Rely on Your MVP’s to Get Change Right!

Rely on Your MVP’s to Get Change Right!

By Seth Kahan

Three Steps to Assemble, Equip, and Activate a Deep Bench of Change Agents

If you have an initiative that you’re trying to push forward, a grand challenge demanding your best efforts, a change of a scope and scale that let’s face it, frightens you a little—let me make a suggestion. Focus on energizing your Most Valuable Players—your MVPs.

An enterprise with a deep bench of MVPs can readily adapt to change and adversity. That deep bench gives it more confidence to take risks and innovate. The talent on that MVP team is what leads to getting change initiatives right.

  1. Start by assembling your Most Valuable Players. Your MVPs are the people who are going to midwife your vision, the people who are going to bring it into reality. MVPs come in all roles and functions—some from internal core constituencies and others from outside the organization. Internal MVPs might be people from budget, people from operations, maybe the innovation lab, maybe HR. External MVPs are policy makers, academicians, thought leaders—influencers of all kinds.To find candidates for the MVP bench, ask yourself, “Who do we need to involve in order for this change to be successful?”  Those are your most valuable players. Spend time identifying your MVPs by category and individual names, and keep that list with you. Made contact with them—by direct, face-to-face invitation if possible.
  2. Equip and energize your MVPs. MVPs will begin to work for your change initiative’s success when they see that its attainment is interwoven with their own. Your MVPs need three critical provisions:
    • Skills.
    • Information.
    • Relationships.

    “Equip them” means giving them the tools they need to get their job done. That might be Power Point slide decks, or flash videos, or an iPad pre-loaded with the information they need to be ambassadors for your change initiative. Make sure it’s easy to access, navigate, and share. Information must flow toward you as well as from you, so provide regular briefs and progress indicators, and provide easy ways for MVPs to contact you. Whatever communication tools and channels are needed, make sure you put them in MVPs’ hands, so they can advocate on behalf of your vision. Coach them on how to have engaging conversations on your behalf. Their strategic relationships are the most important asset for making change happen. People who join your change initiative should have ample opportunities to build the relationships that contribute to their own success.

    “Energize them” means including your MVPs in activities that lift their mood, rouse their enthusiasm, and open up new horizons for them. You want to inspire them, you want to make sure that the goal of your vision is aligned with their personal goals, with what they’re trying to do in their lives, in their careers, what they count is most important. Find out what turns your MVPs on, and figure out how their participation in your change program is a way to pursue that.

  3. Activate your MVPs. Throw your well-equipped, energized MVPs into the action where they can make a difference. When I begin a consulting engagement with an organization concerning a change initiative, one of the first things I do is to make a list of the MVPs. We start with the roles and functions but then we get down to the names, to the individuals. I want to understand each person—what motivates, what inspires, what incentivizes each.Whatever that is, that’s what the leadership must provide. I want to provide incentives that align the work of change with their work, what’s on their plate. Ideally, working for the change initiative will be something that will literally shift their work from tactical to strategic. It will accomplish goals they care about; their motivation to work on its behalf grows; it accomplishes more goals they care about.

Cultivate three specific groups within your MVPs—your Change Leadership Team, Champions, and Ambassadors. Each of these groups plays a specific role in your change initiative. The Change Leadership Team connects core constituencies, facilitates a shared understanding of the change effort, busts silos as needed, and steers transformation in a complex environment. Champions excel at promoting, advocating, and supporting change within their home group. Ambassadors represent you in their dealings with other groups, extending your reach.

Any good, strong idea or change program will have detractors—people who think you are on the wrong track. Difficult players can be MVPs too. They can be dealt with effectively through the processes I’ve described. However, if they begin to drag you into personal warfare, you and your program will suffer. In most cases, their opposition comes from issues with how they have been perceived and treated. By extending the opportunity to contribute and have an impact, you can win them over. Always remember your actions are visible to many people; how you respond to challenge makes a powerful statement in support of your eventual success. Do not let personalities stand in the way; stay focused on the merits of your program and your approach.

With a deep bench of change agents, each a well-equipped, energized MVP, your change initiative is well-positioned for success. Deploy those agents strategically, doing your best to direct detractors’ energies to constructive ends. You don’t need to win everyone over, but you do need the respect and support of observers. The merits of your program, your approach, and your MVPs will do the rest.


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