Change Management Strategies and Tactics
Organisations are constantly changing, perhaps in response to events or markets conditions, process improvements, the introduction of new technology, organisational restructuring or mergers.
When we’re involved in such activities, the greatest challenge for organisations is often to achieve the cultural or behavioral shift that is often required to achieve the planned benefits, even when it is recognised that change is required.
Behavioral change in organisations does not just happen. Typically, it will only occur if an initiative has direction, leadership, very clear goals and benefits for its key stakeholders; and of course, all of these are communicated well, consistently and in a timely manner.
For it to be successful, change management needs to be practiced for some time, to ensure sustainability. Lasting cultural shift will only be achieved through clear leadership, creative planning, skillful communication and by developing a coherent strategy that will drive and sustain real change.
Strategies for Change
Many key principles are central to achieving real change, for example:
- Change management is not the goal in itself: it is a means to an end, and the end is an improvement in an organisation’s performance or an impact on its culture. It is about skillful management of the activity that will lead to an environment where some form of transformation is achieved and improvements in the organisation’s performance are realised.
- The “targets” of change must play an active role in realising the change: Successful Change projects will identify and communicate the vision, letting the employees know they are expected and empowered to play an active role in making the change and realising the planned benefits. The worst approach is to bring in people from outside of the organisation and let them ‘drive’ the change. All this will do is increase the resistance among the very people you are tying to change or influence. Having said this, change management is a real skill (that will not be learned in a day or even a week). You must make sure the team has access to such skills, and that team members are willing to listen to the voices sharing that valuable experience.
- An organisation’s employees are their greatest asset: and at the same time, potentially, they are also the greatest challenge. For a vision to become reality, those at the “coal-face” must believe in the goals of the initiative, the reasons why is is required, and have the desire and commitment to support and achieve it. Easy to use words like these; but it’s an entirely different thing to achieve what they mean.
- Allocate proper time and resource: it sounds obvious, but most change efforts suffer from a huge under investment in both time and resource. Posters are fine but if this is all most people see or hear they will achieve very little – or even worse they will increase the level of skepticism about “yet another (top-down) initiative”.
- Picking the ‘team’: change management is a real skill, and to be successful all members of the team must be willing to listen, learn, adapt and improve as they go forward – especially to those who are there to bring this very skill. You must test the ability and willingness of all prospective team members to operate and behave in this way, as part of their selection and appointment to the team. If individuals do not behave in this way once in the team, they must be removed if they do not respond to coaching or training etc.
- Ensure the right people deliver the key messages: it is not uncommon for much planning and preparation to take place, perhaps for a launch event, and the key (senior) person becomes unavailable at the last minute. Do everything you can to ensure this does not happen and have an effective back-up plan – never simply default to the most senior person who happens to be around at the time.
There are many strategies and techniques to support Change, particularly those aimed at impacting the values, attitudes and habits that we as individuals demonstrate while we are at work.
The fundamentals of success are contained within five key steps. Before launching a project, the team should conduct the following:
- Benefits Identification : The early identification and agreement of the benefits and in particular the outcomes that the programme is to produce is essential.
- Executive Sponsorship: sponsors must communicate and drive strategic business objectives. Gaining effective sponsorship and leadership is the first step in the change to be implemented.
- Readiness Assessment: An assessment of the readiness of the organisation to adopt the changes required will enable a realistic implementation plan to be developed.
- Benefits Planning: Having identified the benefits of the programme it is important to detail the plan to show all the key actions and responsibilities to achieve the planned benefit
- Resistance Management: A major obstacle to successful Change is employee resistance at any level, typically due to: lack of awareness about the need behind the initiative, fear of the unknown, fear of losing control. It is essential to identify and manage all stakeholder groups to minimise resistance and build support.
Execution and Implementation
Once the project has been launched, the project should conduct the following 4 key execution steps.
- Communications Plan: If staff understand what the change is and why it’s required, how to implement it becomes far less of an issue. It is critical to develop carefully structured communications plans and mechanisms to inform staff about the programme and how it will affect them.
- Manage the Plan: It is imperative to monitor the actions within the Change Management plan, continuously assessing progress and if necessary revising the plan if necessary.
- Education & Training Plan: A key element of the Change is Education & Training, where the aim is to provide the employees in the organisation with the skills, tools & techniques required for them to perform their role effectively as the changes are being implemented.
- Ensure visibility of sensible measures: measures must play a are trying to really important role, but they must be measures the people you are trying to influence will pay attention to and will relate to. There are many good examples here to learn from and many mistakes to make sure you avoid.
- Active Resistance Management: By actively listening and monitoring feedback on the planned changes during implementation, to identify any areas where resistance is being encountered.
Benefits Realisation Management
One of the most important tasks of all, is bringing accountability and a visible (but simple) management process to the achievement of the benefits expected as a result of the change programme. This will include the actions, responsibilities and the measures (per benefit) that will be used throughout the realisation phase. Once again, this is a key task that is discussed but rarely resourced and prioritised.
Resistance and Reinforcing
Once the programme is underway, there are three further steps focused upon sustaining the initiative.
- Measuring Benefits: Measuring the benefits delivered by the programme assessing the progress achieved against the benefits and the outcomes identified at the start.
- Identify Gaps and Manage Resistance: If the some of the anticipated benefits have not been realised this may be because of gaps in the actions undertaken or unexpected resistance. Identification of gaps and resistance enables the identification of corrective actions to reinforce the change.
- Reinforcing: Having achieved the new behaviors, process, practices etc, it is all too common for organisations to slip back to operating and behaving along the original familiar lines.
On a regular basis, monitor the organisational performance relative to the goals of the project, developing where appropriate corrective actions to reinforce the desired changes.
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