Change Management (CM) covers a wide-range of approaches, practices and models.
CM is a focus, a lens and a bag of fine-tuning instruments rather than an infallible instruction manual. Nevertheless, it is provides sensible methods for dealing with ambiguity, transformations, rebuilding and renewal which is such a major part of organisational and commercial life nowadays.
The speed of change means that it is not always possible to accurately predict the outcome of interventions or organisational development. So, a constant monitoring of changes and the effects of these changes, including unintended consequences, is necessary.
CM itself is undergoing evolutionary development as influences such as information technology, data analytics, global transformation and mobile habits strongly impact organisations and the way business is enacted.
When providing CM training we do not stick to one particular model or format. As with all the different types of training that we offer, we speak to the client first and devise a flexible, adaptable package that will best address his or her needs.
Another key ingredient is the human technology interface. Many change programmes are now initiated by the need to change IT in organisations and it is this that provides the spearpoint.
The likelihood is that far greater attention will be paid to the design and introduction of the technology than will be paid to the human, social and workplace design. Those organisations that attend to the human element of change as well will immediately win a competitive advantage. CM frequently focuses on this aspect for that very reason.
There are many philosophies of change management and multiple prescriptive models, many developed in academia with little or no rigorous research in the real world.
A well-known model is Kotter’s Eight Stages:
- Establish a Sense of Urgency
- Create the Guiding Coalition
- Develop a Vision and Strategy
- Communicate the Change Vision
- Empower Employees for Broad-Based Action
- Generate Short-Term Wins
- Consolidate Gains and Produce More Change
- Anchor New Approaches in the Culture
While there is a logic and reasoning to such an approach, how each stage is interpreted will be the main predictor of success, and if it is considered in too narrow and inflexible a manner it will not produce good results.
In this regard, nothing beats a ‘burning platform’ i.e. a compelling call to action based on knowing that the alternative apathy will lead to a disastrous outcome for all concerned. If there is a gripping, compelling and believable reason to change, staff will move mountains to get there.
Hence, a crucial part of CM is the formation of an inspirational and worthwhile rationale for the actions which will follow. This is true leadership – pointing the way ahead in an authentic and credible manner rather than ‘do it because I tell you’.
Why Change Management?
There is now a general acceptance that large-scale, top-down, planned and coerced approaches probably won’t work.
Humans have a considerable capacity for clinging to the status quo and the phrase ‘that would never work around here’ has given many a reforming manager pause for thought. Our natural inclination is to react against someone telling us what to do.
Listening to staff who will be affected by change is perhaps the simplest and cheapest method of increasing engagement. Good, active listening… and then acting on some of the ideas presented, can only be a good thing. Reformers, though, seldom have patience for this and have even less humility to re-think plans.
It is rather simple – without listening there will be less engagement, and without engagement there will be resistance.
A major element in CM is about how to predict resistance and how to successfully deal with it.
The ability to integrate resilience into change efforts is related to this. When things get tough, the pressure to return to ‘normal’ can be quite over-whelming. This is where flexibility, reframing, guerrilla tactics, creative problem-solving and other forms of adaptability can be used to ensure a lithe change plan.