Yellow winding road sign in a desert signifying navigating change management

Whether you’re a road warrior or a casual traveler, there comes a time when you need to get directions to your next destination.

You might remember MapQuest, the TomTom GPS or even the extra-large paper road atlas. These days chances are you rely on Google maps or another GPS smartphone app to get where you need to go.

It’s no coincidence that we create organizational change management strategies and call them roadmaps. In fact, the sponsor roadmap is a key plan for the senior executives leading any change or transformation effort. And while we use best practices and proven methodologies to map out the people impacts, communication plan, training needs, and feedback mechanisms, what happens when a roadblock suddenly appears?

In the past, we might focus on the science of change management, sticking to the seven-step process, and working tirelessly on breaking down the barriers.

But what if we had a more adaptive approach?

Let’s go back to those directions.

The GPS Analogy of Change Management

I’ve recently discovered Waze. Waze lets you schedule a departure time based on estimated travel time to your destination throughout the day. Start by entering your destination and then decide if you want to add a stop, for gas or a snack break along the way. You can also let your friends know you’re running late by sharing an ETA over email or text. Waze operates with a community feature that lets users report accidents and police presence. It will even send you a friendly warning in enough time to change your route or slow down.

What’s the connection? The ability to adapt in route is a navigational edge - get there faster, avoid a traffic jam and arrive successfully at your destination.

Adaptive change strategies are the future of organizational change management. They require the use of specific levers in an approach that is both an art and a science. Shift course based on stakeholder group feedback, adjust messaging for areas of greatest impact or increase speed of delivery for the change plan overall.

How to Apply an Adaptive Change Strategy

The following three levers should be incorporated into your overall change process and plan, and used when necessary to adjust balance and effort. Remember, this is where the art of change management comes in since no two change projects are ever the same.


1)    Use your sponsors to collect real-time feedback.

In the same way that Waze uses drivers as smart ‘sensors’ to collect real-time data, the leaders on your transformation should be actively and repeatedly engaging all levels of stakeholder groups to gauge attitudes, acceptance and anticipate areas of resistance. Your sponsor roadmap will be their guide and regular check-in meetings will allow you to check the pulse of those impacted by the change.


2)     Create an active community platform.

If the Waze community can alert other drivers of delays or danger ahead, shouldn’t your change network function the same way? Take the time to implement a structured and well-represented change agent or ‘champion’ network and you’ll be creating a community that can alert your team on communication or training roadblocks or redirect your efforts to an audience that’s headed to the valley of despair.


3)     Implement a two-way governance model.

Two-way feedback is more critical than ever in a culture where most companies rely on email as their primary message delivery method. Take the time to meet regularly with your steering committee, giving them previews of upcoming change activities, events and training. Involve them in decisions on roadmap adjustments, and most importantly…listen (see 12 Traits of an Effective Listener – and How it Drives Stronger Leadership)

It’s never too late to bring in adaptive change management strategies to your organizational transformation. If you have any questions about adaptive change strategies or any other aspect of change management, reach out to Dave McKeon.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Dave McKeon | [email protected] | 847-920-0190

Heather Smith is an Affiliate Consultant at ECC and leads the Organization Change Management practice. She has over 20 years of change management and leadership development experience. Prior to her role with ECC, Heather served as Senior Vice President of Organization Development for R1 RCM. She has served as a consultant throughout her career, both independently and with firms such as PwC and Andersen Consulting.


Source: *Harvard Business School Technology and Operations Management: “Waze: Changing the Face of Digital Navigation” Nov 18, 2016