Thursday, August 20, 2015

Does Change Management Need to Be Changed

Change Management can become more successful with people at the core of change, the cause of changes and the purpose of change.

Statistically, there’s 70% of change initiatives failed today; interestingly, that in the mid 90's, the research found 70% of change initiatives failed (indicates 70% of change projects continue to fail today.) In that twenty-year period, countless studies and experience of managing change have created a vast body of knowledge, consisting of thousands or even millions of books, articles, resources, etc. In turn, this has produced a plethora of change related theories, models, methodologies, tools, and techniques. Even with all this effort, no improvement on 70% failure rate has been achieved. What’s the root cause of such high rate of failures? Is it caused by leadership, process, methodology or technology? Does Change Management need to be changed as well?

Groom Change Leaders and Change Agents: People are both the cause and effect of changes. And quite frankly, the most impactful way to move the needle on change management success is not on what project teams do, but on what leaders to do to express, model, and reinforce their personal, visible commitment to the change initiatives, not just sponsoring a single project, but focus on building change as an important business capability. If the individual who "doubt" about the change is either upper management or is an "influencer" within the company, they absolutely need more handling (resources, training, check-back, etc.). Because their potential to counter the proposed changes, and directly or indirectly recruit people to their mindset is so much greater than your average rank-and-file employee. More energy must be expended to check-mate their influence before it gains traction among that critical 5-10% of the company who may never adapt to the change. It is crucial for senior leaders setting the example and following through because often the lack of communication and setting an example to follow are the root causes of change failure. You need to coach Change leaders and agents how to frame their questions, to drive leaders to demonstrate truly behavioral commitment. Often the team focuses so much attention on project team performance, but the driver for speed and value realization comes from Sponsors!

Data-based analytics to improve Change Management success rate: After all, seeing is believing, which makes the change as much about perception and expectation management as anything else. Ironically, those leaders who are so data-based about financial and operational elements of the business continue to close their eyes to data about what they need to do differently about the change! With more advanced and cost-effective technology and tools, you can leverage an efficient assessment tool that gathers data from different Frames of Reference about past perceptions of project implementation so that you can understand quantitatively the reasons why projects fail or sub-optimize. If part of the workflow being impacted by the resistance, in that case, extensive data must be collected to show the leadership how the resistant area has become a bottleneck to the change. This must be done carefully with no surprises to the people involved. Simply put, organizations will repeat the same implementation process time and time again, even when it doesn't lead to full implementation! When you put the data in front of executives, they see in "black and white" why projects aren't achieving full value realization. Awareness is the first step, it has to lead to different behavior on the part of leaders. Almost always, sub-optimization can be traced back to the inability of Change Agents to get what they need from leaders.

Setting the priority right: It is a waste of resource attempting to save someone that is clearly set in their ways to the extent that they will never change. Equally, there will be those that recognize the need for change and who will commit quickly. Finally, there will be a critical mass of swinging voters in the middle who need the most support and help. This is where the majority of the effort should be spent to get the change over the line. The KPI for change management is to measure overall outcome, too many folks measure the journey. Well defining the right set of measurement is an important step to managing change more effectively.

Compared to the business world 20 years ago, the speed of change is increasing, and digital ecosystem has become more complex and dynamic, to put simply, change itself changes, Change Management also turns to be more complex, that’s perhaps part of reasons why the failure rate of Change Management is so stubbornly high. However, the success of change starts at mindset level, today’s digital leaders and professionals must have learning agility to adapt to changes, with more handy technology and analytics tools, and abundance of knowledge and experience sharing only clicks away, Change Management can become more successful with people at the core of change, the cause of changes and the purpose of change.


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