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Our Three Secrets to Managing Change


blog-change-managementChange management is leading to sleepless nights. More than 80% of the attendees at our last partner programs roundtable indicated it’s keeping them up at night (yowza). After two decades of partnership model and program consulting experience, we’ve seen all the warning signs of failure. Without organizational change management, your new program, compensation plan, or portal initiative is pretty much worth the paper it’s printed on.

Change is hard. No one likes the process of change. Most people like the outcome though. Effectively managing change in a company requires a strategic approach and careful implementation. Here are our three secrets to managing change to make any initiative successful.

1. Gather Design Input

Involve many people inside your organization, and from numerous partners, while you’re designing an initiative or program. Encourage participation through 1:1 interviews, brainstorming sessions, and quick surveys. When people feel they have a stake in the change, they are more likely to support it and contribute positively to its success. Keep in mind you don’t have to incorporate these inputs into the design of whatever you are making – a partner program, compensation model, portal, etc. The act of asking and listening to the input enrolls the individual in the success of the initiative. Word will get around that you’re collecting insights from different audiences. This helps grease the wheels when you eventually initiate changes. And who knows, you might get some interesting ideas.

For example, when we recently revised a partner program for a mid-sized software company, we conducted interviews with 25 internal stakeholders from across the organization and 20 partner contacts. On top of that, we executed a short, 10-question survey with contacts in their partner ecosystem. We didn’t need all this data to formulate recommendations. Independently we reviewed industry best practices and gathered data on partner program trends. However, all this pre-work set the stage for change by enrolling those involved in the idea of potential change.


2. Socialize the Change

The goal of socialization sessions is to gain consensus across the organization. Consensus becomes key in implementing the recommended change. There are three things to communicate while socializing the initiative:

  1. How the change will impact the person both professionally and personally. This is a time to get specific. Don’t be afraid to get into details aligned with the level of the person you’re presenting to and explain how it will affect their job.
  2. Why you’re suggesting the change. This is primarily about education. The people you need consensus from probably don’t have your level of expertise in the subject. Understanding the need for change is paramount to adoption. Discuss what other companies in the industry are doing as specifically as you can. Present how you are going to align with or leapfrog the competition. A strong industry benchmark is helpful.
  3. The expected outcome of the change to the organization. Be prepared to discuss the estimated cost and expected return from making the change. Will the change implementation take five people three months working part-time? Whose workload will that impact? After the change is adopted, what will be the increase in productivity or profitability?

For example, after making our recommendations on a new partner program design, we held one-to-one educational sessions with the department heads. We also pulled together the responsible stakeholders for several group alignment sessions. And lastly, to open channels of communication and help alleviate uncertainty, we held regular “open office hours” where anyone could show up to a web meeting and ask questions. This might seem like a lot of socialization for a recommendation we felt was straightforward and “correct.” But it’s not the quality or even easiness of the change that’s important when it comes to ensuring adoption. It takes every department in a company to ensure the success of partnering and that means everyone needs to be on board.


3. Be Flexible

As you progress through socialization activities, you’re looking for agreement to make the change. You’ve probably designed the most beautiful initiative, but if you can’t get people aligned the change will not be adopted. Socialization rarely goes exactly as planned, so it's crucial to remain adaptable and flexible. Be ready to adjust strategies and tactics as needed based on feedback. There’s no pride in the authorship of a new initiative if it sits on the shelf as a PowerPoint deck. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good (it’s better to get something ‘good’ implemented). Focus on evolutionary, not revolutionary change. Sometimes that’s all the team or company can handle.

This used to be difficult for us as a partner consulting organization. We thought our recommendations were spot on and were appalled when they weren’t eagerly embraced. About a decade ago we learned that launching a “good enough for now” initiative was a secret to successful change. If a key stakeholder won’t budge on a specific initiative point after education and socialization efforts, it’s OK. We adjust to what we can launch and work on the sticking point in a future enhancement.

Implementing a new partner program or portal, or really any partnering initiative, requires organizational change management. By prioritizing early engagement, clear communication, and flexibility, companies can effectively manage change and position themselves for success in the ever-evolving partnering landscape.


Diane-Krakora-soft-120Have you struggled with making changes in your partner program? Or with driving adoption from internal teams and partners?  We'd love to hear your challenges and talk through potential solutions. Give us a call, we can help.

Diane Krakora is CEO of PartnerPath with over two decades of experience defining the best practices and frameworks around how to develop and manage partnerships.

Topics: Partnering Tips, Industry Perspective

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