Plan. By identifying and understanding the individual and collective Frames of Reference, organizations can answer those two key questions about an organizational change, improve project Return on Investment, and speed implementation success.