As humans we live in a constantly changing environment, be it social, economical, political or personal. We learn to react and adapt to our changing environment by creating routines, procedures or systems which help us to grow and maintain normality. Simple solutions like bulbs to address the darkness of night. air conditioners to keep us cool in summer, heaters to keep us warm in winter. Whilst, these and many more appear to be simplistic examples, they showcase our ability to learn, react and adapt to a constantly changing environment. This process of learning and adapting to change helps us to grow as a productive functional society.
Similarly, every day, businesses grapple with change. Every change begins with an idea to add value, increase productivity, or reduce waste. Organisations therefore initiate several programs to address the flux in business, such as, implementation of a Customer Relationship Management system. My aim here is not to address every aspect of change management, but, to outline, in my opinion, the mind-set required to address change and the seven pillars that support change.
As part of implementing a change initiative, organisation must appoint and empower a Change Leadership Team. The aim of this team should be to inform the stakeholders of the reason for change, and to convince them of the initiative which aims to promote growth of the organisation in a competitive environment.
In order to do this successfully, the change leadership team – or steering group, should appoint, a body or team, with the responsibility to communicate and engage with stakeholders. This gives a voice to people and informs the leadership team of sentiments around change. Stakeholders should feel empowered, and convinced of the underlying driver for change. If people are not engaged or are not convinced of the drivers for change, then they become anxious, frustrated. These feelings raise barriers to adoption and also cause resistance to change. Change leadership must be able to influence and encourage adoption by engaging in dialogue and establishing a learning environment for people. A key component of this is to understand the skills gaps and create programs to train people therefore avoid feelings of anxiety, alienation and disassociation. Another component is to build forums, to discuss, convince, and reassure people of their role and the importance of it for the organisation.
Another basic example: I recently bought a PlayStation. My son was not as excited at all. I loaded a game and began playing with the hand controller and interacting with the characters on screen, he was intrigued. Next morning, he wanted to have a go, but did not know how the hand controller interacted with the characters in the game. I noticed he started playing with the hand controller, moving the levers on the controller, all his energy was spent in copying my actions. When I explained how the system works, he understood the concept, and started getting to grips with the characters on screen and learned how to move around in the game. Now, he is too engaged, in-fact, I have to set a timer to control the amount of time he spends playing on the console.
Perhaps it is a simplistic example, but it does outline the seven pillars of change.
The seven steps of implementing change are:
- Plan: Undertake an impact analysis to reveal skill gaps, training needs, potential technical obstacles, and scope.
- Train: Understand the difference between communication and engagement. Speak the same language and bridge the skill gaps.
- Empower: Establish champions for change and engage the CEO and senior leadership, setup visible training programs.
- Enact: Make the change visible, understandable and accomplishable by enacting or bringing in examples of a role model
- Control: Understand the impact of other dependent programmes and to work within a set boundary.
- Reinforce: Set realistic goals, outline the team structure, and create incentives to speed adoption.
- Reflect: Report on the gained benefits of the change and show the progress of the project against goals or set milestones. Keep it simple and reflect on previous mistakes.
An enterprise’s organisational structure, operating model, internal politics, policies, information flow, communication strategy, budget, time, engagement style, business model, dependencies are all significant in the success or failure of a change programme especially when there are multiple interdependent programs running at the same time.
Organisations must accurately access the impact, dependencies, capability and availability of employees, so that, the change leadership team can implement plans to engage, train, enact and encourage the right change. It is important to outline immediate or short-term wins and explain the long-term steps needed to reach key milestones so people are convinced of why the change is necessary.
Change should not have to be forced onto people. It is important to try and nurture a culture of change, start incentive schemes which would encourage people to understand, adapt and accept change.