Public Safety Insights Newsletter: April 23, 2014

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April 23, 2014 VOLUME 2, ISSUE 7
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The Key to Successful Change Efforts
Public Safety Insight: The key to successful change efforts is building and maintaining quality relationships with your stakeholders.

There are all kinds of changes occurring in the public safety arena – e.g., adapting to new economic realities, consolidating internal or external functions, merging separate agencies. Though they take a variety of forms, change efforts share one key element: people are involved. Add to that fact the reality that human beings tend to resist change, and you have a potential recipe for disaster.  The key ingredient that enables success, yet too often is missing, is the quality of stakeholder relationships. The return on your investment in making stakeholder relationships a high priority – i.e., devoting the time and energy necessary to nurture those connections – is an exponentially greater likelihood that your change effort will succeed.

Can the desired change be accomplished if you ignore stakeholder relationships? Perhaps. Will it be effective? Most likely no. The best case scenario when relationships are poor: the change effort will cost more (in dollars, time, energy diverted from productive activities) than it would otherwise. The worst case scenario: the organization is much worse off than it was before, with long-lasting negative effects. Why? When you effect change by ignoring its human elements, you end up with stakeholders who may be compliant, but they aren’t committed. Negative effects include high levels of distrust and cynicism, decreased productivity, low morale, increased resistance, unwillingness to follow your lead, a climate of “us vs. them,” and lack of ownership of the desired result. The time you “gain” by failing to nurture stakeholder relationships on the front end will be miniscule compared to the time you will have to spend later dealing with the negative repercussions of ignoring or downplaying the importance of the human element in change management.

Here are seven ways to create and maintain quality stakeholder relationships that will make your change efforts proceed more smoothly:

  1. Be open and honest. Share the bad news as well as the good.
  2. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you find you truly cannot do what you promised, immediately let stakeholders know why.
  3. Ensure the change process and decisions are procedurally fair – i.e., transparent, free of bias, and with meaningful opportunities for input by stakeholders at every step, not just at the end.
  4. Utilize a variety of media to communicate your message consistently and frequently.
  5. Listen to what’s on stakeholders’ minds. Show that you truly have heard them. Seriously consider their concerns/suggestions/feedback.
  6. Paint stakeholders into the picture as soon as possible – before the picture is fully or largely formed – so they feel a sense of ownership.
  7. Explain the decision process at each step. Opt for more inclusion vs. less.

To read about additional steps you can take to create and sustain excellent relationships with your stakeholders, take a look at my most recent article in the IAFC’s On Scene magazine, Relationship Excellence: 9 Steps for Providing Relationship Leadership. There also are links to two previous articles in that series.

To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at

Public Safety Insights is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help first responders maximize their performance. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.


©2014 Pat Lynch | Public Safety Insights

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