It is most certainly a sign of the times in the hot Alberta economy right now; businesses, not-for-profit organization, and government are going through significant change. From ERP implementations, the adoption of Project Management, Process Improvement Initiatives, changing Organizational Structure, major strategic priorities, to the Retirement of the Baby Boom Generation workforce, there is no shortage of the “challenge of change”. Change Management is a hot topic in organizations.
Successful implementation of change is important. The consequences of poorly managed change are significant in terms of cost to the organization. Lost productivity, frustrated customers who may take their business elsewhere, lost time, and low morale are just a few of the impacts of poor implementation of change.
Many organizations take Change Management seriously. We see this especially where major change initiatives such as ERP’s are being implemented. Clearly with significant investments required and major process changes included leaders recognize the need for successful implementation.
Where we find many change initiatives fall short is in the consideration for the transition challenges that people go through when called on to change processes or behaviours, or acquire the essential new skills. As it has often been said “it’s not the change that people resist, it is the fear of failure in the new way”. Paying attention to people is important for successful implementation of change.
Our own experience in supporting change and transition management initiatives in organizations has led us to four key actions that facilitate successful implementation. They are described below
1. Leadership Leads
Leading practices in change and transition management emphasize the key role leaders have in implementing successful change. Leaders are instrumental in clarifying the vision for change. Clear and consistent communication regarding the vision must exist at all levels of the organization. Senior leaders need to be aligned around the impact and benefits of the change and “sing off the same song sheet”. Leaders need to stay connected with their people. Leaders must also ensure that staff has sufficient time and resources to input into and implement the change. Decisions made with respect to resource allocation will send messages to staff regarding the level of leadership commitment. Modeling of required behaviours will also indicate strong levels of leadership support for the change.
2. Excessive Communication
Communication has been identified as a key change process. Communication needs to be excessive and specific in terms of the audience. Most organizations have a variety of vehicles available to provide and support communication. Selection of the most appropriate vehicle for the message is critical. A comprehensive communications plan can act as a guide in identifying and facilitating opportunities to leverage existing communication vehicles and utilize new ones that will support and reinforce the key messages. Successful change efforts should include face-to-face communication from leaders, and in particular the direct supervisor; and also describe what the benefits of changing are from the employee’s perspective.
3. High Levels of Stakeholder Involvement and Engagement
Commitment to implementing change is significantly increased when the impacted stakeholders are involved in the process of defining how the implementation will occur. In addition, knowledge at the frontline level can provide valuable input into the change process. It is important to identify who the key stakeholders are and how they should be involved, while at the same time, managing the expectations those groups have.
4. Supporting and Enabling Employees Through Change
This area deals with the people processes required to support and enable employees to be successful with the change. This includes such areas as effective performance management including compensation, reward and recognition, skill development, and staying connected with your people.
Key Questions for consideration
- Too what extent are we as a leadership team clear and in alignment around what is changing for people, the benefits of the change, what the impact is, how people are impacted?
- What two-way communications mechanisms do we have in place that allows our people to say, “ I get it and I understand it”, and affords them the opportunity for input?
- How well are we engaging our people in determining how the change will be implemented? How well are we managing expectations around the implementation of the change?
- What support mechanisms are in place that will allow people to both gain the new skills required, and stay connected through the change implementation?