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Three Elements of Successful Change Management

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We are sitting in a meeting with the CMO and a new marketing operations director from a large, well-established company. They had called and asked for a meeting to help kick their marketing metrics and dashboard up a notch.

In the last year, this marketing organization has added various capabilities, including customer relationship management, marketing automation, and marketing resource management systems. The marketing operations director has a staff, which includes the marketing automation and marketing resource management teams.

Recently, they've had some measurement adoption issues, so they decided to appoint a dozen of the marketers from their 200-person global marketing organization with marketing performance and operations responsibilities, with dotted line reporting to the marketing operations director. Some adoption issues are related to experience and training, but some are more subtle and the result of people who aren't receptive to change. As we listen, I realize that this team didn't take change management into account at the beginning of their journey.

No Magic Pill for an Instant Change

The size or industry of a company doesn't matter. Every aspect of marketing performance management often requires cultural, process, and skill changes.


Many times these organizations underestimate the effort required—they want something fast and easy. It reminds me a little of people who want to lose weight, but they don't want to make any activity changes or diet. They want to take a pill to lose weight, preferably while they sleep, and watch the pounds quickly melt off.

Unfortunately, such a magic pill doesn't exist. Even the diet pill companies clearly state, "X pill was designed to be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise. Some users may lose weight without changing their diets or exercising, but exercise and healthy eating are recommended for optimal results." And there you have it, most of us who want to lose weight are going to have change—change our diet and/or change our exercise routine.

Change Is Part of a Company's Improvement

Change is pervasive in our society and a fact of life in organizations. Change involves making alterations to the organization's purpose, culture, structure, and processes in response to seen or anticipated changes in the environment. It can also facilitate prosperity and growth, even in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environments.

Effective strategic marketing leaders realize that change is part of the continuous improvement process, and CMOs bent on survival embrace change.

Three Elements of Change

Author Dallas Willard tells us that successful change takes three elements: vision, method, and will.

1. Vision

Successful change hinges on a picture of a desirable future. Vision can provide both a corporate sense of being and a sense of enduring purpose. In 1995, John Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School and world-renowned change expert, introduced his eight-step change process in his book Leading Change. Kotter posits that without a sensible vision, change efforts can dissolve into a list of confusing projects that take the organization in the wrong direction.

Kotter strongly emphasizes that the vision must be easy to communicate. That is true for marketing teams adopting performance management. The CMO must create the sense of urgency, craft and communicate the vision, remove obstacles, produce short-term wins, anchor the change in the culture, and build on the change.

One of the easiest, least expensive ways to create a quick win is to change the approach to the marketing plan, which is an existing process and output for many organizations.

2. Method

Once you have a vision, the next thing you need is a method.

Using the losing weight example, let's imagine that there is an upcoming event in a few months where being slimmer is important, a class reunion for example. You can envision all the benefits dropping 20 pounds offers both in the short term, for this event and, in the long term, for your overall health. The next step is to decide how to lose the weight... Will you hire a trainer and nutritionist? Join a gym? Join a weight loss group?

When you work with a firm that specializes in marketing operations, marketing performance measurement, marketing accountability, and so on, they should have a well-defined method you will use and can then adopt.

3. Will

The last item is intention or will. This is probably the most critical for any successful change. If you don't really want change and/or you can't get your team onboard, the probability of success is slim. An initiative is only successful when individuals change their daily behaviors and workflows. Being able to mobilize the individual change necessary for an initiative to be successful and deliver value to the organization is the essence of change management.

Here are five important steps to support will:

  1. Be aware of the need for change. If you don't think you need to lose weight, you won't.
  2. Desire the change. Even if you may know that your life or quality of life depends on making a change (stop smoking for example), you have to want to change. Performance management takes hard work, so the payoff and value needs to be very clear.
  3. Know how to make the change. The team members need to know how the change is going to take place and their roles in the change. They need to understand the timing and rhythm.
  4. Develop the skills needed to implement the change. Most likely, team members will need skill development, and hands on training is key to adult learning. Include this investment in your performance management budget.
  5. Reinforce the change. For the change to be sustained, constant vigilance and reinforcement is vital.

* * *

In a world where the rate of change is speeding up, the best defense is a good offense. So, master change management by planning for these three key elements: vision, method, and will.


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Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.

Twitter: @LauraVEM

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  • by Michael O'Daniel Thu Apr 24, 2014 via web

    First of all, I am gratified to see an article on Change Management in MarketingProfs. Why? Because marketing departments actually are well qualified to be change agents for their entire organizations, not just within the marketing department. This is a development I expect to see over time, albeit one that is moving extremely slowly. Most marketing departments do not seem to have a holistic perspective, and/or either do not seize the initiative, or are not permitted to take the initiative, in creating a truly market-driven organization.

    All that said, I must respectfully disagree with Ms Patterson's three elements of change. I say this from the perspective of having just co-authored a book on Change Management with someone who has been a working professional in the field for 25+ years as opposed to an academic theorist. She totally ignores the importance of stakeholder involvement -- in other words, collaboration with the people affected by the change -- and, to a lesser degree, the importance of not only a vision for change on the part of leaders, but active and visible sponsorship of the change. Our three key change elements are Vision, Collaboration, Leadership. I cannot provide a URL here but I can suggest that you search for Real World Change Management. I think you'll find it enlightening.


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