Change management is not an academic exercise. In my experience, a 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.
The reality is that change management encompasses all the above. If you want to achieve successful outcomes your change management partner needs to:
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.
A comprehensive, and credible, project plan is the backbone of any change project.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin
So, an effective change management partner must bring a range of observational, analytical and problem-solving skills to lay the foundation for success, including:
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.
“People don’t resist change they resist being changed.” — Tracy Brower, Forbes
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.
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.
“Few things are more important during a change event than communication from leaders who can paint a clear and confidence-inspiring picture of the future.” — Sarah Jensen Clayton, HBR
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:
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:
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.
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?
“Culture is not an initiative. Culture is the enabler of all initiatives.” — Dr. Larry Senn, Senn Delaney
In my career I have witnessed at first-hand how one ‘bad apple’ can quickly upset the equilibrium of a high-performing team. Negative behaviors can manifest in many ways, including:
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 has 22 years of real-world change management experience, working in partnership with clients across the financial services sector on a back catalog of more than 800 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.