How Does a Change Management Process Help a Company?

Change Management Series – Chapter 6

The very simple answer to this question lies in knowing why so many change initiatives fail. Consulting various sources shows that the reasons are usually associated with a lack of strategy, clarity, leadership, accountability, planning, communication, resourcing, co-ordination and collaboration. And those are just SOME of the reasons for a change management process to fail!

Organisations consistently underestimate what is required to secure a genuine change in processes and human behaviours. In some cases, organisations know what is required, but for a variety of reasons (often related to cost, time and resources) they adopt very a short sighted, suboptimal approach. Hence when you ask people in organisations “How does your company manage change?” – the question is often met with a frown, a grimace and the response “Not very well”.

The inevitable outcome is that people view the next change with suspicion, reluctance and often with resistance to change – and who can blame them?

What is a change management process?

For many organisations, the “change management” is the bit that comes just before the change goes live. Only once all the work is done to scope out the change is it time to engage the people – so we can “get them to change”. It is seen as something separate from the rest of the planning and preparation and in the worst cases is simply executed as a “tell”.

AWA’s experience over 25 years is that the process of workplace change management starts at the beginning of each programme. It is not a bolt-on or an optional extra. Everything in the programme is geared to making the change as easy as possible.

Perhaps the easiest way to articulate this is to identify 5 key steps:

  1. Prepare the case for change
  2. Articulate the case clearly and consistently
  3. Secure authoritative power, leadership and governance
  4. Design appropriate change interventions
  5. Give yourself enough time

Of course, there are other steps, and many intermediate ones, but this provides a structure which is explained in a little more detail below.

Five key steps and how they help

  1. Prepare the case for change

At the commencement of a workplace change programme, this phase ensures that suitable evidence is gathered from all levels in the organisation to understand how it works. It demonstrates listening, engagement, the opportunity for understanding and builds trust. The purpose is to understand strategic drivers, opportunities, challenges and potential solutions.

Having analysed the evidence and objectives thoroughly, a “case for change” can be articulated – documenting why the change is being made, describing the change in detail (what we are changing from and to), how things will work in the future and when it will happen. This ensures that the change has been clearly designed to meet specific business needs and every aspect has been thought through.

This is critical for securing buy-in and commitment – by starting to address the “what’s in it for me?”.

  1. Articulate the case clearly and consistently

Once the case for change has been drawn up and approved, it provides a clear articulation of what is going to change, why and how. This seems simple – but it is what holds together the governance of the programme; its delivery (through providing a single point of reference for the change management teams); the leadership (through describing what the organisation wishes to achieve and how that will be delivered and measured); and the communications and interventions that will help everyone understand the change and assist in their journey to its implementation.

All these aspects are vital for success – they help everyone to see the big picture and how their roles contribute to the overall endeavour.

  1. Secure authoritative power, leadership and governance

Without power, most change initiatives go nowhere. Workplace changes are usually promoted and managed by Real Estate or FM functions, but rarely do these have the power to secure organisational change. They have power over the physical environment, but if you want people to change their behaviour, this must be done at the behest of the leaders of the business – those that people look to for direction.

Finding the right levers is key to getting the leaders on board – so that the workplace change can deliver real benefit to the organisation’s way of conducting business.

Once the power and leadership are in place, people will hear the messages from those they pay attention to – those who are important in their world. The call to arms must come from the core business – not the delivery function/s – because it demonstrates commitment and underscores the reason why the organisation wants to make the change.

  1. Design appropriate change interventions

These need to be designed for each community involved in the change – the delivery team, the Stakeholders, management, champions and staff, helping them to increase their understanding of the change and what it means for them. This ideally comes through a series of activities designed to facilitate a dialogue so that each person can secure enough information to engage in the change journey. Each person is different and will require different things to feel comfortable, to make sense of the change and envisage what it will be like for them.

Managing the transition of change requires strong, consistent, well planned communications so that the messaging is controlled (and not subject to dilution, spin or misinterpretation). The communication is not just a series of “tell” messages – but opportunities to engage in discussion and debate, enabling everyone to decide for themselves what is “in it” for them – things they will gain and those they might lose – seeking a balance.

The importance of the quality of these activities and communications can’t be overstated – and hold the key to making changes in the workplace.

  1. Give yourself enough time

To secure lasting change takes time. People need time to make sense of the change in their own way (with as much guidance as they need). Trying to rush the change inevitably involves leaving people behind, losing their trust and increasing their resistance to the change. Make no mistake – a new workplace will not be successful if the people don’t change and adapt the way they work and behave. They will simply carry on behaving as they did before, just in a new office!

For workplace change programmes, a well planned and executed change management process provides time and space for the change to be understood and rationalised. Even with reasonable amounts of time available, the desired change in behaviour probably won’t be delivered on day 1 of the new operation, but it will be beginning and needs to be supported in the early days and weeks. Not having enough time for most people to understand and start to change their behaviour is a major risk to success.

Summary

To conclude – the answer to the opening question “how does a change management process help a company?” is that it de-risks the implementation of change, builds confidence and trust, and gives you much more than a fighting chance of bringing the people with you.


This blog is part of a series of observations about behavioural change management which we hope will provide readers with a good understanding of what is needed to help people change.  This is based on 25 years’ experience supporting clients making a change to new ways of working. Next time we will consider the length of a change management programme.