Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Three Big “WHY”s in Change Management

Asking big WHY question is to dig through the root cause of changes, how to manage it and achieve more tangible results.

Change is the most significant characteristics of the digital age, and it’s multifaceted. The change also becomes an important business capability, not just an ongoing project or a one-time business initiative. “Change Management” is an overarching term that encompasses extensive planning, communication, discovery, creativity, measurement, etc. But the first step first, you need to figure out what are the very reasons and what are the ultimate goals for changes? What are the big WHY questions you should ponder in order to manage change more seamlessly?

More fundamentally, WHY do you need to CHANGE?  Many organizations focus so heavily on the "doing" (the "how"), they lose sight of the "purpose," the "WHY" part of changes. It is the key to present the WHY first. Primarily, it provides a way to inject enthusiasm, which is infectious and spurs the concept forward. Once people agree with the “WHY” part of the reasoning, they can develop their own level or means of participating, maybe even offering what you didn't think to ask for, expanding the efficiency of the concept itself, thereby re-injecting further excitement in their being part of it. Because change can not be completely manipulated from top-down, it starts from the mindset. "Why" should not only precede "How," but should be reaffirmed at each step in the "How." Every process, every expenditure of time, money, or energy, and every assignment of resources should directly relate back to the "Why." The enemy is not changing per se, it's the change without focus or purpose. One of the change mottoes is "never mistake motion for action." The successful businesses are the ones that have learned WHY should change, WHEN change is called for and how to decide WHAT to change." Let's not let all these problems inherent in any change initiative, to get in the way of accepting the business facts that change is inevitable and needed in every business.

WHY is Change so Difficult? Statistically, more than two-thirds of Change Management effort fail to achieve the expected result. Change becomes fundamentally difficult in most organizations because it is treated as something distinct from running the business, evolving performance and increasing results over time. Leaders and employees are stressed enough in getting done what is right in front of them that change is layered upon becomes disruptive. In addition, resistance to change is part of human nature. For many people, "sameness" is psychological security, change leads to psychological insecurity. Most people like security. Even though it is difficult to change human nature, there is still value in understanding that resistance is normal and must be considered and managed. The other reason why is change so difficult could be the leadership factor. Leaders do not set a good example to be change agents. Even the people who are advocating change are resistant to change. It is common for people to propose changes that impact others while exempting themselves. This type of approach is guaranteed to be resisted.

WHY is measuring change so hard? Perhaps the difficulty in measuring Change Management is that the very thing you are measuring is changing. Some change is very difficult to quantify and measure. There is an inherent oxymoron in the term Change Management. We want people to change and manage/control at the same time. That's like trying to drive with your foot on the brake and the accelerator at the same time. The other consideration is that the part we are measuring is only a snapshot of the entire organizational picture. Each change effort is so different. Even two simultaneous changes going on in a firm are so varied, so there are no cookie cutter metrics or methodologies exist that gives the answer. Employee morale can be measured in terms of retention and by surveying job satisfaction. Improved customer service can be measured as well. Not all elements of change are easily quantifiable, whereas some are in terms of hours, and dollars saved. It's probably better and more accessible to measure change-readiness rather than change progress. The change needs to be defined in its base elements and associated benefits to be achieved. (financial, market share, productivity.) The change deliverables success value is then tied to the success of the elements dependent upon the amount of adoption, utilization, and proficiency of the people involved. The higher the adoption, utilization, and proficiency of the people in the new normal, the more successful the deliverable will be. It can be argued that if you have good change-readiness, then you will probably be better at change, measure the input - not the output - it's too late to do anything about it by then.

Asking big WHY question is to dig through the root cause of changes, how to manage it and achieve more tangible results. Real change and improvement are deprogramming old mindsets, letting go of the outdated tradition or the voices from the past, and reprogram collective minds with new mentalities, norms, and behaviors and successful changes are often linked to the DNA of the organization itself. From management perspectives, it’s how to build multi-faceted change capabilities to adapt to the ever-evolving business dynamic and improve organizational maturity steadily.


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