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A Practical Approach to Change Management
- By Ron Leeman
Over the last 25 years or so, I have developed and implemented many bespoke Business Change and Transformation Approaches and Strategies for organizations to enable them to drive through change initiatives/programs and achieve considerable ROI and business benefit.
These many custom Approaches/Strategies have used as their basis my Practical Framework Approach to Change. This was first developed in 1996, but has been regularly updated and changed based on new learning, acquired knowledge and research through being involved in many diverse change initiatives in a cross-section of different industry sectors between 1996 to present.
First of all, there are two things that you need to know. Firstly, the framework is modular which means it can be used in its totality or you can “pick and choose” which modules you want to use dependent on the change initiative. Implicit in the “framework” are:
- Creating a positive environment for change
- Managing change resistance
- Engendering positive change behaviors
- Addressing organizational culture
I am not saying I know it all (far from it) and what I have done and the way I have done it is the right way but it is my way (as Frank Sinatra sang) and is based on my practical experience, the things I have done for organizations and that have worked.
Sponsorship is one of the key ingredients that make change initiatives successful. Executives and senior leaders provide the authority and credibility needed for a change to be successful. Senior leaders must be present to demonstrate their own and the organization’s commitment to the change.
A sponsor provides resources required for change and has the ultimate responsibility for the program or project, building commitment for the change particularly at the senior management level across the organization. The sponsor can minimize barriers to change and ensure the rapid and effective implementation of project outcomes.
You need to identify and work with a Sponsor to ensure commitment to the change initiative and to regularly engage with them in relation to:
- Their key responsibilities.
- Their visibility during the change initiative
- Building support.
- Communication responsibilities.
- Managing resistance.
- Setting priorities and celebrating success.
For more information, I have a document available on The Midmarket Institute’s website related to Sponsorship.
Stakeholder Analysis and Management
Stakeholder Management involves taking into consideration the different interests and values stakeholders have and addressing them during the duration of the change initiative to ensure that all stakeholders are happy at the end. A properly managed stakeholder can be your greatest asset, clearing organizational roadblocks and supporting your project in times of need. In order to ensure the success of your project you must properly manage all of your stakeholders.
- Stakeholder Analysis is the technique used to identify key people who have to be won over to build the support that drives success
- Stakeholder Management is an important discipline to win support from others as it helps ensure that projects succeed where others fail
Stakeholder Management, once completed, helps determine your approach to Communication. For more information, I have a document available on The Midmarket Institute’s website related to Stakeholder Analysis & Management
A starting point in any change scenario is to clearly communicate the rationale behind the change goals. Communication and engaging staff in discussions about the business is absolutely critical to successfully implementing changes. It is the employees who will be doing most of the legwork to make a new strategy work, so they must understand the aims and objectives. They must also be clear on why the plan has been introduced, how it will be implemented and what is expected of them. Ultimately, employees want to be kept in the loop and informed of any internal developments.
The Communication aspect can take many forms but to an extent will be determined by what channels are already in place within an organization. I use a simple four phase model which is:
- Messages to be communicated.
- Channels to be communicated through.
- Stakeholder Groups to be communicated to.
- Frequency of communication.
I cannot stress the importance of the first three components as these are the factors that are key to a successful change outcome. For more information, I have a document available on The Midmarket Institute’s website related to Communication.
The process side of a change initiative is critically important. When embarking upon change the goal is to eliminate waste, improve productivity, optimize existing resources, handle growth without adding resources and to streamline existing operations to name but a few. Companies with defined processes are better able to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and identify opportunities for improvement. Processes provide a blueprint for employees and enable cross-training to minimize business interruption.
Process Change is about looking at the processes that are going to be impacted by the change. You need to initially create a Process Hierarchy and determine at which level process information needs to be captured. Once this is done then processes need to be mapped. First the “As Is” and then following a period of critical analysis the recommended “To Be“ processes. It is helpful for end-users to get involved in the design stage of the new processes so that they can provide their input and will be able to be involved and learn first-hand.
Comparing the “As Is” and the “To Be” will enable you to undertake an Impact Analysis and identify where the major impacts are going to be and the associated Stakeholder Groups that will be affected. This Impact Analysis will then need to be communicated to the relevant Stakeholder Groups. For more information, I have a number of documents available on The Midmarket Institute’s website related to change.
Any change scenario will invariably involve some kind of organizational impact. You can be sure that the value of the marginal improvements won’t be anywhere near the costs of an expensive, time-consuming and resource-intensive implementation project. If your organization doesn’t take the opportunity to restructure its business, the change initiative will be part of the statistical number of change failures that you so often read about.
Organizational change results from Process Changes and refers to the way tasks are divided up and the patterns of co-ordination, communication, power distribution and workflow associated with this. There are four basic elements to consider when looking at this aspect:
- Reporting Structures.
- Working Practices.
- Job Design.
- Management Systems.
This aspect will have to be carefully managed and again input from your key Stakeholder Groups is essential in the design of Job Roles & Responsibilities and new Organization Structure. The best structure is influenced by many factors including company size, technology, and environment BUT ultimately strategies, and not contingencies, shape the structure (for better or worse). This is the one aspect that people are most interested in as it involves “their jobs” so it cannot be underestimated. For more information, I have a document available on The Midmarket Institute’s website related to Organizational Design.
Training & Education
This is all about training key Stakeholder Groups on the new Processes in relation to their new Roles & Responsibilities.
Your company has likely invested a lot in their change initiative, but if you don’t train people on the changes, the investment will be largely wasted. Failure to make training a critical component of a change initiative is the number one mistake many organizations make. Effective training is the cornerstone of every successful change. Training end-users and preparing them for go-live directly contributes to bottom-line results and a successful change.
Long before any actual training occurs it must be determined who, what, when, where, why and how of training. This will invariably come from information from the work on Process and Organization changes and will reflect the following:
- Organisation and its goals and objectives.
- Jobs and related tasks that need to be learned.
- Competencies and skills that are need to perform the job.
- Individuals who are to be trained.
The final phase is evaluation of the program to determine whether the training objectives were met. The end result of this will be a competent and ready workforce. For more information, I have a document available on The Midmarket Institute’s website related to training required as a part of a change management program.
Adoption & Business Readiness
Failed change initiatives often come when organizations attempt to by-pass the readiness and ownership transfer activities and go directly to capacity building. Adoption/Business Readiness is a measure of preparation and is a term that means the business’s ability to take on or adopt what a project delivers so in effect anything that involves a change to Business Operations requires an organization to be ready for and adopt the change. A Business that is ready will have made all the preparations necessary to accept the deliverables of a project and begin operating them. Adoption/Business Readiness prepares each organizational unit for go-live by facilitating general business adoption of the changes to achieve business goals.
Adoption & Business Readiness The following are the key stages of this component:
- Agree approach.
- Determine measurement areas
- Agree questions.
- Agree survey participants
- Agree scoring criteria
- Agree target score
- Agree survey tool
- Issue survey
- Survey input, analysis and actions
This is a key aspect of the change process and it is extremely important that as many Key Stakeholders as possible input to this process and agree all relevant actions and outcomes including any remedial change interventions resulting from the output of the measurement process. For more information, I have a document available on The Midmarket Institute’s website related to Adoption & Business Readiness.
Business Benefits Management
When undertaking a change initiative, it is often the case that businesses spend so much time and energy on the preparation stages they overlook what comes after implementation. It is the “after” implementation part (how we measure the success of the change) that is often neglected until the project goes live. Measurement should entail a holistic approach that assesses how well the initiative has established the foundation for business transformation thereby providing the organization opportunities to achieve substantial business benefits.
Business Benefits is about planning and managing the overall delivery of benefits related to the change initiative. The activities cover tracking the benefits from their initial identification in the Business Case/Investment Proposal to their successful realization. The Business Case/Investment Proposal presents information necessary to support a series of decisions. There are four guiding principles to Benefits Management:
- Performance only improves when people do things differently.
- Benefits arise when improvements are exploited to the benefit of stakeholders.
- Unless a benefit can at least be observed, it does not exist.
- A benefit must have an owner who is responsible for delivery of that benefit.
Benefits fall into two categories:
- Tangible e.g. Faster, Easier, Cheaper.
- Non-tangible e.g. Happier, More Content, Less Complex.
But both can be measured using the right Measurement/Tracking system. For more information, I have a document available on The Midmarket Institute’s website related to Business Benefits.
Your change initiative go live should be the beginning of your Continuous Improvement Program. With the pace of change and customer expectations, every business needs to be as agile as possible. By constantly evaluating and improving processes in the light of their efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility, organizations can quickly respond to change. The only way to ensure that your business can keep up is to take a proactive and continuous approach to improvement of your systems, processes and output.
Continuous Improvement is often overlooked by organizations as this is about improving your processes as people get to know and understand the changes that have taken place and will invariably find easier and better ways of doing their work. There are various approaches but the one that seems most prevalent is the Plan, Do, Study, Act cycle (PDSA):
- Plan – what you want to happen or to achieve.
- Do – what you planned to do in the previous step.
- Study – the outcome and look at what happened.
- Act – on the results and your analysis of them.
Creating Continuous Improvement Teams out of your original key Stakeholder Groups is the best way for this. Teams should be empowered by Senior Management and meet on a regular basis and follow the cycle for each of the improvement initiatives. It is important that successful initiatives are seen to be implemented.
So, there we have it, my simple and practical approach.
- Ron Leeman
Ron Leeman is a seasoned change management consultant who has worked extensively across the UK, mainland Europe, and Asia. He has a stellar track-record of successfully implementing organizational change and process initiatives across a wide cross section of industry sectors. In 2012, Ron was bestowed the "Change Leader of Tomorrow award by the World HRD Congress" in recognition of his remarkable progress in initiating changes enough for others in the same industry to follow my example.
Ron has over 800 Endorsements and over 85 Recommendations on LinkedIn attesting to the quality of his personality and profession competence. Ron has several documents on the Midmarket Institute website – type in “Ron Leeman” in the Keyword Search box on http://www.midmarket.org/business-tools. Whether you work at a company implementing change or a consultant seeking to help a client with change, Ron’s tools will help you.