Monday, July 10, 2017

The Basic Prescription for Change Management

The superior Change Management should win the hearts and minds, to build change as the ongoing business capability.

Compared to the business world decades ago, the speed of change is increasing, and the digital ecosystem has become more dynamic, complex and hyperconnected. Change Management also turns to be more complex with the very high failure rate. There is no magic formula to manage changes, and each situation is different, every organization just has to explore their own way of managing changes because different organizations evolve digital at a different speed. Change Management has a very wide scope and is a relatively new area of expertise. In many circumstances, change management itself has to be changed for fitting the digital new normal. Still, there are common digital principles all kinds of businesses can follow, and there are basic prescriptions for improving the overall "health" of Change Management.

Diagnose the root cause of changes: It is always fundamental to figure out the big WHY about the change. Change should never happen for its own sake, without figuring out the WHY part of the change, Change Management is perhaps like the vehicle running without the direction. Too often people take the easy path, fix the symptoms, not root causes, without spending enough time to understand what’s going on underneath. Or people intend to finger pointing and play politics, without putting enough emphasis on real problem-solving. Many organizations focus so heavily on the "doing" (the "how"), they lose sight of the "purpose," the "WHY" part of changes. Once people agree with the “WHY” part of the reasoning, they can develop their own level or means of participating. People working at the different level of the hierarchy should ask big “WHY” question for digging through the root cause of changes and understand the change from the different lens. Because change cannot be completely manipulated from top-down, it starts from the mindset. It is the key to present the WHY first. Every process, every expenditure of time, money, or energy, and every assignment of resources should directly relate back to the "Why." The highly changeable businesses are the ones that have learned WHY should change, WHEN change is called for, how to decide WHAT to change, WHO takes charge of changes, as well as HOW to measure the change outcome. 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. But it's important to clarify the very reason for the change to make the journey more meaningful.

Communication, Communication, and Communication: The communication problem is rampant in the business world. Communication is probably the world’s biggest problem as many listen to respond and not to think profoundly beforehand. When there is a lack of empathetic communication, it is the lack of trust among workers and management. And it significantly increases the probability for change management to fail. Thus, transparent REFLEXION of cause and effects which need to be improved in communication and management is the one thing you need for making change smoothly. Real change and improvement are deprogramming old mindsets, letting go of the outdated tradition, primitive motive, or the voices from the past, and reprogram collective minds with new mentalities, norms, and behaviors. Communication is the bridge to keep people evolved at the same page and successful changes are often linked to the DNA of the organization itself. Communication is not a single dimensional talk down from the top, communication has to flow via all directions (top-down, bottom-up, inside-out, outside-in, middle-out, cross-functions etc), also through common business language, not the functional dialects, to avoid ‘lost in translation," to build trust for both discovering the root cause of problems and providing solution to tailor the real problems underneath, and ensure to frame the right problems and solving them in the right way.

Put people at the center of changes: Often time, organizations put too much emphasis on tuning change processes, methodologies, or best practices, without paying enough attention to the psychology behind changes. Change Management can become more successful with people at the core of change, the cause of changes and the purpose of change. People are creatures of habit and change is stressful.  People often resist changing because they don't understand how it is relevant to them. To make a change strategy effective, you need to help people see 'what's in it for them' to facilitate real change. Sometimes it helps to get people talking about positive change they have experienced and what made it positive then how they can use that to make small transformations towards the new goals. Change leadership is on one side, and commitment is on the other side. Simply put, you need 'buy-in'! Change Management and Strategy Management go hand in hand, and building people-centric changeability is the prerequisite for dynamic digital strategy execution.

There is no change for its own sake, and there is no one size fits all change formula as well. But you can set the common digital principles and follow the basic prescription for Change Management. There's always a clear business purpose behind it, and people are the core of changes. Change Management needs to become people-centric, focus on coordination and facilitation, winning both hearts and minds, and build change as the ongoing business capability.


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