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Leaders: Making the Best of Change Management

Though first recognized as a management discipline in the 60’s, change management (CM) is a discipline that rose in prominence in the 90s.

I share a bitter-sweet experience with formal change management protocols. Being a pragmatic and common sense kind of guy, my best work has involved making complex things simple for everyone around me to understand.

Courtesy 123rf.comI have seen “change management professionals” who bring a very complex set of tools and vocabulary to the workplace. Often the project is doomed to fail before it ever starts because the sheer weight of the new terms being used burden the effort beyond most employee’s capacity to comprehend.

Couple that challenge with the inevitable need to manage change in any business, and you have a big leadership problem. Therefore, I present to you this 4 step outline of how to break down change management and make it effective in your organization.

Although there are many types of organizational change, the critical aspect is a company’s ability to win the buy-in of their organization’s employees on the change. Effectively managing organizational change is a four-step process: [1]

  • Forming –  Recognizing the changes in the broader business environment
  • Storming –  Developing the necessary adjustments for their company’s needs
  • Norming –  Training their employees on the appropriate changes
  • Performing –  Winning the support of the employees with the persuasiveness of the appropriate adjustments

As a multi-disciplinary practice that has evolved as a result of scholarly research, organizational change management should begin with a systematic diagnosis of the current situation in order to determine both the need for change and the capability to change. The objectives, content, and process of change should all be specified as part of a change management plan.

Change management processes should include creative marketing to enable communication between changing audiences, as well as deep social understanding about leadership styles and group dynamics. As a visible track on transformation projects, organizational change management aligns groups’ expectations, integrates teams, and manages employee-training. It makes use of performance metrics, such as financial results, operational efficiency, leadership commitment, communication effectiveness, and the perceived need for change in order to design appropriate strategies, resolve troubled change projects, and avoid change failures.

Forming

Recognizing the changes needed in the broader business environment. This is the formative stage where the various drivers of change are identified and correlated to begin the design of a strategic shift in business practice, method, or culture.

Taken literally, the proposed solutions are formed into actionable plans. Lists are written, early stage scope is defined, and definitions of goals and objectives kick in.

Storming

This is the “drill down” stage. Deeper dives into impact analysis happen here. Still somewhat a planning stage, storming is the gathering of all information and buy-in needed to begin execution of the change plan.

  • Define measurable stakeholder aims and create a business case for their achievement (which should be continuously updated)
  • Monitor assumptions, risks, dependencies, costs, return on investment, dis-benefits and cultural issues
  • Effective communication that informs various stakeholders of the reasons for the change (why?), the benefits of successful implementation (what is in it for us, and you) as well as the details of the change (when? where? who is involved? how much will it cost? etc.)
  • Devise an effective education, training and/or skills upgrading scheme for the organization

Norming

This is the implementation phase when employee coaching and training must encompass the change. Stakeholder buy-in is crucial. Proper execution by the  leadership team is vital to the successful implementation of change. Simply put, making the change become the norm is the desired outcome here. Whether we are tackling market change, regulatory change, or process and product change, the designated expectation must become the new normal.

Ways to increase change management effectiveness include:

  • Counter resistance from the employees of companies and align them to overall strategic direction of the organization
  • Provide personal counseling (if required) to alleviate any change-related fears
  • Monitoring of the implementation and fine-tuning as required

Performing

Winning the support of the employees with the persuasiveness of the appropriate adjustments. That’s a tall order! Sustaining momentum once the excitement of implementation and all its promotion and hype has subsided requires commitment at all levels. Here, effective management and real leadership take center stage.

As team members begin to slack off or revert to old habits and procedures, the monitoring and reporting aspects of the program must be prevalent. Employee feedback that indicates lagging effort must be managed appropriately.

Conversely, those on the team who have embraced the change and are running full speed ahead must be recognized and rewarded for their commitment. Using these as examples can perhaps inspire others who are less inclined to participate to kick it into gear. Said another way, don’t let your superstars be taken for granted.

Courtesy 123rf.com
Courtesy 123rf.com

[reminder]What are some ways your team has embraced change management?[/reminder]

PS – For the record, I love my change management friends. My opening remarks above have been fully shared with each of them. We enjoy spirited discussions over the merits of their programs, one and all. Those discussions keep us growing.

Some content courtesy of Mindtools

“Forming, storming, norming, and performing” phrase first coined by Psychologist Bruce Tuckman is 1965.