The Hidden Key to Leading Change
by DC Editor
Heraclitus of Ephesus, a Greek philosopher (535BC – 474BC) stated,
“Change is a constant!”
Charles Kettering an inventor, engineer and businessman (1876 – 1958) stated,
“The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.”
Change management was considered a recognized discipline since 1960’s and with it came tools, training and books to ensure change success.
Yet, if you look at the statistics of change management success in companies we see some staggering statistics…2013 Change and Communication ROI Survey, which involved 276 large and midsize organizations from North America, Europe and Asia, highlighted: 55% of initiatives met their initial objectives. Just over half. That is scary.
As a change consultant, I have implemented change numerous times in organizations big and small, and still find people tell me their organization is unable to change or sustain the change it implements and I find this interesting because, based on what we know, as long as we:
1. accept change is necessary – new initiatives come, old ones go, processes are tweaked, systems are updated or implemented so as to ensure the business evolves and is competitive.
2. use our well established tools – change management processes (PROSCI or Kotter), readiness assessments, communication, sponsor activities and sponsor roadmaps, training, resistance management – we will ensure change success!
But I have to look at the change management success rate and begin to question this myself.
How many of you feel there is general sense of apathy to change in your organization? How many of you feel people in-house neither have the energy to defend the current state or the energy to move through the change process? How many of you even know the answer to this question and if you do know the answer to this question, what role do you play in the organization?
Do you think this is potentially due to having disengaged employees in your organization? It could be, but what if it’s due to having employees experiencing change fatigue?
But why? The need to be continuously evolving is a business necessity. Why would they have change fatigue? What if the problem lies in the organization not being set up for continuous change?
In numerous organizations, HR specialists (in-house or consultants) take accountability for change management. Perhaps it’s necessary for managers to take more accountability for ensuring change happens more systematically and rigorously and ensuring certain behaviours are rewarded and punished. Surely then they would know if there is change apathy/change fatigue and be able to manage change.
This would require change management to be a core competency of managers in an organization. It makes sense that this would work, because then managers could:
- Ensure plans for change are integrated into overall project plans and not put together separately or in parallel, to what they’re trying to achieve within their teams.
- Lead change in their teams to such an extent that people feel they’re asked for input on issues that will effect their jobs, provide knowledge about potential glitches and what technical and logistical issues need to be addressed and create full-hearted engagement in their team.
I’m not saying that the need for a change consultant is over. What I’m saying is that if you’re one of the organizations that feel you have change apathy or can’t sustain change, it may be necessary to look at these 8 elements of change management and question what more a manager could do in the process.
1) Readiness assessments
The assessments add great value in providing insights into challenges and opportunities people may face in the change process. Whilst large scale projects are likely to do this, it’s important for managers to play more of an active role and be able to assess the scope of all changes (big and small) to ensure they’re indeed ready:
• How big is this change?
• How many people are affected by this change?
• What other changes have we made in this team lately?
• Is it a gradual or radical change?
• How much change is already going on?
• What type of resistance can be expected?
Many project teams ensure the team itself handles communication and occasionally a manager gets a message or two to communicate. However, as already stated, if managers take more of an active role in communication, they would know what’s changing; they would know their audience; and they would design communications to be shared with their team in line with what they know of the team and the reason for change, in accordance with the vision of the organization and the role their team plays in that vision.
3) Sponsor activities
Business leaders and executives need to sponsor the change (all change – big and small). If all managers understood more about change management, it would be easier to have leaders build a coalition of support among teams vertically and laterally.
It’s necessary to ensure impacted people receive the training they need to support the change. This step is often overlooked with small change initiatives but it’s an important step in both big and small change – if you want the change to stick. Managers need to consider the training requirements based on what they know about their team and the skills, knowledge and behavior necessary to implement changes.
5) Resistance management
Resistance from employees is normal and can be expected. Unfortunately, resistance can threaten change. It would be in a manager’s best interest to know more about understanding and managing employee resistance within their team, if they want them to lead change that sticks.
6) Employee feedback
The involvement of employees in change is crucial; we know we can’t just ‘dump’ change on someone. If managers were given the opportunity to consider employee feedback throughout the change and had the opportunity of analyzing it and escalating it, people would feel more involved.
7) Recognize successes
A manager that plays more of an active role in change is able to ensure that his/her group and individuals in the group are recognized for their contribution during the change, for the success of the change and they will be able to monitor the adoption of the change to ensure people don’t go back to their old ways of working.
8) After project review
The final step to change management is the review. Managers that play more of an active role in change management can evaluate ongoing successes and see where improvements are needed to change. A crucial component if we think of continuous improvement.
Change has the best chance of cascading throughout an organization when people with authority and influence are involved. We have known this to be true for years and in large projects we do indeed need to involve these leaders where possible. However, nothing stops us from realizing that change management is a competence we need to develop in all leaders to ensure change is a success and use them more in every project.
Karin Batev, Senior Consultant, People Strategy
& Development, Dale Carnegie Training ®
Contact me at 905-617-7542 or firstname.lastname@example.org