Making Change Management Work

Change is happening all the time through the organization and has huge impacts on the operations of the business.

How should change be managed? The honest answer is that you manage it pretty much the same way you'd manage anything else of a turbulent, messy, chaotic nature, that is, you don't really manage it, you grapple with it. It's more a matter of leadership ability than management skill.

As Barry Tuckwood, Programme Manager of the Valuebill National Project, stated in a recent article. "We have all tried to create change or have had change thrust up on us, and there is a clue in how we dealt with the situations ourselves, in working out how to help others deal with change. If a child can say "I want to do it my way" and you can't produce a valid reason for doing it differently, why would they change? Yet we are often guilty of trying to impose change on our colleagues - we do not treat them as well as we would treat children."

"What makes a change programme successful?" Tim Arnold of Applied Expertise asks. "You can point to a lot of things, but in reality it's the enthusiasm of the people involved." You cannot impose change - people and teams need to be empowered to find their own solutions and responses, with facilitation and support from managers, and tolerance and compassion from the leaders and executives. Management and leadership style and behaviour is more important than clever process and policy. Employees need to be able to trust the organization.

Any change effort that requires more than a one-page manifesto to articulate its goal is doomed to failure. If the point of the program is complex, people lose focus -- and eventually lose their way.

    At all times involve and agree support from people within system (system = environment, processes, culture, relationships, behaviours, etc., whether personal or organisational). Understand where you/the organisation is at the moment. Understand where you want to be, when, why, and what the measures will be for having got there. Plan development towards the goal in appropriate achievable measurable stages. Communicate, involve, enable and facilitate involvement from people, as early and openly and as fully as is possible.

The key is to engage the entire organization in the change process. Actually, not just the organisation but in some situations, also those around the organisation. The stakeholders could include, staff, management, customers, suppliers, regulators and of course, the project team. Some people will be supportive, some will not. The important thing is to know the "people terrain". To identify how important each individual or group is to the success of the project and also how supportive they are to the success of the project.

Engaging the stakeholders means keeping people informed so that they will not only support the outcome of the project, but understand what they need to do in the project and understand the implications for the organisation and help to identify and resolve any issues.  So making it work is really about communication, but also about knowing who to communicate to, when to communicate and what to communicate.

There are two basic types of communication:

  • Push where the information is pushed to them in a memo, email, or presentation or
  • Pull where the information is available, but they have to go find it. A web site is a good example of 'pull'

Don't be afraid to use Executive presenters, this can show their support for the project and can help to create commitment with the presenter i.e. their credibility is on the line. Above all LISTEN to the stakeholders and COMMUNICATE, ensuring the message engages the stakeholders.  In this way your project may be one of those that is successful.

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