After reading through the endless articles suggesting “Change Management” strategies, ideas, implementation methods, and its use in turnarounds, high growth enterprises, and organizational re-engineering etc., it appeared to me that the current philosophies lacked continuity. I write this article from the perspective of having been involved with dozens of turnarounds and many new ventures. The situations are different yet the successes are based upon the same premises.
The real challenge of organizations is to understand that “Change Management” should not be a function addressed at a time of need but rather it should be embedded into the culture of the company. How do you embed a culture of change? The answer is simple yet not easily done. Change Management falls into the category of strategic planning. In essence this means that implementing change for whatever reason requires people to think through their idea much like an entrepreneur thinking through their business plan. Thinking through your idea is critical in order to avoid costly and time consuming mistakes. Sounds like a “DUH” so far right?
What happens when a major change is not thought out? Let’s say you want to revamp your operations, purchase a new CRM, merge with another company, or integrate some new technology. Too often these situations are assigned a project manager or consultant(s) who are not given the authority to cross all organizational borders to ensure success. The results can be disastrous, including but not limited to: reactive instead of proactive management, costs overruns, lack of employee buy-in, staff turnover, failed objectives, and unmet financial expectations.
You may be able to avoid all this by deciding ahead of time who in your company should be involved and at what stage. One solution is to perform a work flow analysis to identify the specifics of the pain that creates the opportunity for improvement. With this information you can then breakdown your planning into 3 major groups (Analysis, Implementation and Follow-up). Each group is equally important. Regrettably, I have seen far too many plans fail because all three were not executed with the same vigor. Note – there is no such thing as “Best Practices” that applies to all situations. However, some good general guidelines have been put together by IBM “Best Practices of Change Management“.
Analysis: Think of this task as “Due Diligence”
The objective is to understand the opportunity at hand, what resources are required and make a road map to achieve the desired results. This is a task that must be “Led” at the highest level in order to achieve buy-in. Let me repeat that – “Buy-in” is mission critical from all levels. Just because the CEO wants it does not mean it is going to happen.
Questions to answer may include: system compatibilities (process, product line, IT, IP), scalability, support evaluation, training, solution architecture, financial objectives, market objectives, and role/structure of management teams (before and after).
Suggested team members: (depends on scope of the project): COO, CIO, CFO, VP of Engineering, Operations Manager, Sales, Human Resources or Training coordinator, Legal Council. Management can bring any experts they choose to enhance analysis (staff members) and it is recommended they do so as line staff can tell you how things actually work. It is very important to assign each member a responsibility or question to be answered. Upon the collection of all the pertinent information – The Team makes a decision – you now have “buy-in” from all the critical areas.
Implementation “What gets measured gets done”
Implementation – initial: set up of tasks, determine the personnel to be involved, set up benchmarks, process flow, work flow analysis (before), outline change process (staged roll out or all at once), Gant charts, identify forms and procedures to be converted,
Team Members: IT, Project Manager, HR, Operations, Vendor Project Manager (if needed), Accounting, targeted personnel if doing a merger or acquisition of magnitude.
Implementation – action plan: begin changes, restructuring, systems set up, conversion processes, training, issue resolution, install tracking mechanisms (benchmarks), procedures, staffing, etc.
Team Members: Project Manager ( company and vendor), HR or Trainer, IT, Operations, Accounting, Sales Liaison, Line staff as needed.
The scope of the project may determine the level and the number of people involved. The critical success factor is making sure you have buy in at all levels.
Follow-up after the conversion or change:
The third of the major planning functions is “Follow-up”. How many system conversions, procedural changes, mergers, re-engineering projects have obtained less than desired results? A poorly planned or executed follow-up is a recipe for failed conversion. All the measurement tools and benchmarks established during implementation have to be monitored to make sure employees do not return to their former patterns, work flow, or manual systems due to a lack of training or a technical issues.
Follow-up is like preventative maintenance. It is no longer a necessary evil and is the intelligent thing to do. A person of responsible charge should be assigned on an ongoing basis to monitor results, enforce routines, make adjustments, re-evaluate, tweak, and report . This person must have the authority to perform these tasks. The person responsible for this is the person accountable for the ROI.
Obviously, there is much more that could be written but it is not possible to create a single plan for each situation. However, it is possible to create the steps in such a fashion that the company acts a single unit when implementing change. Does it work? I would ask you to look at the new ventures that have been successful. Understand how their planning and flexibility enabled them to react to changing environments. Perhaps a little bit more of the entrepreneurial spirit is needed in larger companies.
The question is no longer “How to?” but “Who is conducting the orchestra?”
Previous blogs at: http://blog.theentrepreneursadvisor.com/
Have additional thoughts you would like to share. Please comment.