Organisational Change Management: changing the perspective on change
(This column has been written by guest author Paul Cevolani, CEO, Novus Origo)
Today’s organisational change management initiatives must be a business discipline, driving bottom-line results through changes in systems and behaviours. Managing this change has therefore become a critical skill – both for leadership and for workers in an organisation. Organisational change is constant and will always occur. Through the clear understanding of all the components on an individual level, we can evaluate how the change will relate at an organisational level. We also need to understand that the impact on the individual is of substantial importance, as it may easily filter through and influence all levels of the organisation. Organisational change can influence fear and uncertainty, and there is a need to understand some of the influences, and to properly be prepared to mitigate them when they happen.
Change is inevitable
Change is constant and it’s all around us – from evolving technologies to the way we now interact with people to the way we do business. Unless you’re living in a bubble, change is inevitable, and, for the most part, a business requirement to stay current and competitive. This article is not in any way meant to dive into the specifics of every phase or facet of an end-to-end change management plan. Rather, it is only meant to provide some thought-provoking, high-level points when thinking about when a company is looking at implementing an Organisational Change Management (OCM) program.
I can’t tell you how many clients tell us that they “don’t need change management” and that they “are going to roll out a new project or process, and just tell people to get on board and deal with it!” Unfortunately, that approach does not typically work; and the result is most likely not going to be the desired one. More often than not, the effort required to fix the problem caused by a failed change management process is costly and time-consuming.
Why change management: a business discipline
Today’s organisational change management initiatives must be a business discipline, driving bottom-line results through changes in technology, processes, and behaviours. Managing this change has become a critical skill, both for leadership and for workers in an organisation. A number of major change efforts in organisations fail because organisations often do not take the holistic approach required to see the change through, and to also validate the success of the change management plan.
Understanding organisational change
Organisational change is constant, and through a clear understanding of the impacts and all the components on an individual level, we can evaluate how the change will relate at an organisational level. We also need to understand that the impact on the individual is of substantial importance, as it may easily filter through and influence all levels of the organisation. Organiational change can influence fear and uncertainty, and there is a requirement to understand the influences, and to properly be prepared to mitigate them when they happen.
Influences on change
Typically, causes of change can be split into two primary factors: internal and external.
- External factors are always influencing and interacting with organisations. Individuals and organisations may have very little ability to influence external factors such as politics, culture, economy, societal changes, or a change in technology.
- Internal factors are very numerous, as almost any item or event can influence change within an organisation, but some of the more influential ones are: employees, policies, organisation structure, managerial, and financial. With internal causes of change, we have the most ability to control and prepare the outcomes of such events.
Change commitment curve
Successfully managing organisational change initiatives will help gain commitment for the change and increase the ability to implement and build upon that change. One goal of Organisational Change Management (OCM) is to move the right stakeholders up the change curve at the right time by using interventions or levers, to mitigate any negative responses and build ongoing support of the change.
Defining your change management strategy
A simple way to gather data for the change strategy is to set up interviews and ask questions regarding the different aspects of the organisational change. The strategy then evolves into a “blueprint” for the change initiative.
- Description of the proposed change vision, and its goals
- The reasons(s) why the change is necessary
- Executive alignment
- Project stakeholders and stakeholder groups and their involvement
- Key communication messages broken down by audience
- Roles and responsibilities
- Focus areas
- Target timeframe to achieve goals
- Critical success measures and key performance indicators
Reactions to change
- Denial: when a change is announced there may be some employees who feel that the change is not necessary. They may be reluctant to listen or deny any facts or information presented to support the change.
- Resistance: with any level of change, there may be employees who will resist the change. Resistance is very common and stems from fear of the unknown. Not knowing how an event is going to turn out can be a frightening thing for those who go through the change.
- Anger: when change occurs and the norm is uprooted, people can sometimes experience anger. Employees may then lash out and become uncooperative during this time. Humans are creatures of habit; and when forced to change habits people may become angry.
- Indifference: some employees just may not care, or the change may not have an impact on their routines or work. Be wary of this, as the change may be intended to have an impact. If the individual is indifferent about it the change then they may not understand or accept it.
- Acceptance: we hope that changes generally occur for the better and have a positive influence on those involved. Even with positive change, acceptance may not happen right away; however it should occur quicker as opposed to when the change is perceived to be negative.
Developing an Organisational Change Management plan
An organisational change management plan is a tool for identifying and listing change management activities, estimating required efforts, defining initiatives, and tracking progress. It is the governing document for a change management project that:
- specifies the management of all major change management activities;
- communicates the resource needs, milestones and timelines to leadership and other stakeholders;
- helps to hold other contributors accountable for their role in managing the change.
A sample six-step process below provides a roadmap for creating and using an Organisational Change Management (OCM) plan:
Executive alignment and effective communications
Getting all of the executive team members aligned on why the change is needed, and implementing an effective communication plan is essential for building support throughout the organisation. There needs to be executive buy-in; and, whenever there is communication to anyone in an organisation who will be impacted by a change, there must be a clear understanding of the overall nature of the change, its reasons, and how it aligns with the vision for the organisation. The creation and implementation of a structured communication plan addresses employees’ needs for timely and consistent information. The goal of a communication plan is to deliver the right information to the right people at the right time, potentially resulting in less resistance to the change through available information to the stakeholder groups.
Change is coming
No matter how hard we try to ignore change, it’s going to happen, and it’s how we prepare for the change that determines if the change will be successful. John F. Kennedy said it well: ”For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”
Paul Cevolani is the Chief Executive Officer for Novus Origo, and brings over 30 years of successful experience in the areas of Management, Strategy, Outsourcing, and Training Consulting Services for Fortune 500 and middle-market clients, and government agencies.