Kevin Dwyer, a change management consultant, recommends six key steps to ensure change not only happens but that it happens with success.
The critical factors for change management success or failure are fairly simple.
A group of people at leadership level must believe change is required. More so, they must believe “change management” is required. Without this, failure is assured. Understanding major change is required is not enough. Developing a project plan including changes to processes, policies and infrastructure without a plan to manage the change is not enough.
The people undergoing the change must believe change is necessary. They need the big picture painted for them to understand what benefits the organisation will gain from what many people will consider as the shared pain of change. The big picture must be compelling, giving as many people in the organization the desire to embrace it even if difficult.
Individuals must know how the change will affect them. Never forget the greatest motivational tool is to be able to respond to the question, “What's in it for ME?” For most individuals, motivation is about achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, advancement and personal growth. So be sure the change message addresses the motivational opportunities for people.
“Tell them early, tell them often”. Do not be surprised how many times the message needs to be repeated to the same people. Human beings filter information based on their emotional state, previous experiences and thinking styles. In a time of significant change people are often in emotional turmoil and filter severely whatever they hear. Share the reason for the change, the plan, the progress including any early wins and their role in the change, again and again as the project is implemented.
Be honest about the change. Sugar coating it is seen as being untrustworthy and will impact the ability to communicate. If there is any bad news say so. If jobs are going to be lost, say so. If there are going to be challenges, say so. Do not dress mutton as lamb. If you are honest and you don't know about some of the implications, it is likely the people will actually believe you. Be dishonest and even your best workers will smell a rat and treat you like one.
Utilize project management processes and skills. For those involved in change management who do not use project management processes and skills the simple advice is, “If I were you, I would not have started there”. Project management processes play a big part in planning and communicating changes. They assist in risk management, contingency planning, change control, resource management, prioritisation and post implementation review. Too many organisations embark on change in a manner best described in the vernacular language, as flying by the seat of their pants. They usually reap the rewards with a failed change project.
Managing change is not easy. But, it is not as difficult as a seventy percent failure rate would make it seem. It needs to be taken as seriously as managing the finances of an organisation or the safety of an organisation. Managing change requires a leadership team with project management, communication and analytical skills with a high degree of results orientation. The latter is important as when a journey of change is embarked upon, the environment in which the change is being implemented immediately changes. A changing environment often calls for changed tactics to achieve the same result.
More than that it requires the leadership team to have a vision for what the change can bring to the organisation and to individuals and a passion to make that change happen.
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