Change management is a term that is used freely.
Sometimes it is blamed for poor performance – “That initiative failed because we didn’t focus enough on change management.”
And other times it is used as an umbrella term for activities that would otherwise not have a classification of task – “When we implement that new process, let’s not forget about the change management.”
But what exactly is Change?
Change management is a structured approach for ensuring that changes are thoroughly and smoothly implemented, and that the lasting benefits of change are achieved.
The focus is on the wider impacts of change, particularly on people and how they, as individuals and teams, move from the current situation to the new one. The change in question could range from a simple process change, to major changes in policy or strategy needed if the organization is to achieve its potential.
Theories about how organizations change draw on many disciplines, from psychology and behaviour to processes and techniques. The underlying principle is that change does not happen in isolation – it impacts the whole organization, and all the people touched by it.
When one is tasked with “managing change”, the first question to consider is what change management actually means in that situation. Change management focuses on people, and is about ensuring change is thoroughly, smoothly and lastingly implemented.
When implement change we normally announce it and expect people to adopt it. However, there are various levels that are involved in the effective implementation of change.
- Announcement – This is where the effective provision of information with regards to the extent of change and the factors involved is explained.
- Understanding – Just making an announcement with the changes isn’t enough to convince people to adjust their way of doing things. Effective communication which highlights the pros and cons of the change along with addressing questions or queries has proven to be far more results oriented.
- Acceptance – Once the communication is in effect, the next step would be the team’s acceptance of change. This creates more team involvement and serves as a gauge for upper management.
Two main factors for resistance would be –
WIIFM – What’s in it for me? and WAMI – What’s against my interests?
- Engagement – Once teams are able to highlight the areas or persons who are resistant to change, they can arrange for Coaching and Support to bridge the gaps and initiate action plans.
People approach change differently. In fact, there are 4 specific classifications that they can be placed into:
- High commitment but low energy
- Follow the pioneers
- Make sure it is safe before playing catch-up
- High commitment & energy
- Prepared to ‘get out there’ & push themselves
- Low commitment & low energy
- “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks”
- Opportunity to convert to “Settlers”
- Danger they will not change & need to be let go
- Low commitment but lots of energy
- Don’t want change to be successful
- Feel like they are not being “cared” for
- Want a piece of the pie
- Adoption – Over a period of time people will eventually adapt to the changes which can then be reinforced with updates or incentives.
As every change is different, responsibilities will vary depending on how the change activities and project are organized. Only when you know who’s responsible and how things are organized in your situation will you know what’s within your scope, and how you’ll be working with other people to bring about the change.
Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model– The core set of change management activities that need to be done to effect change, and make it stick in the long term.
- Sense of Urgency
For change to happen, it helps if the whole company really wants it. Develop a sense of urgency around the need for change. This may help you spark the initial motivation to get things moving.
- Form a Powerful Guiding Coalition
Convince people that change is necessary. This often takes strong leadership and visible support from key people within your organization. Managing change isn’t enough – you have to lead it.
- Create a Vision
A clear vision can help everyone understand why you’re asking them to do something. When people see for themselves what you’re trying to achieve, the directives they’re given tend to make more sense.
- Communicate a Vision
What you do with your vision after you create it will determine your success. Your message will probably have strong competition from other day-to-day communications within the company, so you need to communicate it frequently and powerfully, and embed it within everything that you do.
- Remove Obstacles
Put in place the structure for change, and continually check for barriers to it. Removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision, and it can help the change move forward.
- Create Short-Term Wins
Create short-term targets – not just one long-term goal. You want each smaller target to be achievable, with little room for failure. Your change team may have to work very hard to come up with these targets, but each “win” that you produce can further motivate the entire staff.
- Consolidate Improvements and Produce More Change
Kotter argues that many change projects fail because victory is declared too early. Real change runs deep. Quick wins are only the beginning of what needs to be done to achieve long-term change.
- Anchor New Approaches
Finally, to make any change stick, it should become part of the core of your organization. Your corporate culture often determines what gets done, so the values behind your vision must show in day-to-day work. Make continuous efforts to ensure that the change is seen in every aspect of your organization.
When you plan carefully and build the proper foundation, implementing change can be much easier, and you’ll improve the chances of success. If you’re too impatient, and if you expect too many results too soon, your plans for change are more likely to fail.