Following on from our last blog about trends in change management, I’m sharing the top three change management related resolutions that I’ll be encouraging clients to add to their list of business objectives for 2019. I’ll be advising clients to:
- Make the most of informal communications and employee engagement, plan for it to happen
- Create a plan to develop, or further develop, your organization’s change capability
- Elevate your change practice from the project to the portfolio level
Here’s what I mean by those three things.
1. Plan for the Informal
I’m not going to point to any books or theories to explain this point, this comes 100% from personal experience. I would argue that one of the key differentiators between organizations that change effectively and those that struggle to change is the degree to which informal communications happens between key leaders and sponsors, and their stakeholders.
As a junior employee early in my career, I didn’t crave a town hall with my executive talking to 100 of us at once to hear his perspective on the latest and greatest transformation initiative. However, I relished the time he took to sit with us at lunchtime or grabbing a coffee and hanging out in the cafeteria so that I could directly bend his ear and get his perspective on what mattered to me. That guy, and it’s a real-life person I am thinking of, wasn’t just a social butterfly with too much time on his hands. He worked from early in the morning to late in the evening, his calendar was as hard to get on like any other accountability laden executive. What he did, very effectively, was plan time into his calendar to just go and interact with people, casually, informally and very openly.
Either just for yourself or perhaps as an initiative with your colleagues on your leadership team, try this approach for a while. Set aside time in your schedule to just go hang out with your employees, talk to them, share your perspectives on the latest changes and listen to their feedback. You’ll get more out of 30 minutes of this than you’ll get from 4 hours of scripted presentations or town halls.
2. Put an Organizational Change Plan Together
I am not referring to a plan for executing change management activities on a project. I mean put a plan together for how your organization is going to develop its change capability. There’s no escaping the need to help your people cope with change, probably like most organizations you’re already dealing with it constantly if you’re not then it’s coming.
I’d counsel all organizations to have a look at this issue, ask yourself how well your people actually cope with change and what structures or resources do you have to help them?
Take a look at your project portfolio and think about what the impacts are going to be on your employees, how often will something be changing for them, how severe are these changes going to be?
I suspect that in many cases if you can be truly objective about this, you’ll be shocked at how much your people have to cope with.
You don’t have to hire an army of consultants to do this. You probably have some bright people in HR or Operations or your PMO who can do much of this exercise; if you need to, then sure, bring in an expert for a few weeks to help guide the work and bring an objective perspective.
Putting a plan together to improve your capability doesn’t have to mean a huge investment as plans can be executed at your own pace. The most important part is having a plan to develop your capability, whether that’s a 6-month, 2 years or decade long plan is secondary to just moving the needle forward on this issue. You are far more likely to stay ahead of the competition and realize the value of all those projects your organization undertakes every year if your whole business gets better at the people side of change.
3. Elevate Your Change Management
I mentioned this in the trends for 2018 and 2019; we’re starting to see more and more organizations recognize that just looking at change impacts on a project by project basis is not enough.
Having a structured approach to change management and dedicated resources on your projects is still necessary and can, if done right, help those individual projects rollout more smoothly, with better adoption and faster benefits realization.
What happens though when you are delivering two projects at once, or ten, or let’s face it as many organizations do tens and hundreds of projects at once? Each of those projects will not be completely in isolation of the others, impacting an entirely different subset of your employees. More than likely, your employees are involved in or are impacted by, multiple projects at once.
So, who’s looking at the people impacts of all those projects stacked one on top of the other? That tiny impact from project X might be nothing in and of itself, but what about when it’s compounded by another small change from project Y and a major change from project Z?
In these cases, it’s often leaders who are left scratching their heads wondering why employees are up in arms about a low impact project, or why a straightforward like-for-like system replacement has taken months to bed down. It’s likely not just because of those projects but because that same group of employees has been hit by project after project after project and they are reaching their limits from a change saturation and resilience perspective.
So, I counsel you to broaden and elevate your change management perspective. Introduce change management at the program and portfolio level and satisfy yourself that your organization is not, despite best intentions, accidentally pushing so much change out that your people are struggling to cope.
What change management resolutions are you making for 2019? If you’re perceiving change initiative in your organization, contact WCI for a personalized solution.