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5 ways to improve change programs

Dwight Don
June 24, 2013

Change management is fundamental in achieving successful business transformation. Its importance, however, is rarely acknowledged and is often perceived by senior executives as discretionary, which results in it mistakenly categorised as a set of operational, staff-focused activities such as training and job redesign.

Change management is much, much more. Successful change management delivers organisational cultural change. To achieve this it requires:

  1. Breaking down established norms, standards and beliefs and embedding a replacement set which is aligned to the organisation’s new strategic objectives.
  2. Realigning the workforce to operate within a new people, process and technology framework.

Considering change management from this perspective is unconventional and presents challenges for project managers as it is much more difficult to plan, track progress and measure success. Generally, project managers are more comfortable with defining concrete tasks which may be scheduled and their progress tracked as the only measure of delivering ‘change management’.

As a result, programs typically adopt one of the following, but equally deficient change management approaches:

  • The spammer: In this scenario a change manager is appointed to run a disconnected change management work stream which communicates program progress and broadcasts anticipated changes to the wider organisation in an impersonal manner.
  • The dump and run: In this instance change management consists of a set of activities completed just prior to implementation, such as end user communications and training, and are delivered in a rushed and haphazard fashion.

The impact of adopting these deficient approaches cannot be underestimated. Transformation programs will simply not deliver the anticipated benefits, even if all process and technology change aspects have been implemented as expected, unless change management incorporates a strategy which is designed to achieve sustained cultural change and a realigned workforce.

To improve your probability of success, consider these strategies when designing a change management approach for your transformation program:

1. Engagement from day one
Change management begins at program inception and continues until the desired end state has been embedded into the culture and standard practices within the organisation. To on-board the workforce into the transformation program and encourage a sense of ownership, actively encourage them to contribute to:

  • Capturing knowledge of the current state.
  • Identifying opportunities for improvement and transformation.
  • Articulating the case for change and key success measures.
  • Envisaging the future state in a meaningful way for those affected.

2. Holistic organisational redesign
Transformation programs move the organisation from its current state to a desired future state. There must be a coordinated effort to deliver the required people, process, technology and organisational cultural change; importantly these changes must be orchestrated in sync.

Project managers should have a clear and efficient strategy for how they will design and document the multiple changes that make up a transformation program and how the dependencies between change components will be managed.

3. Personalised experience
Provide stakeholders with personalised communications, training and reference material. This personalisation creates a feeling that program impacts on them and their role within the organisation have been carefully considered and provides critical information in a format they can easily digest.

Resist the urge to broadcast generalised messages as this creates a sense of change being imposed onto the workforce and may decrease the sense of ownership of the transformation program.

4. Frequent pulse checks
The transformation journey takes time, frequent pulse checks should be performed throughout the program to assess cultural change progress and workforce realignment. These checks identify:

  • Gaps in the transformation program that require attention.
  • Fine-tuning required to the desired future state and a means of validating adjustments to the people, process and technology framework.
  • Stakeholder groups that may disrupt the program and require more careful attention to ensure their needs and concerns are addressed in a timely manner.

5. Show me the benefits
To keep senior management, the program team and the organisation as a whole committed and engaged, it is important to clearly articulate the overall anticipated benefits and how individual change components contribute to the achievement of the transformation program’s desired outcomes. By providing this clarity and traceability, senior management can make informed trade-off decisions to manage scope and program cost without unknowingly sacrificing anticipated benefits.

Individuals and stakeholder groups also need to understand what benefits and impacts the project will have for them, removing the anxiety that accompanies the uncertainty of impending change.

By adopting these strategies, your transformation program will have a greater probability of achieving sustained cultural change, critical if success of your program is measured based on the achievement of desired business outcomes and not simply implementation.

Dwight Don
Dwight Don is a program delivery manager for Holocentric with significant experience in leading business transformation and technology implementation projects. Leveraging global experience spanning the financial services, government and regulatory dompliance, he leads projects to implement the Holocentric Business Management System and embed it into its clients’ operational environment.
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