When the American novelist Ellen Glasgow wrote, “All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward” she could have been making a wry observation about business change.
For over forty years, academics, business leaders and consultants have analysed how best to deliver change and transformation in organisations. They’ve extoled the need to lead from the front. They’ve highlighted the importance of the softer ‘people’ and culture elements. They’ve argued and debated many different approaches for everything from change communications to measuring benefits. Still, all the research shows the vast majority of organisations embarking on change –two out of three in fact –fail to deliver the expected benefits. So, if all change is not growth, how do we get some movement forward?
There are no easy answers, change is challenging and launching a change in the wrong direction can be an even bigger mountain to climb. However if we want to understand how to build successful change then we need to get back to the core reasons behind why change is necessary, and therefore valuable, to the organisation.
Back to basics
Change goes wrong when the basics are overlooked. Accordingly, to make change sustainable, to make it stick, we need to think why we are embarking on change, how change is delivered and what outcomes we expect.
Getting clarity on these three things at the start sets out success milestones to work towards. Where this clarity does not exist the change takes much longer, is often more sporadic, can be divisive and may never be embedded. When clear objectives are set at the start of the project, when we have a map to guide us on our transformation journey, change can be sustainable and cost effective.
Talk to me
So if time spent identifying what benefits you expect from change is important then time spent communicating those benefits to your people is essential to getting crucial forward movement. It is people who drive and deliver change and the value of change can be realised by ensuring that the people who will ultimately own and embrace new ways of working adopt them quickly, correctly and sustainably.
People are an organisation’s greatest asset and if you engage people in change then you have a fighting chance of realising your benefits and in turn your ROI.
Change Management needs strong leadership but, successful Change Management happens when people across the organisation, at all levels, are considered and engaged. A top down only approach can alienate some people which in turn can mean missing the opportunity to collaborate with the wider internal community to leverage knowledge, legacy and innovation.
Change Management is not Project Management
The roles of a Change Manager and a Project Manager are different. A Change Manager will consider people, engagement, communication and the vision of change. The Project Manager will look at the project plan, resources and risk. Both are needed to fit the puzzle pieces of change together to ensure efficacious outcomes.
Getting the support you need to successfully deliver change
Change Management can be a complex process and specialist skills are needed to ensure positive outcome delivery. Increasingly organisations are considering training with recognised professional bodies for employees or where this is not applicable they are bringing in expert interim support to solve their transformation dilemmas.
All change may not be growth and all movement may not be forward but a clear strategy with defined benefits and an engaged workforce will go a long way to help move your business forward and deliver successful, valuable change.
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Change Management Expert
Passionate about Change Management with experience across sectors including Oil and Gas, Transport and Manufacturing. Deborah is the Lead Assessor for UK Change Management Institute.