Change Management - Foundations (III)

«How»

Article written by Luc De Jaeger

Today’s organizations are likely to be exposed to several cross-functional changes over a very short period of time. You may even have grown familiar with this type of situation. But just how much do you know about Change Management in action?  

There are many existing approaches to dealing with change. Each stresses on a different aspect of the art of managing in uncertain times, usually overemphasizing one level of change (either individual or project-level activities) over another. PROSCI’s method comprehensively connects the dots by “leveraging change management activities to drive individual transitions”. It is not just an emergency kit in the face of urgent changes but a fully structured method that allows for skills transfers across projects and situations. User-friendly and holistic, PROSCI offers a complete set of processes, tools and research-based assessments that project leaders and business managers can apply to specific projects while diffusing internal CM skills.

Whatever the amount of change you have to tackle, bringing CM early in the project lifecycle can make a big difference. You should not find yourself running around in a whirlwind of activities in an attempt to control damages. CM is precisely a matter of proactively sustaining the transformational effort. In that sense, sequencing is a key part of the challenge. Roughly speaking, it can be broken down into four different phases.

Aligning leaders and empowering broad-based action with a unified message.

Call it a behind-the-scenes action step. Without any cohesive narrative, the whole implementation process will be sketchy and fail to catalyze people’s support. Aligning leaders around a compelling message that clearly states the reason underpinning an organizational change is the precondition for a smooth transition. In other words, know your “why” and craft a well-rounded message to empower broad-based action.

Easier said than done? Crafting an inspiring story is first and foremost a matter of assembling the right parts (or building blocks). Acknowledging the current business context and telling the journey the organization has been through - including its past successes -, provides a much-needed first layer. As a second step, it is most important that you clearly state what the ideal future holds and infuse that vision with a sense of urgency. Sharing the same horizon certainly gets partners and employees moving in the right direction, but make no mistake: not only is a strong purpose crucial to generate engagement, aligning personal interests with the organization’s future equally is. However daunting this task may seem, it is best achieved by discussing the costs of status quo and benefits of change for everyone involved (“What’s in there for me?”). Finally, wrap up the story with practical elements and milestones derived from the change roadmap, set clear expectations and make a strong commitment to supporting the people as they face a steep learning curve.  

Preparing for the change.

Through an in-depth assessment of the situation, CM seeks to give you the big picture (situational awareness). How much change does your project need?  Evaluating the size and scope of the change as well as the organizational context where the change has to take place are the first logical steps towards tailoring your CM strategy. Not one situation is the same. The initial assessment must also place a strong emphasis on the groups most likely to be impacted (from employees to the clients themselves) and the people to be appointed as sponsors. Likewise, you should decide on the resources to be allocated to the CM team and clarify its position vis-à-vis the project team and sponsors. Mixing and matching change and project management resources take on multiple forms. They range from external support to full integration, meaning that change management sits on the project team. There is no one-size-fits-all solution but make sure that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.

Managing the change.

Upon completion of the initial assessment, it is time to blend CM with the project and implement the change. PROSCI has identified five different tactical plans:

·       Communication: it is crucial that you get your message across through the right channel and at the right time in order to ensure credibility. While leaders and senior managers are expected to convey the vision, direct-line managers are responsible for one-on-one communication/personal conversations and passing along information.

·       Sponsor roadmap: the lack of engagement of sponsors throughout the whole process is one of the most common factors hindering change. Getting down to specifics (place, timing, alignment with other peers) helps drive engagement.

·       Training – ADKAR method for individual change: leading the change is not just a matter of implementing the solution. Low adoption and usage of the solution is not only a fast-track to failure, it comes at a very high cost. Change management should help close the gap between what is expected from a person and the knowledge and ability she/he has to adapt to and utilize the change. Before you provide your staff with the tools needed to change their working routines (Knowledge and Ability), make sure that they are aware of the need to change (Awareness) and fully onboard with your plans (Desire).

·       Coaching: leading the change means cascading it through the whole organization. Managers play a critical liaison role because of the relationship they have with employees. It is crucial that they be given the time to go through the process themselves, if only to reiterate it in the most efficient way. Simply put, managers have to own the change before they pass it through.

·       Resistance management: Because resistance is a natural reaction to change and a top reason behind failed attempts at changing, it is of utmost importance to have a good understanding of your audience. Resistance may occur at project onset or later in its lifecycle. Whatever the case, reward early adopters and do not fall into the trap of wooing opposition hardliners.

Reinforcing the change.

It is never enough to get the ball rolling. Oftentimes, people revert to old habits, resistance (re)emerges or something “does not feel quite right” with the results. Reinforcing the change is a crucial step that involves conducting a gap analysis, gathering feedback, bringing corrective actions and dealing with resistances. Social recognition is also a powerful mechanism in play when it comes to changing and reinforcing behavioral patterns. So celebrate success! These activities are instrumental in making the change stick. And they may well be the most enjoyable part of CM (Graph: Copyright © PROSCI).

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