"Don't worry, we're here to help!"
Run screaming. These are the words that signal that a big change is going to happen, and that it may not be in your favor. At least, that's what I learned when I really listened to the departments we've worked with over the years.
"Change management" is a sometimes-ugly process. Even the word management smacks of hubris—that presumption that somehow an outsider knows more (and should have the authority to make decisions) about what's going on in your environment than you do. Most people brace for impact, readying justifications of their work to date or distancing themselves from past failures.
Smart teams who are working to enable innovation throughout existing organizations can benefit from a couple of key lessons which have been shared with us (and which we now try to apply when we have the job of helping teams go through big changes).
'Yes' is better than 'acquiesce': focus on aligning, not convincing
Team alignment is incredibly important. Most efforts to go through change try to communicate the changes happening by trying to convince people that the change at hand is in their interests. My colleague Miles Kierson, who wrote the book The Transformational Power of Executive Team Alignment distinguishes the relationships to decisions as falling into two categories.
The first and most common way people relate to decisions at work is whether or not they agree, based primarily in "what's in it for me?" Based on their assessment of whether or not what you're proposing appears to be in the interests of the people you're working with—which also includes the people they care deeply about, like key customers or colleagues—their relationship to each of the decisions in the discussion might range anywhere from 'buy-in' (which, when you think about it, means that they will invest their time and efforts in what you're doing because they see the value for them and the people they care about) to more passive states like acquiescence ('I won't block this, but I'm not putting my neck on the line for it either') to outright disagreement or even sabotage.
Fundamentally, all of these variations on agreement tend to fall in the realm of certain kinds of social power: power-over and power-under. Power-over conversations basically fall into the category of bullying: exerting rank or authority, using coercion or forcing an outcome. And power-under conversations are essentially variations on victimhood: submitting, tolerating or acquiescing.
Instead of getting into agreement or disagreement about particular decisions, focus on alignment. Otherwise, every new moment of decision will feel like you’re going uphill, because anything new is against the gravitational 'pull' of predominant thinking and momentum in the organization. Alignment is distinct from agreement. Alignment means that the people in the discussion are committed to the vision and outcomes of a project and trust the people at the table. When that alignment between everyone's personal view of where things should be headed is present, team alignment is possible. It's at this point that the relationships of the team can stay strong through difficult moments of disagreement. It's not that the quality of each individual decision shouldn't be good, but that each decision should be related to a larger vision so that, in short, even if people disagree on the tactic, they can still participate fully because they know they are aligned with the long-term outcomes and vision.
If the entire team is not aligned with the vision and outcomes of a project, every strategy will appear wrong to someone, and every decision will occur as imperfect. Project leaders will have a hard time figuring out why some decisions seem to get traction and others don't.
This process of alignment can be an explicit conversation, too, and probably should be—it's important to acknowledge the true power to make or break a given initiative lies in the team who will grow a project to fruition and maintain it—long after members of an innovation enablement team come to help plant and grow the seeds that brought it about and then move on to their next project. The conversation can be as simple as asking the team to assume good intent and inviting everyone to be curious about the thinking which preceded a recommendation or decision, so that they can be clear about how it connects to the larger vision.