Simplifying the art of change management
- Posted on July 31, 2018
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
We’ve come a long way in recognising the importance of Change Management in any business transformation project. We now know the importance of articulating the destination, and the why. Where we still fall short is in articulating the journey. The “How”.
Humans can be incredibly strong and resilient creatures, which then makes it all the more surprising when we crumble over seemingly “minor” details. People need to feel relevant and needed, especially when there is a lot of change. I am no psychologist but being the initiator of a lot of change over the last 10 years in various organisations, I do know what it takes to bring people on the journey and get them excited for the joint end goal.
Ironically, I don’t love change myself. But I realise that change is the only thing you can be sure of in life (other than death and taxes, of course). But if done right, it can invigorate and inspire.
The human element, the most important component
It never ceases to amaze me that organisations undertake large scale digital transformation projects, spending hundreds of millions of dollars, and yet, the human component is often an afterthought.
The thing is, no project will ever be successful unless our people understand what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we are doing it. Once individuals understand how they will be impacted, and more importantly, how they can contribute overall, you will usually find them very excited to be a part of something bigger and will actively seek to participate. Incidentally, this is when and where you get the really good ideas, from the people at the coal face, or where the rubber hits the road who are affected directly (I’m just seeing how many relevant cliché sayings I can fit into one blog post).
The beautiful part: Change Management is really simple
Here’s yet another overused term: “top down, bottom up”. The only difference is, this time, let’s join the dots between the two. And since I like to practice what I preach, let me share the how.
Three basic components in any change management approach:
Destination (top down)
- What: It’s your end goal. Maybe it’s a transformation project (ERP replacement, Office365 implementation, Skype or Teams deployment, etc), automation of key processes, or an acquisition..
- Why: Supporting an overall strategy, whether that is to drive growth, innovation, increase client engagement, reduce operating costs, manage disparate systems etc. This is the reason why we are changing something in the first place.
Starting point (bottom up)
- Communication, communication, communication: This is the single most important component. Talk to people. Be transparent. Have a single source of information that people can access easily and ask questions. Ask for feedback, ask for help. Give progress reports, admit mistakes or unclear items. Acknowledge the impact on everyone.
- Where: Understand the bottom level components that feed into the top-level outcomes and how exactly they interrelate. The devil really is in the details.
Journey (the Dots)
- The How: Look at each department within your business. Then break it down further to look at each role within those departments. Broadly, what is each role responsible for achieving on a daily basis? Don’t assume you know how it is supposed to work. Ask the people who do the job what actually happens. Now work out how each of those individuals will be impacted by proposed changes. Here are a few general questions to ask yourself:
- Are they going to have to log into different systems?
- Will reports run differently to how they usually run them?
- Do they engage with different stakeholders?
- Will they have a different “To Do” list day-to-day?
- Are they collaborating with colleagues through productivity tools?
- The Who: I recommend you look at the individuals within the roles. Who can be a champion for change among their peers? Who can be the go to person day to day in the transition phase that knows exactly what their colleagues are experiencing and give them guidance on how to proceed and adapt? Not only does this mean less overhead in terms of support (depending on the scenario, of course), but it creates a familiar and safe environment that serves as the constant while things are changing around them.
- The When: Make sure timelines are crystal clear and reasonable. Not saying comfortable necessarily, but they need to be achievable. Also, this is critical: be very clear on who is responsible for what.
There’s no shortage of questions to ask and it may seem like I’m oversimplifying in some of these examples. But this is exactly where it all goes down, and even in more complicated scenarios, the same principles apply. Agree on what good looks like, and how you will measure success. What is measured is managed.
Celebrate achievements together along the way. Change is a team effort. Your project success depends on your people, no matter how fancy the technology. Lastly, keep it simple. The best plans are on one page. “Plan on a Page” or “PoP” is my favourite thing. At work anyway.
Now, since I have a new laptop, if I can just work out HOW to log onto Wi-Fi and HOW that impacts my ability to publish this blog post………. need to phone a friend (that was the last cliché, I promise).
As a side note, our Avanade Advisory Services team have a Change Management practice, and can assist you with proven strategies to keep your transition and change plans simple and effective. Reach out to us if you need help!