Best Practises in Change Management

Change management is possibly one of the most difficult tasks that a manager or management team can attempt.  More often than not, these managers will bring external consultants in to support the change process.  But having an awareness of the common approaches and “Best Practices” can help you understand the scope and magnitude of a change project and give you options to consider when planning your change.

Here are some elements of ‘Best Practise’ I have encountered:

  • Recognise the need to change and ensure that you articulate that need in a compelling way, demonstrating that not changing would be catastrophic.
  • Start with and maintain senior management and executive level support, to demonstrate that the change initiative is a company wide commitment and a strategic level project, garnering the full support of the companies resources.
  • Understand the organisation’s ‘readiness to change’ as change can be emotionally disturbing to both the staff and the shareholders.
  • Communicate effectively to create buy-in. Then communicate some more.  Use all of the communications channels that you have access to.  You must create an level of understanding, involvement and commitment from your personnel.
  • Instil a feeling  of ‘readiness and commitment’ to sustained change and help people see this as a process that will allow the organisation to adapt to future environmental conditions.
  • Create change teams that demonstrate the characteristics of the new organisation, generate some high profile quick wins and so demonstrate the benefit of the change.   This will communicate the benefits of the change more dramatically than any speech and will create a level of momentum for the change process.
  • Use a structured framework.  A change framework will give you structure around which to create the change and give you a mechanism to justify your actions to the budget controllers and senior managers
  • Consultants do have a part to play as you can use them to supplement your team and so your organisation can continue to be productive during the change process.  Aim to use consultants effectively, having them do what you want them to do.  Avoid employing a large consultancy and have them ‘doing’ change to you according to a boilerplate solution that neither discriminates you from other organisations nor exploits your unique characteristics for best effect.
  • Pay attention to what has worked before in other environments, not to copy them wholesale, but to identify what might be beneficial and so you can exploit what you learn piecemeal.  This will need to be within the context of a ‘systems’ approach as you will be influencing other parts of the organisation with any change you make.  Consider the impact as part of the planning discussion.
  • Ensure your changes link to your corporate strategy as your strategy will define how you will apply your resources and people to create value in the current future economic environment.  Your processes will need to align to this strategy and be as efficient as possible.
  • Listen to the ‘voice of the customer’ as they are the people that should benefit most from the changes you are implementing.  Ask the question, is this adding value for the customer and aligned to our mission.  South Western Airlines aim to be the cheapest low cost airline and so their Value to the customer is in being cheap.  They change nothing that doesn’t ensure that they remain lowest cost budget airline.  Simple.
  • Select the right processes for reengineering as not everything will add value to your vision, mission and customer.  Use the 80/20 rule to identify the processes that will add most value when changes
  • Maintain Focus on what you are trying to achieve. A man with 10 priorities has no priorities. Don’t try to reengineer too many processes at once.  Pick those processes that will add most value, be easiest to change and so garner the momentum we discussed earlier.
  • Maintain teams as the key vehicle for change as they are mutually supportive, innovative and provide a level of ‘corporate memory’ even if members of the team move or leave.
  • Choose and use the right metrics for measuring the performance of both the current process and to assess the future process and so quantify the benefit of any change.  Again this benefit will then become tangible and so communicate value for you.
  • Understand risks and develop contingency plans ad nothing you plan will follow the plan from start to finish.  Understanding the risks and reviewing them frequently will help you keep an eye on the issues that will have a negative impact and so prepare for them.
  • Have plans for, and communicate a need for an attitude of continuous improvement.  The environment is constantly changing and you and your organisation will need to flexible enough to adapt to those changes.

These points are not exhaustive but are presented a considerations for anyone thinking of implementing a change event.
As a general guidance for any planning, what you are aiming for is:

An organisation that has a strategy that is making best use of resources in the current and short term future environment, employing efficient processes that exploit the talents and strengths of you team and add most value to the customer and shareholder.

Easy to say…not so easy to do…

Dare to Aspire

7 thoughts on “Best Practises in Change Management

  • A great post – it certainly would be foolish to ignore Kotter – but it does go further than Kotter takes it – a lot further… Just 2 (of a number of) other key areas:

    (1) Helping people through the tranistions that accompay change. The need for change leaders to recognise and address the difference between the (external) organisational change and the (internal) transitions that people move through as they respond and adjust to the emotional an psychological impacts on them of the change. Excellent material on this by William Bridges.

    (2) The critical importance of recognising and harnessing the informal networks within an organisation. Kotter advises that for a significant change initiative to have any chance of overcoming resistance to change and succeeding, it requires the support of at least 75% of the management, and he highlights the need to build a “coalition for change”.

    However, the recognition, identification and utilisation of informal networks takes these insights a quantum step forward. The formal organisation determines all routine aspects of what takes place, and in so doing provides the necessary “glue” of stability and repeatability, but the “shadow” or informal organisation largely determines the scope and pace of change. Where the shadow and formal organisations come into conflict in a change situation, the balance of influence in the shadow organisation will almost always win the day.

    Clearly, the informal networks are key to dealing with resistance to change. Suggested Reference materials by Jon Katzenbach et al.

    • Hello Stephen

      Another great point.

      I think that culture is also an element that is difficult to change which may be included as part of your informal groups. Culture is about how things get done and the informal work teams are the core execution unit of the organisation.

      Thanks for adding value.

      Oz

  • Hi Martin – you’ve taken the words “out of mouth” so to speak:-) That was going to be my third point but I felt I’d said enough…but that isn’t going to stop me now:-)

    Personally, I’ve been “hot” on cultures and particularly sub-cultures for a long time now -as in my view, culture is the single biggest determinant of how people will behave in an organisation – and esp in a change context. It’ll generally over-ride commonsense, intelligence and experience.

    So I’ve found that identifying (to put it simply) “supportive” subcultures that will be open and pro-actively supportive to change is also another critical (and post Kotter) component. This does of course require a process to make them visible – via a full organisation cultural mapping and analysis.

    I have only more recently come to understand the importance of the informal networks of the “shadow” organisation – and I see this as a logical extension of cultural anlaysis and mapping. i.e. map the cultures & subcultures – then map the network connections of those individuals within those subcultures to create an organisational network analysis.

    • Hi Stephen

      another interesting person is the ‘social node’. A key member of the organisation that may not be the most personally productive but has contacts throughout the organisation and wider that he can link people with when a project needs that little extra effort or momentum.

      I plan a blog on this type of person in the near future but would appreciate any comment you have from your own change management experience.

      Oz

  • Excellent article Martin and excellent add ons all Thank You
    For me it is about the reason for change is paramount and the reason needs to be compelling It’s must be about changing what’s normal for the good of people and our planet and it also must be about innovation rather than problem solving One leads to change for the better, the other almost always means returning to the status quo.
    Steve Simpson’s UGRs (unwritten ground rules) work is important in finding the reason for change and then managing the actual change http://www.ugrs.net

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