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Change is generally recognised as a means of improving living standards, work practices and productivity. However, change presents many uncertainties and insecurities for individuals, communities and organisations.
Five change management principles that deliver results
The rate of change in commerce and society at large has increased exponentially in the 21st century when compared to the last quarter of the 20th century. As a result, managing change is more important today than it has ever been throughout history.
Change is generally recognised as a means of improving living standards, work practices and productivity. However, change presents many uncertainties and insecurities for individuals, communities and organisations. In our experience working within the more traditional industry sectors, ingrained organisational cultures can often be particularly resistant to change. Likewise, traditions and business rituals are often difficult to break as they provide comfort and familiarity. Effective change management assists organisations undergoing change to realise the benefits they set out to achieve.
Below we explore five change management principles designed to deliver more desirable outcomes.
Initiating a successful change program requires building trust, which in turn drives motivation. Active and frequent involvement of project sponsors demonstrates belief and commitment to change. Numerous case studies highlight a lack of sponsorship exposure, accountability and engagement is the number one reason why change projects fail to meet their objectives.
Communicate the rationale for change
Frequent communication avoids suspicion, mistrust and resistance when the people who are directly impacted by change are fully informed about the rationale for change. Further, when the current, medium and long-term consequences of not changing are clearly articulated and understood, the fear of not changing often outweighs the fear of changing. Introducing frequent communication through multiple channels to convey the need for change is an essential step towards educating and motivating employees to embrace change. You can never over-communicate when it comes to change.
Allocate a viable budget for change management
Many projects can be compromised when it comes to budgeting for change by economising on the management of change. It’s important to view the cost of change management as an investment in the organisation’s future success. Key to any change budget should be funding to ensure the change is well understood and accepted across the organisation. This includes promoting the benefits of the change and driving effective transformation initiatives including status workshops, information access points and skills development training in readiness for the new regime. Remedial assistance for people who are not coping with change is also often required, in particular those who are fixed-minded. They may even be inclined to undermine change unless they feel respected and are being listened to. A viable budget for effective change management will assist in ensuring the change is more widely adopted and embraced.
Introduce a structured change management program from the outset
Effectively managing change requires a pre-determined structure and a set of guiding principles to be followed. Similar to building a house off a blueprint, introducing a change management program requires controls and disciplines to deliver and achieve the objectives that necessitated the change in the first place. With countless change models available today, finding one that best suits your organisation’s culture and aligns with the proposed change is an important consideration. Importantly, change management needs to start when the project commences rather than as an after-thought or a remediation process when risks emerge.
Sufficiently resourced and adequately skilled project team
Successful change projects are threatened when mediocre project management and change management practices are adopted. These problems are often pronounced when project team members are burdened with business-as-usual responsibilities together with project responsibilities and deadlines. Similarly, inadequately skilled project team members allocated responsibilities beyond their capabilities often leads to costly and unsatisfactory outcomes. The cornerstone to delivering a successful change project is to invest in appointing a competent, motivated and dedicated project team with well understood roles, responsibilities and accountabilities to achieve. Getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats will be your key to success.
Robert Wagner, Partner, Harriss Wagner Consultant & Advisers