Borrowed from decades-old sales techniques, Organizational Change Management practices have adopted this chestnut to build desire: Answer the question [for the would-be buyer or adopter of change], “What’s In It For Me (WIIFM)?”
In a Prosci checklist, Communication Checklist for Achieving Change Management, the suggestion is:
To gain their support [i.e., those affected by a change initiative], you must provide a compelling case for how they will be better off or what they get out of engaging in the change. Answer WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) early and often in your communications.
As well-meaning as this may be, I have some concerns about this approach. Here are a few:
- It depends upon me coming up with a case that is compelling to you.
- It presumes that I know what’s best for you or what you would value.
- It presumes that you would agree with my assumptions.
- It’s a one-way communication.
I’m about to turn this approach upside down.
Let’s stipulate that we’ve got the following (decimal notations refer to sections in the ACMP Standard for Change Management, the number signs [#] refer to entries in the Prosci Checklist referenced, above):
- Business case (5.1.1)
- Change definition (5.1.2)
- Vision statement (5.1.3)
- Change objectives and goals (5.1.4)
- Success criteria and measures (5.1.4)
- Sponsor identification (5.1.5)
- Stakeholder analysis (5.1.6)
This information provides a pretty good picture–at a high level–of what’s going on and who is involved (#2). And it is certainly the stuff of potentially effective communication activities using preferred senders (#1), face-to-face communication (#5) and two-way communication (#7).
What if, rather than using face-to-face, two-way communication to tell others what’s good for them, er, I mean, to share my best guess at what’s in it for them and what they might value, how about if we use this time to elicit, discuss, and agree to next steps to realize what is actually of value to them?
This would be a conversation best facilitated by an associate’s immediate supervisor, the people leader closest to those affected by the change. A small group setting would work well.
Having reviewed the change, reiterating the high-level, strategic points previously communicated by senior leaders (I’m assuming a well-executed communication plan), the facilitator can now have a conversation or brainstorming activity during which participants can explore, discover, identify, and articulate what they think would help them to more fully participate in and robustly support the change initiative, ways in which the enterprise could benefit, and how they could grow personally and professionally. In other words, what they think is in it for them.
Such a conversation is usually deeply revealing, and, for each participant, the insights can provide the beginnining of a personalized change plan and pre-commitment to action. Additionally, the engaged leader now has a much better sense of what each team member values and insight into how best to meet their needs to help ensure success.
Having developed for themselves a sense of “What’s In It For Me” and what would be required to achieve it, each participant likely has greater sense of ownership, personal commitment, and internal motivation.
After all, they told me. I didn’t tell them.