Are You Ready For Change?
We are surrounded by change. Songs have been written. Books and articles published. Seminars presented. Clichés ingrained in our brains. We are faced with change at every point in our lives. We all know that change is necessary. Well then, why is it so hard?
I read an HBR article about taking big risks and making changes in order to achieve big rewards: http://lnkd.in/AT8VSF. They suggested personal risk invokes vulnerability, but this temporary vulnerability is a positive catalyst for change. I liked it, and it got me thinking. Taking a calculated risk makes us do something we normally would not. Making a change takes us out of our proverbial comfort zone and exposes new perspective.
Not so fast! All is not fair in change management.
There have been many discussions surrounding “change for the sake of change” or “if it ain’t broke, break it”. This is risky ground, not to be undertaken by the amateur or faint of heart. The only reason to change something that is not broken today is because the environment in which you are in will be changing or you are looking for bigger and better things that cannot be achieved under the current model. Being the messenger of change to those that do not realize immediate gains, though the intention is for the greater good, is not an easy undertaking. Dealing with people, particularly those who are vulnerable and risk-averse, requires careful handling.
“There is nothing more difficult to execute, more dubious of success, nor more dangerous to administer than to introduce a new system of things; for he who introduces it has all those who profit from the old system as his enemies, and he has only lukewarm allies in those who might profit from the new system.” Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513
Manage! Maintain! Move! When change is involved, there will be a small group within the organization that may never come on board. The job of the change agent is to manage these people throughout the process so as to not adversely influence the rest of the group. The second small group are the early adopters. Though, they are initially on board, we need to maintain their support throughout the process. The project cannot afford the risk of losing them. The largest opportunity lies with the generally neutral individuals that, with some work, we can move to change. Depending on the peripheral influences, this group can move collectively, individually, dramatically or gradually. The bottom line is in order for the project to be successful we need to spend most of our effort working on this group.
Without group acceptance, a project is doomed. Even though we know change management is the single most important factor in a project’s success, generally the least amount of time in any initiative is spent managing it.
In any change management initiative, there must be a definitive beginning, middle and end. At the beginning of a well planned project, goals and expectations are set to ensure people clearly understand the objective. The beginning of any adventure is the fun part; there is excitement and hope. The end of the project is obviously rewarding; there is closure and the satisfaction of having completed the endeavour. The middle is always the hard bit. The change agent should expect obstacles and challenges throughout, and be flexible enough to adapt to changing needs while staying true to the initial goals. They must constantly check in and communicate with stakeholders. The most successful deployments will recognize that there will be struggles in the middle and will take steps to manage change accordingly.
Change is a process, not a static event or an ever-ongoing initiative. Like any project, we first identify a need for a change. Once we have done our consultants’ due diligence, we take the necessary steps to systematically implement the initiative while remaining focussed on the goals and culture of the organization. When the initiative is completed we embed the new principles and facilitate the adoption of the new normal within the organization. Then, and only then, will your project be fully successful.
Change Management is the single best thing you can do for your team when embarking on any major transformation. The topic is in the #2 spot on Plan in Motion Inc’s Top 10 Software Selection and Deployment Methodology.
The next installment… I understand the importance of managing change. That is why Plan in Motion, Inc. follows a software selection methodology but tailors the implementation to each client’s needs. Deployment of an ERP system is an ongoing endeavour, therefore, a thorough evaluation of your options under the guidance of a process expert is required; (1) a solid business case for the acquisition, (2) an effective business process in place, and (3) a realistic plan of execution established up front. The upcoming posts review the next step in the software selection process.
Suanne McGrath-Kelly is President of Plan in Motion Inc. in Toronto. Her passion for problem solving and commitment to help clients achieve successful outcomes has made her a trusted executive advisor. She is a known thought leader and mentor in the business community with active involvement on boards and professional associations. She has published dozens of business technology papers and presented on the topics such as Digital Transformation, C-suite Alignment, and Women in Technology. Beyond her love of all things strategy, she enjoys creativity, cooking and the great outdoors.