Like everything else, change management continues to evolve. In its’ early days, it was used predominantly within technology projects but over the years it has become an essential piece and common component of everyday projects. As a change practitioner, I’m thrilled about the fact it has become common practice.
Despite this progression, I am often taken aback when executives, or sponsors say “I need you to change us”.
Changing people or other organizational components is not what we do. No change consultant has a magic wand that we wield to miraculously change people or organizations.
What we do is provide the consulting and coaching, and often support the planning of the change. Yes, sometimes we even help the organization execute the plan, but ultimately managing the change that is desired is only successful when there is:
Optimism and desire for the change – enough that people will move through all the stages despite the ups and downs.
A strong case for change – a vision, a goal, a “what’s in it for me/us” – that the people and organization can relate or align to.
Leaders driving the change – these include senior organizational leaders and also leaders without titles – the people whom others follow because they have influence, and respect of their peers.
What DO we do?
We will assess and diagnose problems that are holding your people or organization back.
We will create a strategy and plan that includes all the change components such as communications, training and learning, sponsor and stakeholder engagement, and metrics and reporting.
We will work with you and guide as necessary with insight and support as your people and organization move through the change journey.
We will hold you accountable for what was promised to be delivered, constantly query, absorb and synthesize data to provide ideas and recommendations that will keep you on the right path, or that will help you know when to pivot.
We will teach you how to do things differently and provide examples and best practice where it makes sense, or help you carve your new path.
But we cannot change you. Only you can change you.
So how do you do that? Here are four things that you need to ensure are in place for change to happen properly.
1. Own it – take responsibility for the change you are trying to achieve.
All too often it is decided and agreed that “change management” is important, but key people in the organization are not ready or refuse to change. Sometimes this is because they don’t see their role or their impact in the success of the change. But more often it is because they don’t feel the change is for them, only for everyone else.
2. Change is hard and sometimes dirty but you are equipped to lead your people through it.
The current world we live in is in a constant state of change that is often uncomfortable and disruptive, making change difficult to accept. In fact, there is no change without discomfort and disruption, even if minor. This is where communications come in. While change is hard, effective communications, usually from leaders, is an important tool that should be used to explain the change. To engage people along the change journey, the messages are best delivered by you. Consultants should not deliver the messages for you but we will certainly help you plan and craft the messages. When the message comes from you it brings credibility to the messaging and provides employees with a consistent source of information
3. Be present, available and VISIBLE.
Basically, show up! For lasting change to truly take hold, your people and the organization need to see that everyone, especially those leading the organization, have bought-in and are on the same journey. This means, people managers, VPs and the c-suite all need to be involved and have to show their support, even if they are not the sponsor or directly impacted.
4. Don’t take short-cuts and always keep culture top of mind.
Two other factors that can affect a successful change is not taking short-cuts, and always keeping culture in mind. Short-cuts seem like a good idea but should always be approached with caution. The “low hanging fruit”, trying to fast track change, or simply not investing enough time or money into the change are all recipes for failure. Before taking the easy road, think about the long-term benefits.
Will these quick wins last or are they just band-aid solutions that will have be dealt later?
Will this have a positive contribution by helping the business move forward and reach its long-term goals or are you just trying to get it over the line? There are absolutely benefits from quick wins, but these are only truly wins when the rest of the change is executed, planned and funded appropriately. Culture is key. Really. But what does that mean? There is a lot of buzz these days about building culture or changing culture, but the reality is culture, just like change, is a journey and takes time. Things to consider with culture is what is the current culture and what are the aspects of this culture that you want to see continue or change?
Finally, how does culture fit into the bigger picture and support your change management initiatives?
Is it important for you to embed a culture that fails and learns quickly, is agile and has resiliency?
Knowing how you want to see the organizational culture grow or shift will inform how you communicate, how you train, and how you lead. The good news is that even though change is hard, it is possible to work through it and be successful! Leaders have the ability to drive change, and the best part is that you’re not alone in this journey. We’re here to help.
Krista Schaber-Chan Managing Partner Toronto