5 Attributes to Look for in Your Change Management Partner

This blog identifies five key attributes that should be top-of-mind when choosing the right change management partner for your organization.

Change management is not an academic exercise.  I theoretical or top-down approach rarely works, often leading to a 911 call from clients to get their program back on track.  A robust plan and effective management routines are table stakes for any change project. But successful execution demands much more from your change management partner.

Change Management: Art or Science? Left or Right Brain? Hard or Soft Skills?

The reality is that change management encompasses all the above. If you want to achieve successful outcomes your change management partner needs to:

  • understand shifting dynamics and interplays to identify emerging risks that may de-rail the project,
  • know how and when to use different skills and techniques to overcome obstacles and maintain momentum,
  • build relationships and collaborate up, down and across the organization,
  • tailor communications to meet the needs of stakeholders of all stripes during the lifetime of the project.


5 Key Attributes of Your Next Change Management Partner

In today’s cost-constrained operating environment, taking shortcuts may be tempting but is often a false economy.  Whether it’s re-work, delays or solutions that fail to deliver planned business benefits, the unintended consequences of unsuccessful change projects add up to millions of dollars annually.  For these reasons, identifying a change management partner with the right blend of skills and experience has never been more important.

RELATED CONTENTThree steps that prepare you for when things can—and do—go wrong in change management


1.  Critical Thinking – Examine Issues from all Angles to Optimize Outcomes

A comprehensive, and credible, project plan is the backbone of any change project. So, an effective change management partner must bring a range of observational, analytical and problem-solving skills to lay the foundation for success, including:

  • a structured approach to project planning that supports accurate tracking and timely management reporting,
  • clearly identified risks and dependencies, and how they will be managed,
  • effective management routines, escalation paths and governance protocols.

But change management is not an exact science.  If the plan is too rigid with no contingency, it will fail as soon as the project encounters its first hiccup.  If it is too loose without defined milestones and/or success criteria, the change manager is flying blind and cannot provide stakeholders with meaningful insights/progress reports.

Also, the change manager must be pragmatic and able to adapt to an evolving landscape and/or unplanned events.  To this end, effective use of credible challenge techniques will mitigate the risk of ‘flying on autopilot’ and ensure the plan remains focused and relevant in the face of external influences.


2.  Empathy – Help Stakeholders Understand “What’s in it for me?”

The importance of being able to talk to stakeholders in their own language cannot be over-played.  Bridgeforce was founded on the principle of ‘bridging the gap’ that often exists between line of business and IT colleagues, leading to misunderstandings, sub-optimal solutions and ultimately failed change projects.

The same principle applies to sales, risk, operations and other organizational verticals.  A change management partner who understands–and responds to–each stakeholder’s unique challenges, motivations, priorities and red lines will significantly improve the chances of a successful outcome.

RELATED CONTENTWatch a video where Bridgeforce's Adam Thornber breaks down the current state of change management


3. Communicating with Impact – Overcome Fear of the Unknown

Communications that clearly explain the rationale and desired outcomes of a planned change are key to winning hearts and minds and maintaining stakeholder engagement through the project lifecycle.

But when it comes to communication, one size does not fit all.  The change manager’s art lies in creating engaging messages that recognize different perspectives and speak to audience needs, such as:

  • For leadership: concise, bullet points, evidence-based, clear ‘ask’.
  • For operations: detailed description of the change (what, when, how do I…?).
  • For IT partners: clear and unambiguous business requirements.


4. Seeing the Big Picture – Deliver Joined-up Solutions

During the cut and thrust of project delivery, it is easy for a change manager to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of day-to-day tasks that require attention, and there are times when that is exactly what’s needed. But an effective change manager must regularly take a step back to see the entire canvas.

Understanding not just the ‘what’ but the ‘why’ of change enables the change manager to remain focused on delivering the desired business outcome rather than becoming distracted by background noise such as competing agendas or political interference

Questions to better understand the change:

  • What is driving the change – is it regulatory imperative, audit finding, competitive advantage, cost reduction?
  • Is there a drop-dead date for resolution?  What are the consequences of a delay?
  • Who are the main players – are they ‘for’ or ‘against, what are their motivations, who are their allies?

Taking a 30,000-foot view enables the change manager to identify gaps or anticipate potential roadblocks and take steps to tackle them before they de-rail the project.

It also helps connect the dots with other in-flight change projects. This will identify potential synergies and opportunities for collaboration or surface potential conflicts that require escalation to avoid traffic accidents down the line.


5. Compatibility – Can You Work With Them?

Lastly, consider cultural fit.  Many collaborations fail because of ‘artistic differences’ and change management is no different.  Will your change management partner demonstrate behaviors that align with your organizational values and unite the team, or will they create conflict and damaging divisions?

One ‘bad apple’ can quickly upset the equilibrium of a high-performing team.  Negative behaviors can manifest in many ways, including:

  • ‘it’s not my job’ – refusal to pitch in to help others for the greater good of the project,
  • strict adherence to the 9-5 when colleagues are working long hours to meet deadlines,
  • passive aggression, or even overt bullying.

Whatever the reason, the impact on individuals and team dynamics can be profound and lasting. It follows that your change management partner needs to be attuned to your organizational values and stand ready to take decisive action to limit damage inflicted by conflicting behaviors and attitudes.


Bridgeforce can Provide the Right Change Management Partner for your Organization

Bridgeforce has more than 24 years of real-world change management experience, working in partnership with clients across the financial services sector in more than 900 successful engagements.

Our consultants have client-side experience in leadership roles. We have walked in your shoes and understand what it takes to get things done.  Whatever your requirements, contact us today to find out how we can help.

[Editor’s note: this article was written by Alan Glencorse, former Bridgeforce Senior Program Manager]

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