Change Management

Five Reasons for Change Management Success

By Daniel Lock

How can your organisation prepare for its next change project? The difference between those organisations that are prepared for change and those that aren't is the difference between change management projects that succeed and those that don't. Here I look at the five big take-aways from that organisations with which I've worked that have experienced change management success.

Be prepared for slow progress of change management projects. When first strategizing for change, it's common that senior management doesn't understand the constraints that will be placed upon the project. It's typical that the senior management team expect quick results, but undertaking change can be like running the Sydney Mud Run - it can be fun, but you're going to get stuck, lose your shoes on the way, and you will get dirty. And it's not a get in and get out operation. As soon as you enter that mud, you know you have to be in it for the long haul.

The most notable thing that I've noticed among those companies that benefit from long-term change management success is that they excel in specific areas, and in particular in strategy, structure, leadership and communication. Their leaders are motivational, and change project messages are communicated at every level consistently and constantly.

However, I've identified five key reasons for change management success which encompass performance excellence in all the above mentioned areas:

1. Strategize for realistic objectives

Too often senior management assesses its market and the future and sets goals that simply are beyond the scope of the organisation as it stands. When this type of business strategy is communicated, people become disenchanted. It's unreasonable, for example, to expect a bank to become the next Google.

Change management success is born from understanding the organisation and its current limitations. It's better to make several smaller changes instead of instigating a single gigantic change project.

2. The CEO or Change Sponsor must live and breathe the change project

It's not enough for the CEO to rubber stamp change management projects - he or she must be fully involved. Think of the way in which Jack Welch transformed General Electric, or Peter Kearney at Smith New Court rolled up their sleeves and really got stuck into the change project. At every turn, this senior change project sponsor must be seen and heard. He or she must be motivational and communicational. Seen and heard is the name of the game.

3. Senior management must be on-board and enthusiastic

The organisational structure must empower senior managers to be on-board quickly and completely. The change project must be something they care about. Middle managers and people down the line will smell insincerity a mile off.

4. Middle managers must understand the change

It simply isn't enough to take a trickle down approach to communicating the reasons for the change management project. Middle managers must understand the motivations behind the change project, and explanations should be accompanied by data and real-life examples. Unfortunately, the lower down the organisation you travel the less is communicated.

Middle and junior managers need to be trained better and prepared as change leaders themselves.

Communication lines must be fully functional, fit-for-purpose, and used effectively.

5. Strategize for the long-term

Even though so many organisations and senior management teams expect turnkey solutions and rapid results, change management success is a long-term phenomenon. Quick fixes only paper over cracks; they don't address crumbling foundations.

A change project is hard work to get right, but when the organisation is properly prepared for change, then change management success will become a reality and not remain a pipe dream.

Source: PMI, Daniel Lock

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