We have probably all heard that the key to any successful transformation is the effectiveness of the change management approach and execution. Also, we have all probably seen both good and bad change management in action and could testify that it is the crucial part of any organisational change, whether that’s technology, process or strategy. But below, I want to tell you why I think it is so hard to get right and to offer you some insights into helping to make your transformation stick.
People are creatures of habit
Routines breed familiarity and while they might be considered boring and a bit unsexy / uneventful, they give us a sense of stability and comfort. As children, we’re taught routine is the way to a healthy and balanced life as it sets out the tone of structure and gives us boundaries to learn in. Eminent psychology Professor Carol Dweck socialised the idea that we are all raised with either a fixed or a growth mindset. As many of us were raised in fixed mindset homes, we struggle to embrace change as it is just not our default position. Because of this, change management is not just addressing the “thing” in front of us but is in fact trying to fundamentally alter some underlying principles and comforts that we have always known. You can see why change management is often hard-pressed to change that type of mind-set when adopting something new, unfamiliar and potentially scary for some people.
People rely on common sense alone
A widespread misconception about change management is that it’s solely based on training and some high-level communication from the CEO and then everything will be tickety-boo. The fact that it’s a learned skill and discipline can often be over-looked. I’ve seen organisations approach it like they are simply implementing what they see as some good old common sense and are then left scratching their heads when there is poor adoption and little understanding in the new ways of working. While common sense is invaluable in most situations, change management is usually about how to work in a different way, which is massively influenced by our thoughts, feelings, values and principles; so common sense alone is not enough to influence people on how to do their jobs in a new way. A good field guide when implementing change, is to ensure no one uses a tagline along the lines of, “Just use your common sense” because this might fly in the face of the thing you are actually trying to change.
People underestimate the resources needed
Change Management is like Risk Management, how do you articulate and put a price on the thing if it goes wrong? It can be extremely hard to justify the full extent of change management when creating a budget request as people may feel it’s over-egged or even too risk-averse. It’s worthwhile to note that good change management considers the context, framing, culture, understanding, demonstrating value, training, reinforcement, early life support and adoption. Now, imagine trying to price that up and then selling it to the budget holders who have already agreed to spend a lot of money on IT or business process re-engineering. Tough sell? You betcha, and what’s worse is that the full impact will not become known until “go-live” and “handover” so now you’re asking for budget reactively-which is even harder.
Technological adoption is directly linked to your business process flexibility
Digital Transformation is usually about the adoption of new, or re-using of existing, technology. Technology is the enabler, but business process is the day-to-day operations of how the outcome will be achieved. One of the key factors of good change management is the ability to help “business as usual” create and adopt a new way of working, which is directly linked to its business processes. If the business processes are inflexible, or at worst, not fully understood, then the adoption of a new way of working will become increasingly harder. The success of technological adoption is directly linked to an organisation’s ability to understand and flexibly change its business processes.
Sounds depressing, is there any hope?
So how do we make sure that the buzz of a new initiative, which can deliver business benefits gets delivered and becomes the new normal for everyone. Here are a few things that all organisations can do to really cement that transformation:
- Take it seriously – Don’t underplay it or hope for a low-cost solution but understand that it’s a journey (not just a destination) which some people will find easier, but some will find harder
- Create the discipline – Hire someone or find someone who can run the change, be given full access to tools and people needed, not be distracted with other jobs and can be structured in their approach
- Adopt a methodology – Remove the unknown and adopt a proven methodology like ADKAR, Beckhard and Harris, BSG, Bridges Leading Transition Model, John Kotter Eight Step Model, Kurt Lewin Three Stage etc. Find one that works for you and your organisation and get a structured, proven process in place
- Understand everyone’s journey is different – This relies on a sense of empathy, patience and an understanding that the slowest walker is the pace of the troop.
- Always remember the why – Transformations don’t form from nothing but form from a vision of a future. Always remember this intention in all comms and interactions so the enthusiasm never wanes, and people can see the change for what it is; a brighter future.
Great change management builds the new norms for a business and changes the core culture for the road ahead and whatever happens next, know that change will be inevitable.