Change Management:  3 Reasons to Engage Employees and Stakeholders

I recently had the honour of presenting at the Canadian Institute’s conference on Innovations in Healthcare Process Improvement on the rather lengthy topic of Navigating Change Management to Build Successful Relationships for Process Improvement.  I started my presentation simply saying that the subtitle to this presentation could easily have been: “Making the Case for Employee and Stakeholder Engagement”.  While readers should stay tuned to my upcoming blog posts for a more fulsome account of my presentation, I will focus this missive on three reasons why change management is better served by engaging employees and stakeholders.

Three reasons to engage employees and stakeholders in a change initiative:

Reason 1 – It makes it Personal:  it becomes “their” change.

This reality comes from the fact that organizational change is really personal change.  Let me explain. When an organizational change is announced, like that of a modification to a business process, the impacts are ultimately felt by individuals. They must quickly learn new skills, adopt new behaviours and form new relationships in order to apply the new business process.  This often leads to a feeling of loss of control over their work environment:  change was done to them – imposed upon them.  Engaging employees in defining the underlying problem driving the change allows them to contribute to the diagnosis and later to the solution.  In Lean methodology, mapping out value streams, defining a desired end state and taking part in Kaizen events (basically team problem-solving activities) are all ways to engage employees and stakeholders in defining the problem, outlining the solution and in the process, to exercise some control over their environments and their jobs.  Over the course of this process, they build AWARENESS of the problem, develop the DESIRE to see things change, gain significant KNOWLEDGE of the skills and behaviours required to carry out the change, and develop the ABILITY to apply these in a timely way.  What I have described in the last sentence is a classic piece of change management:  the ADKAR (minus the R – which stands for Reinforce) individual change process.

Reason 2 – Reduces the Probability of Change Polarization

Change polarization is the phenomena we often see in change management where one faction gets pitted and opposes another faction.  The environment becomes structured around two opposite poles that can become quite difficult to reconcile.  A good example of a polarized environment was presented by “W” Bush’s famous statement about the war on terror:  “You’re either with us or against us”.  This kind of statement does not give any wiggle room and quickly polarizes a change environment. When you engage employees and stakeholders in a true dialogue on the underlying business reasons for a change and solicit their input on defining the change issue, you significantly reduce the probability of creating a polarized environment.

Reason 3 – Reduce the Potential for Surprises – Turn OSWDTOTs to STOCs

When you engage employees and stakeholders in a change initiative, you minimize the risk of OSWDTOT (Oh shoot, we didn’t think of that!) In fact, engagement acts as an early warning system where issues can be identified, miscommunications or rumours corrected and establishes a genuine dialogue regarding an organization’s business challenges – the compelling case for change! You can reduce these unwelcomed surprises (OSWDTOT), anticipate them and prepare an appropriate response.  Turn OSWDTOT into a STOC (“Saw That One Coming”).

I will be the first to acknowledge that engaging stakeholders and employees in a change journey is not without costs, both financial and time. But in this case, the paradoxical saying:  “slower means faster” applies.  The slower you go in engaging employees and stakeholders in the early stages of a change initiative, the greater the probability that implementation will happen more rapidly.

I know that there are many more reasons to engage stakeholders and employees and I will continue to document these in future posts.  I would like to hear from you:  What additional reasons have you noticed to engage employees and stakeholders?  Drop me a line at or tweet me @Alain_intersol.  I would love to pursue this chat.

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