Society and the world of work is changing. We are living in an ever-shifting and evolving world with new technologies, new processes, new inventions, new paradigms, new business strategies….it is simply endless. As a business, it is imperative to keep up with market developments to remain responsive and competitive. From this perspective, businesses must evolve, adapt, and implement in terms of technology, people, and policies & processes to meet consumer demands and its objectives or risk potential impacts on business operations.
However, changing is easier said than done as organisations respond to change in different ways. Change Management helps with this response by focussing on the most important yet most unpredictable aspect of implementations; people. Change can be uncomfortable for most people due to the loss of control and lack of clarity & certainty. We are all different and process information individually, react differently to situations, have emotional drivers etc. Can you remember a time when it felt like things were being done that you had little to no control over? That is how people feel when a business goes through a shift or does something out of the norm.
So, what is Change Management? It is simply a term for the approaches to support businesses, functions, and most importantly individuals in making organisational and transformational change. Depending upon the level of change required, the nature of the business, the culture, the project (and so on), this usually involves defining and instilling new values, attitudes, norms, and behaviours within the organisation that support new ways of doing work. Change Management Activities try to lessen disruption to a project, implementation or to the organisation by tailored solutions and initiatives that assist people along the Change Curve (figure 1) to the new defined and desired state.
Good Change Management activities will help to reduce the time on the downwards trajectory and negate risks and potential issues, by addressing emotional states and turning these into rational focuses. The lower down the curve, the higher the risk of resistance and where potential hostility could occur (such as staying with old ways and attempting to undermine the new project and change initiatives or even resignations). This can be highly disruptive to business operations, people and can stall programme efforts.
Fig 1. An example Change Curve
What this looks like varies from engagement to engagement, sector to sector, even team to team. As discussed earlier, every business will have different needs and will respond differently. However, a general structure to Change Management can fall into 4 key parts: Preparing for the Change, Managing & Executing, Reinforcing and Reviewing.
Preparation is a crucial stage where the change strategy should be defined, and the sponsorship model should be developed. Through gap, impacts and readiness assessments anticipated pitfalls, resistance and tactics to overcome these should be identified. These assessments are invaluable to understand the business culture and will answer key questions such as how big the change will be, how many people will be affected, the potential level of resistance, level of communications and training required, any other impacts from other changes already going on etc.
Managing and Executing should be about plan creation using the initial phase as a base. Using the information gathered communication plans, roadmaps, strategies, behavioural planning, training plans can all be mapped out and delivered in tandem with the project plan. This is the phase where all the strategies and tactics for overcoming friction and resistance will be actioned (helping reduce the length of time on the downward slope of the Change Curve).
During plan execution, it is vital to continue to reinforce the changes and key messages developed from the previous phase. It is vital to ensure that change agents and sponsors are actively engaged and that the people are adopting new ways of working or behaviours. It is important to collect data and feedback to ensure the change is hitting key success & adoption metrics success. If there are gaps and pockets of resistance then these should be closed quickly during this phase. It is crucial here to praise and celebrate the success of people.
The final piece of the Change journey is to review the overall process, which should happen with your stakeholders or sponsors. At this point, the successes, lessons and blockers (no doubt there will be some) can be discussed and ongoing initiatives can be developed (such as continuous improvement activities and training) to ensure that changes have fully embedded.
Change Management is far more than another corporate buzzword and “a bit of training”. It is a structured, comprehensive and organised approach to moving an organisation and its people from the current state to the desired future state, which involves detailed planning, testing, validation, implementation, and constant reviewing and refinement. It plays a central part in overall implementation success and ensures that your people and organisation are moving together. Change Management should be considered as soon as the change or business case is thought of and last throughout the duration of the project (and beyond!) to ensure that the changes required are fully embedded and all the benefits are being fully realised.
If you are considering embarking on a transformational journey or would like to discuss any project requirements, we at Veran have deep expertise in Change Management and understand how to reduce the risks associated with transformational ventures giving you confidence that the change you are wanting to achieve will ultimately succeed. We understand that change cannot be put on people. The best way to instil change is to create it and do it with you and your people.
For more information on Change Management contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Read the next part of the series, 'How to successfully implement change'