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Welcome to change management


John Edmonds takes a look at how in reality, change can't be wholly managed; it will emerge naturally once a strategy for change is in place.

Have you ever tried to persuade a group of people to try something new, and failed, or been frustrated at how long it takes for people to get used to new working practices? 
You may be relieved to hear that you are not alone in facing these sorts of dilemmas. According to industry sources, as many as 70% of all business change initiatives result at best in not achieving their original goal and at worst, failing completely.
A business has to develop the capability for change through establishing project management and stakeholder engagement, before leading the transition to change and, finally realising and managing the benefits.


Ground rules

When looking at the ground rules, you need to decide what business the organisation is in, and stretch people's thinking on how to get there. You should ensure that there is a high level of connectivity between different parts of the organisation and focus people's attention on the important differences between current and desired performance styles of working, along with past and present results.
Once you have established that there is a need for change you need to consider what the outcome, impact and benefits will be, taking care not to overemphasise the process of change over the impact on those involved.

Getting ready for change

There is a correlation between the levels of change 'readiness' and successful management of change. Management can benefit (and suffer) just the same as staff, due to contributory factors such as lack of communication, change management experience, support mechanisms and resources.
A conscious approach to getting ready for change leads to a greater probability of success, so planning needs to start long before the change is going to take place.
"You should ensure that there is a high level of connectivity between different parts of the organisation, and focus people's attention on the important differences between current and desired performance styles of working"
The people within the organisation undergoing change are key and there will naturally be some who can manage and some who can lead. Both are crucial for success. A manager will focus on systems and structure, but will look to a leader to innovate, develop and challenge the status quo.

Opening doors

Some say that little significant change can occur if a project is rolled out and driven from the top as this can be a great way to foster cynicism and distract from real efforts to change. It's certainly true that top management buy-in can be a poor substitute for genuine commitment and learning capabilities at different levels in an organisation. This is why managers and leaders should be selected for their influence and skills rather than their position within a hierarchy. Their combined skills will then help to build a team of committed people with the motivation to facilitate change.

Energy and Commitment

Change is bound to bring about different levels of energy and commitment as well as tensions and conflicts, but all these reactions are important sources of healthy change.
Some people will be more committed or enthusiastic than others, some negative and resistant, so it is useful to have a strategy in place to deal with potential conflict. Energy and commitment to change can usually be broken down into four categories of character and each should be deal with in an appropriate way.
Those who obstruct or try to prevent the change happening, the 'blockers', should have their power and energy reduced. 'Sleepers', who aren't bothered about change or not aware of it, need waking up to get them on board. 'Preachers' are likely to be in positions of power whose opinion counts, but they don't consider change a priority, but they should be kept informed and focused on the change, despite their negativity. Finally, there are the 'champions', the advocates and active implementers of change. However few or many champions, it's important to keep these people fully involved at all times to maintain momentum.

Team work

In addressing what needs to be done and how it will be achieved there needs to be an effective team which sets down the team mission, planning and goal setting. Team roles and operating processes need to be defined and inter-team as well as interpersonal relationships within a team need to be managed.
Clear roles and responsibilities increase individual accountability and a clear team operating process will help problem solving and decision making.
"To achieve successful change, therefore, there needs to be open data flow and high levels of team support."
Dysfunctional team working causes tensions, conflict and insufficient focus on the task in hand. To achieve successful change, therefore, there needs to be open data flow and high levels of team support. Teams working in isolation or against other teams will reduce the likelihood of organisational goal achievement, but by working across boundaries, these goals are more likely to be achieved.

Change management 'buy-in'

Change management guru John Kotter suggests that for change to be successful, 75% of a company's management needs to 'buy into' the change. But there are other factors which can contribute to its success:
  • Buy-in from front-line management and employees
  • An experienced and credible project team
  • A well-planned and organised approach
As with most life situations, different people respond to change in different ways. It is therefore important to tell those who will be affected by the impending change exactly how things will be different. You will gain respect by being honest and are likely to gain wider support across the organisation.
You need to create a buzz, engender a sense of urgency around the need for change by talking to the whole company, explain about your position in the marketplace, about your competition and why now is the right time.
Get people talking about the reason for change, allow them the opportunity to express their views and ask questions about the company’s vision. In this way you are more likely to get the backing of the whole company to develop, carry out and benefit from your organisation's change management strategy.
John Edmonds is head of training and development at pearcemayfield He is an experienced PRINCE2 Consultant and an accredited Trainer in PRINCE2, MSP and the Management of Change. John also writes a blog called The Opsimath

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