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Applicable Lessons on Change Management Utilities Can Learn From

Looking at change in your billing operation

In a world of 3-minute YouTube videos, TikTok clips, and Snapchat, our attention span and the world are incredibly short. (I have probably already lost many of those who started reading this article).


To succeed in any organization, you must consistently reinvent who you are as an individual and how you work and help to influence positive change. 


So, how does this attention-deficit live in harmony with the need for constant change?

 From one perspective, it seems like a perfect fit.

If we are constantly changing, then the appetite to refocus is always satisfied by that change. On the flip side, change is often complex – mainly corporate change.

Change in the corporate world means breaking up well-established, seemingly functional processes and reevaluating those daily routines that provide us fulfillment and comfort in our workplace.

The solution for the individuals leading through those changes is to embrace “Bite-Size Transformation.”

“Change is the only constant.” – Heraclitus.

Before becoming CIO at MuniBilling, I worked at one of the leading organizations focused on leadership – The Center for Creative Leadership.

One of their leadership models in influencing change involves the principles of Direction, Alignment, and Commitment (DAC).

Let’s examine “DAC” through a more relatable example. Getting your family excited about a trip to the most magical place on earth….Disney World.

In that example, your Direction, or your end goal, is a fun and relaxing family vacation to Disney World!

Alignment is the process of getting everyone in your family excited about going and involved in planning the trip.

And finally, Commitment is the process of buying the tickets and going on the actual trip with everyone involved in the packing, navigating, and problem-solving, like if someone's favorite ride (it’s a small world) is broken. 

DAC is a fantastic framework to influence change management, especially for utilities, and has been exceptionally useful in my career.

However, executing each area can be tricky if not done correctly. 

Embarking on A Beneficial Discovery Process

Setting forth on change in any organization without an end goal is like setting off on your Disney trip without the GPS or map. You could start heading south, but eventually, you’ll have some problems. 

It would be best to clearly define your end goal to establish a direction in your department or entity.

Is it increased profitability?
Maybe you’re looking for greater efficiencies?
Is it happier customers?
Employee retention?
Or maybe it’s a combination of multiple goals?

I can remember a time in my career when we began by establishing 5-year or more extended plans. Then we would start with defining a 3-year planning window.

However, in today’s rapidly changing world, a 1-year planning window is sometimes more than enough to tackle.

Start establishing your direction by: 

  • An evaluation of your current state - This is a mixture of a “gut feel” from your subject matter experts and a data-driven analysis of existing metrics.
  • Begin with end goals in mind - To be successful, this needs to be based on a foundation of impact research, forecasted expected data, and future time-based benchmarks.
  • Define success criteria - Determine stretches for your team that are still achievable.
  • Break down those end goals into milestones – Create quarterly, monthly, and snackable 2-week goals.

Once a well-established direction is created, then you can begin to get alignment and agreement with your organization. 

Change Alignment Starts with Great Communication

“Half the herd gets the word.”

That’s a common management saying. Even when you have established and agreed upon direction, you need to constantly check in with teams and communicate to ensure the alignment happens after discovery. 

Be sure to have frequent check-ins with those taking part in the process with you. Alignment in those bite-size transformations is about regular communication across multiple communication channels.

Those channels depend on your organization and maybe corporate announcements, departmental meetings, Slack/Teams channel posts, town hall meetings on the changes, and even individual conversations.

It’s best if you can allow time for repetitive communication. You shouldn’t feel like you must include every detail in your first communication.

Start with high-level strategic goals and then, over time, move to more individually wrapped nuggets of targeted information.

It’s critical in that communication to focus on WHO your internal audience is. Ask yourself: 

  • What is their role in this transformation?
  • How much do they know about the pending changes?
  • What’s in it for them? Why should they care about the change?
  • How should they prepare for the change? What questions will they ask?

 Finally, to successfully gain alignment through communication, listening is essential. Listen. Listen.

Everyone sees their work through different lenses. Listening carefully to employee comments will lead to new individual perspectives that may change how you ultimately deliver your organizational changes. Nothing strengthens alignment quicker than when individuals believe they are being heard and valued. Strong alignment leads to solid commitment.

Turning Agreement into Change

Commitment reminds me of the adage that there is no “I” in the team.

Any significant organizational change will only be successful if the team is committed to it and executes it. If you have successfully navigated the Direction and Alignment work, the Commitment work is typically just a natural outcome.

Change sometimes involves additional work for staff as they maintain existing processes while new processes are moved into place. However, you can continue to Check-in with your team to understand their workload and begin to introduce those small changes.

This may mean reprioritizing existing work to new work. Keeping up frequent with your daily/weekly check-ins will ensure that the changes are moving forward as planned.

With a little effort and commitment, change doesn’t have to be a massive hurdle. 

In Conclusion

Utilizing DAC – Direction, Alignment, and Commitment- will help you organize your team through corporate transformation.

As a leader, you must understand your team’s ability to adapt and help influence that change. Keeping positive, establishing direction, getting alignment and agreement, and acquiring team buy-in is crucial for ANY organization’s change, especially for those utility entities that bill for utility services.  

This will require more coaching, mentoring, and leadership through the difficult seas of change. Keep in mind that as you move forward with your change initiatives you:

  • Celebrate success
  • Learn from failures
  • Succeed one “bite” at a time.

With a little effort and focus, you can talk about change in the utility space and make sure that it happens!

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