Managing Change

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Change management generally is not the easiest space in which to work. Why?  It involves people. People with all sorts of quirks, sensitivities, ideas, motives and fears. And it takes time to bring people onboard and move them across to the new way of doing things. In any type of business improvement exercise, engagement with involved staff and other stakeholders needs to be handled sensitively and proactively, otherwise you will be on the road to failure.

It is amazing how many cultural reform, technological and other business improvements fail purely because the actual change – the transition from old to new – has been managed badly or completely overlooked! On the flip side, where the transition is managed well, amazing things can happen.

The change management aspects of actually making the identified business improvements happen need to be planned and implemented carefully. As a starting point, here is a list of some of the big considerations you will need to think through.

Physical Change

This is the one bit of the change that you can guarantee actually happens! This is the direct change actually planned and implemented by a project. The problem is that if you do not work through the other aspects of change management (e.g. engagement and communications), the investment in the physical change (e.g. the new photocopier or the removal of a requirement to seek an unnecessary approval) is a complete waste.

Documentation Change

This is at the heart of the Superior Business Analysis approach. It’s about making sure that any changes in what you need to do are captured somewhere. Documenting the way things will work when processes have been changed gives you a great planning tool to help you work through what else will need to be done to make your change stick. It can help you answer questions like:

  • What education and upskilling will be needed?
  • What other changes will this change require?
  • How will we manage implementation and communication?
  • Do we need to set up additional processes to promote behavioural change?

This is where the Superior Business Analysis Framework can be a real help in knowing what needs to be revised and aligned.

Having your changes incorporated within process documentation also gives you a mechanism for publicising the new way of working into the future when the business improvement project has finished. People then know where to go to get the information about how to do what they need to, as well as having documentation that allows them to continue improving and tweaking the updated processes over time.

Engagement and communications

Tiered, targeted, appropriate and effective engagement with people is key to change management. If people feel like they have had no input into a change and no visibility of what is involved, then they are not likely to support it or translate the changes into what they do.

An analysis of your customers / stakeholders is an important part of the planning stage of an engagement. There are a lot of online resources about stakeholder analysis, which generally use a matrix approach to identify the level of influence and the level of support each stakeholder / stakeholder group has for the change you are making. We think that for key people or groups of people it is worth also doing a more detailed analysis of the needs, motives and interests.

Two invaluable resources that we have come across in terms of going through the engagement planning process are the IAP2 spectrum and the South Australian Government’s Better Together principles of engagement.

Education and Upskilling

Hand in hand with engagement is the identification and offering of education and upskilling opportunities by people who are involved, affected or champions of the change. This will generally be about identifying what additional knowledge and skills are required by people in order for them to be able to move to the new way of doing business and the best way to provide that knowledge or those skills. However, if you have someone who could be an effective proponent of a change, there might be value in giving them more higher level training around the change or the change management process. Make the most of the people who want to help you!

Implementation of Behavioural Change

Organisational improvements often include some level of behavioural change for anywhere from one individual to the organisation as a whole. And the behavioural change might be anything from changing where someone goes to upload a file to a whole-of-organisation cultural change. Engagement is important in supporting this change, but centralised engagement and communications all coming from one person will not always be the most effective way to do it.

Therefore you need to think through all the involved people / teams / groups / committees and the official as well as informal processes they use to disseminate information and make change stick (think team meeting agendas, performance development conversations and kitchen conversations). Lots to think through there! Another consideration is the hierarchy at play in your organisation and ensuring that the right person / people are championing and spruiking the change.

Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations is great to be aware of when you are working in this space too. This is the idea that not everybody adopts change at the same rate – there are innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. He demonstrated this idea by plotting the different adopter groups on a bell curve, with the biggest groups being the early and late majority.

As you can see, there is a lot to unpack in change management and on this site so far we only touch the tip of the iceberg.

Three books that address change management and which we can highly recommend are:

  • The Leader’s Handbook by Peter R. Scholtes
  • Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Leading Change by John P. Kotter