After one month into 2021, I hope you're still sticking to your New Years' resolutions. I'm sure at some point, many of us have asked ourselves, "why is this so hard every year?" Well, change can be challenging, especially when there is a lack of motivation to drive it.
People often identify the start of a new year as the perfect time to make a change in their lives. The calendar year represents our time as a cycle. Every January is like a restart, where you can get back on track to completing any goals that may have been lost during the year or start new ones. January 1st may just be another day from the universe's perspective, but it signifies so much more to us. We rely on the New Year to bring change in our lives, but why is it so difficult to stick to our resolutions, and why can't we have that same focus on any given day? Well, it's possible that we're not well-equipped for change, and there's no shame in that; most people aren't.
I'll come back to this analogy later, but first, let's look at dealing with change from a real-world business perspective.
What Kind of Organizational Projects Require Change Management?
When asked this question back in July 2020, I specified the importance of people. Change is so persistent that you only have time to react. So when you plan for your technology change, you have to ensure you're planning for your people too.
More often than not, people respond intrinsically and emotionally to the changes around them. Organizational Change Management (OCM) needs to be proactive in putting together the structure around the plan for the people. OCM is creating a framework to achieve this, where it enables people to change. So it's not Change Management vs. Change Enablement; it's Change Management through Change Enablement.
Organizational Change Management
The key element in OCM is people. The key components to supporting and enabling change are training, communications, and stakeholder engagement. Every change should have them, and they all need to be planned for.
Organizations don't change, people do. This is why it's critical to plan for them in your change project. At the end of the day, the people within your organization participate in the training and need to keep up with the communications for the project, so you must ensure these components are developed with them in mind. They are the most affected by the change and are often the training and communications recipients.
We say training is a key component in OCM, but we really want to ensure learning. My business partner Krista wrote a great piece on the differences between the two while explaining why it's important to distinguish between them. OCM's goal is to ensure that training is designed and developed to enable people to learn because, once again, the people are the critical factor.
Communication, when done right, enables people. Successful OCM needs effective, transparent, and frequent communications. Managing a change without informing those who are impacted is exceptionally challenging. It leads to discouragement and creates a gap in awareness, knowledge, and desire. Communication is essential to enhancing people's awareness, but it also encourages people's engagement and enablement.
We keep saying people are the key element to OCM. But who are these people? Stakeholders are the individuals in an organization who are impacted or responsible for making decisions and changes. We can't overlook the importance of a stakeholder's overall buy-in to the project's success. The foundational principles around stakeholder engagement that deserve attention are partnering, identifying, trusting, informing, inviting, including, delivering, and investing.
Training, communications, and stakeholder engagement are all essential components of OCM. Each of these pieces plays an important role in enabling change and supporting the people. When organizations use them together, they can ensure that their people are learning, staying informed, engaged, and equipped to plan for change proactively.
Every change will involve these three components one way or another. OCM's role is to build awareness, a desire for change, and a change community through them. Enablement is simply the approach to managing change. OCM delivers value, return on investment, and minimizes risk; Change Enablement should do the same.
Why Stakeholder Engagement?
I've mentioned the significance of enabling your people for change but only briefly mentioned engaging stakeholders. The truth is, you need stakeholder engagement to get the most out of the other OCM components. That bridge is built through transparent communications. At this point, it shouldn't be a surprise that it takes one component to reap the benefits of another. Transparency is the key in communications because it builds the trust needed for enablement. There's a lot of oversight on the importance of communications and how much weight it has on a project.
In addition to effective communications, there are many other good examples of stakeholder engagement. They all revolve around the foundational components of OCM I mentioned earlier. They all deserve attention, but to highlight a few:
The reality is that the most successful transformations are delivered with the business rather than to the business. You should always press for participation, accountability, and engagement. Not because you aren't prepared to lift the load, but because it's better for you. Your adoption rate will be higher, your solution will be more robust, and your benefits will be realized sooner. You will have a proper shot at self-sufficiency.
You need to take the time to understand your stakeholders. Not just as departmental blocs of users but as individuals with unique limitations, strengths, and expectations.
For stakeholders to be true partners, you must keep them informed—and do so with both truth and candour. If stakeholders are aware of the challenges ahead, they can prepare and be proactive.
Powerful and productive engagement takes time.
Like most things in life, if there are good examples of something, there are also poor examples, such as starting too late. When you don't have engaged stakeholders at the start, from front-line to Sr. Leader, you end up investing more energy and dollars bringing them along after go-live.
The Power of Organizational Change Management
Let's look back at the New Year's resolutions analogy I shared earlier. How do we equip ourselves to deal with change our personal lives? Well, it's the same way we do it at work. Harbinger has frequently mentioned that Change Management is evolving to Change Enablement. Whether they're major or minor, all businesses are experiencing change. As an individual, wouldn't you prefer to be prepared to handle change rather than continually being managed and told what to do? Even from the business' perspective, wouldn't you prefer having teams skilled in dealing with changes rather than always telling your employees how to do things? Now bring this back to New Years'. It's nobody's responsibility, but your own, to achieve your resolutions. So why do we still need upper management to help drive change? OCM has historically been top-down driven, whereas Change Enablement is driven by the middle and led by the top. There's a famous graphic that showcases the differences between a Boss and a Leader.
As you can imagine, the leadership approach has a greater success probability. In addition to that, the leader's team is more likely to feel empowered. The same principle applies to change. We want our teams to be enabled to champion change and feel empowered and encouraged to participate in the project.
The problem today is this notion that it's Change Enablement vs. Organizational Change Management. But that's a common misconception. Remember, Change Management is evolving to Change Enablement, but you still need a mixture of both to achieve success.
Now suppose you can effectively enable yourself to deal with change. In that case, you wouldn't wait until January 1st to make the same resolutions year after year. Instead, you would make them regularly throughout the year and move on to new ones once you complete them. So why would an organization want to repeat the same nuisances in managing change with every new project? If they can successfully enable their people, every upcoming project will benefit from the previous one's momentum.
The Evolution of Change Enablement
OCM is the core of Change Enablement. When something evolves, the roots and historical development are not lost in the new form, they remain in the core. Change Enablement is the result of OCM's growth over the years, and it's been shaped by the rapid and exponential development of people. We are now, more than ever, capable of dealing with change on an ongoing basis, so let's evolve with it. Let's enable ourselves and our organizational culture to handle change effectively and efficiently so that we're equipped to manage our ever-changing work environments and those New Years' resolutions we make every year.