How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Agreeing the contract
Whether you are facilitating change, consulting in change or managing change, a critical step is in 'signing the contract' where you agree to take on the job.
Assuming you have done a reasonable investigation into what is required, you will then have a meeting with the key sponsor (or sponsorship team) and present your findings and agree the way forward, which effectively is a contract for the work you will subsequently do in managing or facilitating the change.
Assuming you have done an investigation, there will come a point when you need to present your findings back to the key sponsor. Note that this should only take up around half of the meeting. You should leave plenty of space for discussions and negotiations and ask that concerns should be kept until this time.
Restate the original problem
The first step is to restate the initial problem and objectives (also known as the presenting problem) as given in the first meeting. Even though you may now have concluded that this is not the real problem, this is where the mind of the key sponsor is still likely to be, and you should thus start from their position. Even if their perceptions have changed, it is still a good reminder of where you started from.
Next, present the findings from your investigation. Keep these both factual and brief, supporting with detail only if requested. Remember that although you have worked long and hard on this, the sponsor is likely to be interested only in the key points and may be overwhelmed if you get too enthusiastic. The goal here is to inform, not to impress them with the work you have done. Bullet points and graphs often work well, though beware of 'death by Powerpoint'.
Having given the facts, the next step is to interpret these for further meaning. Implications may well include 'what happens if we do nothing' which can be a great motivator (as long as you head in the right direction rather than do a headless chicken impression).
A key item to conclude here is any revision of the original objectives. This may lead to objections from the sponsor, which you should put off if possible until after you have made your full case.
Having given the facts and the projection into the future of implications, the next step is to present your recommendations as to the way forward. You may well have prepared complex plans for your recommended change, but these should be held back for now: your presented recommendations should be clear and crisp, giving the overall approach and clearly identifying the decisions you want made.
After you have presented your findings, the next step is to find out what the sponsor thinks about them.
Discuss their response
First ask for their response to your recommendations. Listen carefully and ensure you have captured all of their concerns before responding. Answer all questions that you can and use objection-handling as appropriate. Use high-integrity listening to give honest responses and encourage a frank and open discussion.
A key task here is to seek out any showstoppers that would lead you to back out from the project as it would be very likely to fail without this agreement. Typical of this is allocation of sufficient resource or personal commitment of time to the project by the sponsor.
State your needs
Be clear about what you will need in this project, whether it is support, resource or financial reward. You have wants and wishes that are valid and legitimate, just as the sponsor has such needs. It can be a powerful act of assertiveness to state your requirements and also very motivating for you!
Assuming that you have not pulled out by now and that the project will go ahead, then be clear about the detail of what will happen when. You will be making commitments to deliver change here, as per your recommendations, in return for resource, support and your needs being met. This may include some degree of horse-trading and negotiation, but do be careful in this not to give away what you must have to achieve the change.