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During any transformation, people need to be brought along the journey to help them understand why the change is necessary, how the change will unfold and what the direct impact of the change will have on them.

Changing conditions needs change management

When updating a household appliance such as a television or computer, user instructions are usually included. The trouble is that many of us are not particularly interested in reading boring instructions. Instead, we would prefer to tear away at the packaging and attempt to get the appliance operating as soon as possible. Sometimes this approach works, but often we spend inordinate amounts of time trying to figure it out and sometimes we accidently break something through inadvertent mishandling. Worse still is when we never learn the true potential of the new appliance, relying on our knowledge of how the old appliance functioned and thus remaining frozen in a time warp of inefficiency. If only we had taken the time to read the instructions, we would have saved ourselves a lot of time and angst.

In a business context, change is usually a lot more complex. The change is often multi-faceted and can impact the productivity of an entire organisation. This may include technological updates, process improvements, organisational re-structures, mergers or acquisitions, market expansion or rationalisation. Changes of this magnitude requires change management for everyone in the organisation.

Interestingly, change management can sometimes be confused with managing change and in such cases these terms are incorrectly considered interchangeable. Managing change in our appliance scenario above is when we purchased and implemented the appliance, whereas change management is when we read the instructions and apply our new insights. These are two very different processes and one without the other leads to sub-optimal performance by either persevering with an inefficient appliance, or by not embracing the efficiencies of a new one.

During any transformation, people need to be brought along the journey to help them understand why the change is necessary, how the change will unfold and what the direct impact of the change will have on them. The discussion on why the change is necessary should be delivered by Senior Executive and reinforced through a change management program designed to help deliver, support, and embrace the change. This emphasises the commitment to the decision to change and provides context for the necessity of the change. How the change will unfold is often best delivered by the Department Head if the timing and rollout strategy may differ across the various departments. And, how the change will impact upon an individual should be delivered by the individual’s Supervisor. The Supervisor’s role is arguably the most important as the delivery of this message needs to be carefully crafted to avoid unnecessary concerns related to job security, upskilling requirements, and the fear of the change itself.

Most of us don’t naturally enjoy change! Importantly, change management is not simply attending a training session to learn the technical aspects of the change. Frequent communications on the status of the change needs to be crafted and published across the organisation. Coaching on such messaging needs to ensure accuracy and consistency in the delivery. Change Ambassadors need to be selected to engage in and challenge change concepts, be educated ahead of others in their department, and have a role to play in both delivering updates, along with allaying fears and negativity through peer-to-peer socialising and support channels.

To ensure change management is not overlooked or compromised and everyone is involved from the outset, a change management program needs to be developed and executed from commencement of the change. The program must remain aligned with the objectives and benefits planned for the change and fit with the organisation’s culture.

If you would like to learn more about how to develop and deliver effective change management designed to mitigate the risks of not achieving your objectives and benefits, get in contact. We will be delighted to share our insights.

Robert Wagner, Managing Partner, Harriss Wagner Consultants & Advisers

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