Saturday, 5 May 2007

Change management: common mistakes

Management literature is flooded with dos and donots on change management. Organizations spend considerable amount of money and effort to lead and manage change management programmes. At the same time they supposedly 'study' this literature or at least try to get inspired by it. Yet, most of the times they end up falling in all or some of the traps identified by the literature they've avidly read and studied.

Here is a check list constituting of 10 principles of change management

  • Address the “human side” systematically: How many times you've omitted addressing the human side of change - which ultimately is the most important thing. After all people have to implement change.... if they are on board, change will happen faster and seamlessly, if not, it is bumping ride
  • Start at the top: We're pretty good with this one. We need support, so we better get it... that is why usually we do start at the top... the challenge is whether the top remains fully engaged throughout the entire change management process.
  • Involve every layer: This is common pitfall. Typically we start forming working groups, "recruiting" creme de la creme to do the job and we forget about everyone else
  • Make the formal case: I see this as creating a sense of urgency and link it very much to start at the top, or rather the raison d'etre of change management. In other words, WHY are we changing, WHAT are we changing and HOW will be changing
  • Create ownership: This is very noble. What usually happens is that this ownership is created within the change management elite. What this principle really means, is to create ownership amongst everyone. Everyone needs to believe in the change programme so that they can become change agents. Be aware of CHANGE SURVIVORS. These are individuals who pay lip service to change and continue business as usual.... They are lurkers and raise their ugly heads when you least expect. WATCH OUT!
  • Communicate the message: This is linked to involving every layer.... communication is hardly ever a priority. You hear people saying 'we do not have anything to communicate' which is always an understatement.... Those who are not involved in the daily work of change management need to know what is happening. Therefore, there is always something to communicate.
  • Assess the cultural landscape: Before embarking on changement management exercise, you need to assess the readiness of your constituents. This means you need to assess whether you'll find a fertile or hostile ground to implement changes.
  • Address culture explicitly: You need to address the cultural landscape assessment heads on. There is no point in beating around the bush. This is also part and parcel of creating the sense of urgency. If you've groups of people who may resist change, tackle the issue immediately. Do not let it linger, it will not go away. You'll end up jeopardizing the entire programme if you do not deal with this kind of stuff immediately.
  • Prepare for the unexpected: Always have a contigency plan. Prioritize your change agenda. Know what changes are MUST and what are optional and nice to have.
  • Speak to the individual: Establish open channels of communication with people. Make sure you are always available. Take the first step and talk to those who are most affected by change. LISTEN to people and to their ideas. Everyone has sometime valuable to offer.

Post your comments and experience on change management. I'd be interested to hear both successful and less successful examples of change management initiatives

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