Change Management is the ability to implement effective and sustainable changes to an organisation, its strategy, its processes or people.
Change may be necessary because of:
- Changing strategies to manage different company requirements or owners
- Changing markets, perhaps driven by the current economic climate, with consumers being choosier about their discretionary spending
- Changing processes to cope with increasing regulation such as the FSA, or Quality Standards such as ISO91001
- Changing people and their attitudes, to deal with new approaches or processes
Change Management leaves business-owners uncomfortable. It can be straightforward yet often seems complex. It is an area which benefits from experience in projects, people and processes.
Many business owners and senior managers have different skills than those required for changing an organisation and often they don’t have the time or expertise to undertake change successfully. Sustainable change relies on experience, skill, tenacity, resilience – and the commitment of the business owner.
A typical Change Management programme has several steps including:
1. Creating urgency: you need to take action by developing a sense of need and importance for change. Get help; identify threats; develop scenarios; examine opportunities; begin discussions – and explore options.
2. Form a coalition – to lead change you need a team whose powers come from a variety of sources including their own network and relative political importance. Get their emotional commitment; ensure you have a good mix of individuals – and a ‘team ethos’.
3. Create a vision– clarity is important. Mixed messages don’t work, and create confusion. Determine values central to change; develop a vision, and ensure your implementation team can convincingly describe it in under five minutes.
4. Communicate the Vision – announce the change, then ‘walk the talk’. Spread the message. Be consistent. Drive the vision through all aspects of the organisation.
5. Remove obstacles. This may need a lot of thought about how to persuade –not coerce – people into your vision. Identify those who will support change, recognise and support those taking the lead, and be firm. Change the processes, structure, and if necessary, the people.
6. Create short-term wins. Nothing succeeds like success. Make sure you identify and enjoy early wins. At first, smaller is better, and more expensive projects can come later, with the success of earlier initiatives behind them
7. Build on change – find ways to embed change. Analyse change, see what went well and what needs further consideration. Think about Continuous Improvement so that review and change is always encouraged.
8. Anchor change. Make it symbolic. Make it part of the way things are done. Make sure your leaders continue to support change, including ensuring that their eventual replacements also support the culture and outcomes.
A good consultant recognises that change is only sustained if the business owner is supported through the process. It’s not easy – and needs continual focus, honesty and drive. But the differences between those that ‘do’ compared to those that ‘plan’ are immense.