We've been helping organisations manage change for nearly twenty years. We've consistently found that delivering change through workforce transformation programmes can be complex.
Operational processes touch different functions, teams and systems right across an organisation and all of these areas can have different plans, priorities and agendas. Individuals themselves can have different agendas!
When we talk to companies, particularly those where we've been brought in to help turn things around, we hear that effective change management has often been overlooked.
The expectation was that the systems implementations were going to fix things and that the operational processes would somehow slot in along with them. Maybe the budget increased and the change activity got scaled down leaving users unprepared for process or culture improvement. Make the programme just didn't want to feel the push back so only communicated with those would support it in the first place.
Whatever the reason there are many organisations who continue to feel that change management is a "nice to have" rather than a necessity. As a result they miss the opportunity to fully identify and minimise issues and risks associated with transformation. They miss the chance to provide clear communication with their employees.
Why change activities fail
Successful change management need a robust strategy. You need to understand why you want a change to take place and what the expected outcome will be and who it will impact. Many change management activities fail because details were overlooked or the team wasn’t properly equipped or given sufficient time or tools to be successful.
Sometimes we see change initiatives being underpowered compared to the overall programme. Programmes can tend to be a bit of a moving feast - a greater amount of resources and time is needed to achieve success than was initially expected. The initial plans and budget had an overly optimistic view of the work needed and the integration and implementation workstream got ever more complex. Many change initiatives have failed because of an underestimated scope or a lack of time or change in priorities as resources have been diverted onto delivering the technical components of the programme.
The way that change is communicated is often just as important as the implementation itself. It can be easy to work within a bubble on a change programme and think that just because you have planned some communications activities that the message is getting out. In reality the change messages need to be reinforced, repeated, tailored and repeated again! It’s crucial for managers at every level to be closely aligned and to be fully aware of the reasons for the change and what it means to them.
A lack of buy-in from senior stakeholders can easily derail a change initiative. If the senior leadership team isn’t buying into plans for change, those plans won’t likely get far. If senior leadership are on board but not middle management and team leaders, a change initiative is likely to have implementation challenges during its delivery.
Many change management initiatives also get more push back and resistance from staff than was perhaps originally expected. Perhaps lessons haven't been learned or included from previous programmes. Perhaps there are other factors and cultural issues at play. Resistance can be turned around into action but it will need insight, time and resources.
Why is change overlooked?
There are many reasons. From our experience change can get overlooked because of one of many of these reasons:
- A lack of understanding of what a good change initiative looks like
- An expectation from management that change can be delivered as part of business as usual only
- An assumption that individuals will change because they have to or because they are told to
- A lack of understanding of the business culture - i.e. assuming that the change won't be difficult
- A lack of resources (people, financial, time) or resources being spent on other areas of the programme
- An assumption that change is something that is delivered during a project or programme and never as part of an enduring improvement
- Too little time given to the change activity to allow it to be successful
What do about it
Re-positioning change management in your organisation may require a better understanding of what change looks like. Your stakeholders might need to be better informed or educated about the important role that change provides.
Thee may be a need to demonstrate that change chan exist around and outside of a particular project or programme. Ultimately its goal is to move to a future state that is better than the current state. Focus on these improvements and how effective change management can deliver benefit.
Demonstrate that change isn't a 'one size' approach. It's about individual behaviors, processes and workflows and needs to be sized to the needs of the individuals impacted.
Keep measuring the change activity and demonstrating outcomes. Think about measures such as the speed of adoption of the change, the audience impacted or the improvement in ways of working following the change activity.
Get the right tools. Sure this can be software tools to make things easier but it could also be training, support and mentoring for your community of change individuals in your organisation. Consider forming a community of practice around change management and work together to shift the dial so that change understanding is improved across your organisation.
Get more help
Consulting is the backbone of Leadent Digital; it’s where we started and it underpins all the technology services we offer too. For us, it’s about really understanding the customer’s process and priorities, and making feasible, value-adding recommendations for field service improvement.
Implementing change in the field is more challenging than in a traditional working environment; lone workers, process workarounds and fractured communications can all lead to poorly adopted processes. We have the tools, techniques and experience to embed the change and make it stick.
We can help you - reach out and let us know what we can do to support your next change programme.