In today’s fast-paced business world, organizations and their teams are often required to quickly roll with the punches, accepting changes to business processes, tools, workflow and personnel with almost no time to take stock.
We thought it was about time to roll out a series of blogs where we discuss change management, what it is, how to prepare your teams for changes both big and small, the different models and strategies that organizations use to approach change management, and ways to soften the blow across the board for people and infrastructure alike. So, here’s #1 in the series, defining change management, and looking at how to achieve a successful organizational change management project, alongside the change management principles that should never be ignored.
Defining Change Management
Defining change management is not a simple task, as the term can mean different things to different people or industries. But in the IT world, change management usually means how an enterprise will prepare for a shift in workflow, processes, structure, or culture.
Would it surprise you to learn that according to a Forbes study 85% of organizations believe that change management is essential to the success of a disruptive addition to the business? This could be anything from big organizational change such as moving from on-premises architecture to the cloud, medium-sized changes like adding automation or data analysis to day to day workflow, or even small changes such as a new security tool or compliance application.
Why Does Organizational Change Management Matter So Much?
Ultimately, the success or failure of your business hinges on the morale and support of your employees and your customers. By failing to prepare these two groups for changes to your identity, culture or processes, you’re doing yourself a disservice. In fact, the more prepared you can be – the better.
McKinsey Research estimates that “as many as 70% of change management projects fail to reach their initial goal”. Yikes. Employee resistance is a large part of this, and many believe that this kind of block stems from ‘top-down’ change management processes. These are often spurred on by a manager or even a C-suite employee announcing a change, and encouraging the rest of the organization to jump on board, both practically speaking and in terms of enthusiasm and effort.
In our current IT reality, the pace of change has never been faster, so organizational change management needs to be able to jump this hurdle to meet the challenge head-on. This is where some key principles can make a real difference.
The Key Change Management Principles Checklist
Make ‘Cross-section’ Decisions: If you’re a manager looking into making a change, even if you don’t technically need to run your decision-making by anyone, look for communication and feedback from every level of the business before you sign on the dotted line. It’s more usual for the CEO to chat with the CFO or the CISO before they make a big change, to understand the financial or compliance implications of a choice for example. However, talking to junior product managers or developers could explain more nuanced issues such as cultural implications or important communication steps that could have been missed if a solution is only discussed at board level.
- Show Your Working: It’s amazing how many changes are made without the visibility that a business needs to make sure they aren’t jumping into the deep end without a rubber ring. It’s no wonder that your staff don’t feel confident about a new endeavor. If you’re using change management technology such as application mapping to plan ahead for a business change, make sure that this comes with a report that’s easily shareable to your teams, giving them the peace of mind that you know exactly what you’re doing.
- Keep Checking In: Most business changes aren’t one-time acts that can be done, and then forgotten. Especially if your staff have been working a certain way for years, change can have a ripple effect that keeps coming back to frustrate or unsettle them. Communication is key, and it’s important to encourage personnel to talk about what they are finding difficult, without fear of being told they aren’t a team player.
- Deploy Cheerleaders: Balance this reality with various members of staff that can champion new changes, without being fake of course. Think about who is going to really benefit from the changes that you’re making, and look for different stakeholders that can be vocal about their success with the new technology, tool, or methodology. This could be high-level aspirational staff such as VPs or managers, but equally it could be loyal receptionists or secretaries, or even customers.
- Be Both Rational and Emotional: Your employees need certainty from you, but they also need understanding. That means you’re not going to get very far by saying “This is the new reality – deal with it” but equally, saying “I understand how hard this is, we will keep thinking on it” is a recipe for disaster. The right strategy has to be a careful balance of the two, protecting your company culture and your staff morale, at the same time as clearly explaining that you’re forging ahead, and why.
There’s clearly a lot to think about when planning organizational change management, and defining change management for your specific business strategy. In the next instalment of our series, we will look at the different models and strategies of change management, and how to choose the smoothest path for your own organization.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a visibility tool that allows you to be transparent with your team members about the impact of a big change – get in touch to schedule a call.