How change management is like a Broadway play

CommunityLIVE 2015 General Session Stage

Change management has many similarities to a Broadway play.

Sound ridiculous? Here are just a few:

  • Lead actor and actress: The leaders of the change management team
  • Supporting cast: Change agents, executives, managers and supervisors
  • Audience: Stakeholders
  • Theme: Not surprisingly, our play always focuses on change and improvement
  • Storyline: Compelling communications, key messages and outcomes
  • Rehearsals: Meetings to define and plan the change management strategy
  • Previews: Testing the strategy
  • Opening night: Executing the strategy
  • Resolution: How the change influences the organization

That said, the biggest difference is that change management is a process, not an event. Those involved in the change management process must be committed to actively participating and being visible throughout the entire project; otherwise, the audience (stakeholders) will believe they see right through the façade.

Minimizing the drama

Another difference is that, unlike a Broadway play that maximizes drama for the biggest impact, your goal is to minimize it. And you’ll accomplish that with clear, constant communication.

Much like a play, when producers, writers and a director get together to set the framework of the project, change management begins with a dedicated change management team that defines, plans, and executes the project successfully. To realize the benefits of change management, someone must be responsible for it and have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the initiative owner. On Broadway, that’s usually the play’s director. In business, it’s the change management team.

The cast

If you’re looking to successfully implement change, here is a list of important stakeholders you need to involve in the project and the roles they need to play:

  • Initiative owner or project sponsor: Responsible for project success. Assigns change leaders and sets the overall vision for change.
  • Change leader: Communicates the vision for change. Champions the change by motivating and inspiring employees.
  • Change team members: Support and demonstrate the vision for change.
  • Change agents: Influence project success by helping to spread the vision.

Executives and senior managers must play an integral role in change projects. In fact, studies show that a predictor of project success or failure points to the active and visible participation of executives and senior managers.

It is absolutely critical that senior leadership is aligned with the change and the vision for change. Executives must demonstrate the vision and support the change before, during and after the implementation. They need to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk.”

Managers also need to act as a conduit and bridge for change. Employees want to hear how the change will impact their job roles directly from their managers. Many people are afraid of change, which is why managers need to serve as coaches, helping employees through their current states to future states. A future state where they will be more effective and productive.

In addition, managers also need to help the change management team by identifying resistance to the change. Just like when Michael Keaton’s character realized that Edward Norton’s character was resistant to any direction or change in the Broadway play featured in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

In the end, just like in any great Broadway play, when you implement change correctly, you just might receive a standing ovation.



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