Did you drive to work yesterday? If you drove, did you have to think about the route you took – which corner to turn at, whether to go right or left? Probably not. You know the way. You are comfortable with that way because it doesn’t take a lot of effort. It may not be the best route to work, or the shortest, or the most efficient, or the fastest. But because it’s so comfortable, you keep using it.
The same applies in business. An organization is structured around core processes that operate to achieve an overall business strategy. The current state of the organization is the way things are now. The trouble is the way things are now may be historical – retained long after they cease to be the most efficient or the fastest ways simply because no one has bothered to update them. Everyone may be aware that the current state isn’t the best it could be. They just follow the established process that they know and understand – they have no wish to disturb the status quo. It’s only when, say, customers begin to take away their business because of the organization’s lack of efficiency (i.e. when problems meeting delivery dates occur) that someone takes notice.
At some point – perhaps when the directors start complaining because profitability is shrinking and costs are going up – someone with enough authority to do something about it says, “Find out what’s going wrong. Figure out what our situation is.” Then the people who are assigned this job, the change agents, start to do an analysis of the way things are. They would find it helpful to look at the current state from the following four angles, which we will consider in turn.
- Structure: Is the structure of the organization at the heart of the problem? For example, does the difficulty lie in the chain of command up through the organization – who reports to whom? Or is the structure too centralized (or decentralized)? The technology used by the organization is also part of its structure. Does the problem lie here? For example, has the telephone system kept pace with the organization’s growing needs? Are the computers (and their software) outdated? Is other essential equipment, such as machine tools, constantly breaking down and affecting productivity levels?
- Process: Is the way in which work flows through the organization efficient? Do bottlenecks occur anywhere and slow down the workflow? If one item on a customer’s order is out of stock, does it delay the delivery of the whole order?
- People: Do people in the workforce currently have the competence, experience, skills and knowledge that they need in order to carry out their tasks properly?
- Culture: Is the culture of the organization, the beliefs of the workers regarding the work, the customers and the business in general, determined to succeed? Do these beliefs cause people to behave in ways that hamper success?
A close analysis of the structure, process, people and culture will tell you a lot about the current state of the organization. When you pass this information on to the employees it will make it much easier for the people who will be most affected by the change to understand why things need to change. Then they will also appreciate the possible consequences of not changing and the reasons why the current situation cannot be allowed to continue.
If you’re able to give people a clear picture of where the problem lies and how bad it is, you will help them make an informed decision whether or not to support the change or resist it.
What might you learn about the current state of your organization if you applied an approach like this?
Harmonize change in your organization with our new free ebook. Download it today!
I recently had the opportunity to host a panel of Executive Sponsors brought together to share their experiences, insights and challenges related to being a sponsor of transformational changes going on in their organizations. The members of the panel represented companies of a variety of sizes, locations and functions, yet when they shared their experiences related to managing change, they described many of the same challenges as well as outcomes.
Whether we are aware of it or not, change is difficult for all organizations, and I thought it might be of help and comfort to others to share the common concerns and questions voiced at my event a couple weeks ago. Stated as questions, they are:
How do I…
- …ensure everyone has the same understanding and interpretation of the Future Desired State?
- …make certain the organization understands the priority of the change?
- …hold my direct reports and the entire organization accountable for making the change?
- …consistently reinforce the Future Desired State whenever I speak or make a decision?
- …convince the organization the change is necessary and important to the future?
- …decide and communicate the positive and negative consequences of deciding to change or not to change?
- …provide the resources and budget to make success possible?
- ..accept responsibility as the ultimate individual accountable for successful change or failure?
This is an excellent list of important and critical responsibilities all aligned to the success or failure of any change.
As Executive Sponsors, leaders must be in front of the change at all times. They must be the architect, the designer, the engineer, the implementer, the ambassador and the advocate. Most importantly they demonstrate through their words and actions that they understand the change and the impact it has on the organization and the individuals. They must be empathetic and supportive of the reactions and emotions of those impacted and assure them that they are valued employees. They need to seek out the help and support they need to be effective sponsors of change and lead the organization efficiently and effectively into the future.
I encourage Executive Sponsors of change and Change Managers to consider these questions above.
Do you know how to answer these questions? If not, seek guidance and counsel to make a plan and take control of your change.
Harmonize change in your organization with the help of our new ebook - click the image below to download it for free:
Like an orchestra without a conductor, an organizational change that lacks (or has weak) strategy and tactics, can sound, feel and look like singular instruments playing out of sync with each other.
Good Change Managers know how complex the change process can be. They also know how complicated it can be to set the right strategy into motion, using the right people and resources, at the right time, deploying the right communications, and in concert with each other.
So in our first eBook, we’ve pulled together what you need to make music out of the disparate tunes from your change objectives including 5 essential strategies and 7 must-do steps to harmonize change in your organization.
In this eBook get insights on how to:
- Build ROI into the change investment
- Use a proven change model or methodology
- Ensure the sponsors of change are aligned with the change methodology
- Do a comprehensive assessment of which people will be asked to change
- Build a comprehensive stakeholder map from the bottom up
- Be both organizationally and target-focused
Download 5 Essential Strategies & 7 Must-Do Steps to Harmonize Change In Your Organization today and get what you need to engage your employees and targets to march to the beat of your change drum.
The organization that is able to change will survive. The organization that can’t (or won’t) will die. It may sound harsh, but this idea isn’t new. After all, it is the foundation behind Darwin’s theory of evolution. To change is to endure. Business leaders have understood this principle well.
Over the years, researchers and business people alike have tried to create a formula for how to implement change successfully within an organization. Through their exploration, they got smarter. They gave hard and serious consideration to HOW to make changes happen and their answer…to manage those changes.
Their efforts had overwhelmingly affirmed what their own experience was telling them:
R = Qs x A. Results = the quality of the solution they decide on multiplied by the acceptance level of the people affected.
We all know that a key to the success of any change is whether or not the people who had to change chose to change or fight it.
If they chose to resist, that resistance results in:
- Loss of key people who cannot or will not make the transition
- Wasted investment
- Stress costs
- Damaged image in the marketplace
- Lesson learned about how change is managed: “Don’t trust the process.”
The cost of that resistance can be measured in:
- Cost over-runs
- Lost market opportunities
- Market share erosion to competitive forces
- Reduced productivity
- Stock valuation fluctuation
- THE ULTIMATE: Project write off
The risk of failure is always great, if you leave them to chance.
There are many perils associated with change resistance. Other than just surviving, what are the tangible benefits to success you see, if you were to make some changes?
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Most every acquiring company today recognizes the importance of culture and people and builds analysis of those elements into their due diligence and integration processes. However, the percentage of companies still showing a poor return on the investment has not significantly improved and the horror stories continue. So if people and culture are not the problem, what is? Is there something still missing?
Change: The Missing Variable
While attention to people and culture is important, companies determined to grow by merger or acquisition are not paying enough attention to the fact that this is a major change for both organizations. If the acquiring organization has been thoughtful about people and culture and still experiences conflict and resistance in the integration, perhaps the reason is that this is a change. The solution: change management.
You have heard this before: change management is critical. Many of you are trying to address it. Too many organizations, however, believe change management is communication or that the attention they are paying to culture and people is change management. The truth is these are all integral parts of the change management process. Change process: those are the key words. Managing change is a systematic process that requires moving through a series of action steps to predict and address the risk caused by potential resistance. It is a disciplined process that must follow a logical set of actions.
Follows these five steps – twice! - during a merger or acquisition: once during the due diligence process and once in the integration process.
- Identify the change: Determine the major issues in each stage of change, including the current state, the desired state and the delta state
- Prepare to change: Identify and assess the key stakeholders, including the sponsors, change agents and targets, and assess the degree of risk and the cost of change
- Plan the change: Design the change systems, including the communications, learning and reward system
- Implement the change: Build the change strategies and tactics into an overall change plan
- Sustain the change: Watch, measure and adapt as the change is changing
Merger and acquisition teams who recognize the full spectrum of the change process have a significantly greater chance at a successful integration.
What steps are you missing in your merger or acquisition?
Don't wait to assess your risk. Take our free Change Risk Assessment today and get the strategies you need to lower that risk.
When successful, change management projects can move a company forward into new and stronger competitive positions. However, like all changes, these projects are not always successful or, when successful, that success is not always sustained. Some projects are even so difficult to implement and sustain that the Six Sigma Black Belts question whether the project was worth the effort.
Every change strategy comes with its own levels of risk, and we’ve pulled together three essential tools that we find work well together to minimize that risk:
- Communication Plan: A communication plan must be built on the information needs of the targets. Targets want to hear from their management cascade, not just from the change agents. This plan should include multiple media, should begin at the very outset of the program, continue throughout the implementation and provide communication methods by which targets and sponsors can stay in touch as to any problems and progress.
- Learning Plan: The second tool, a learning plan, is usually well addressed by the Project Team and provides insight into how the lack of skill or knowledge or experience could potentially cause resistance and enhances the development of the plan.
- The third tool for risk mitigation is the Reward System – a tool that isn’t always taken advantage of. After providing sufficient information about the need to change, the description of the improved state, and after demonstrating the ability and willingness of the change sponsors and change agents to change, there still may be populations who resist the change. To reduce that resistance, the Project Team needs to build a system of rewards for each target group. That way, if the targets chose to change, they’re rewarded. And if they chose not to change, there are negative consequences.
What’s your experience with risk mitigation? How might one of these plans you mitigate risk the next time your organization goes through change?
Don't let your risk get out of control. Download our Free Change Risk Assessment today to ensure you stay on track.
We’ve all been there. It’s time for another change and the first thing on our mind is that we want it to be successful. We’re asked a lot, “What makes change stick?”. And as you know, even with the best strategies in place, ensuring change is successful is easier said than done.
But there are some key things you can do that when followed, ensures the outlook is bright.
There are 5 critical factors that affect whether or not change is successful. Make sure you:
- Understand that change is a process: Change is a process, not a discrete event. Managing that process requires "unfreezing" the present state, managing the transition state, and "refreezing" in the desired state.
Hold sponsors responsible for their role: Everyone knows that senior management must be behind a change for it to be successful. But what does that mean? Senior managers must learn how to Sponsor change. They can't just be committed to the change, they must be obsessed by it. They cannot tolerate anyone in the organization who does not support it. They must communicate their support constantly, both publicly and privately. And they must change the reward mechanisms to be sure that new behaviors are rewarded.
- The Desired State: Clearly defining this state is a critical first step. The strategic vision defines the desired state. The vision must be clearly understood by everyone in the company. What is the change and what are our goals? Equally important, everyone must be able to translate that vision into a picture of their own area and what it will look like when the change has occurred.
- The Current State: Once the Desired State is defined, we can go back and begin to systematically unfreeze the old way. Even when the end result of our change is highly desirable, it is not easy to give up the old way. It's comfortable, it’s predictable, and it's easier. We can't expect that agreeing to a change is an automatic guarantee that it will happen.
- The Delta State: The Delta State is where the changes occur, where new definitions and new behaviors are defined, where people learn how to do things the new way. The Delta, by nature, is uncomfortable. The ambiguity and uncertainty create a high degree of stress and productivity drops. People want to do things with higher quality standards. They may be very glad the company is making this commitment. But that doesn't mean they change easily. In this stage of the change process things cannot be done the old way, but the new way is not well established yet.
Analyze resistance factors and decrease them: People don't resist the concept of change. But they do resist the impact of the changes on the way they do their work and the way they think about themselves in relation to that work. Successfully introducing change means assessing what those specific changes are (and why), who needs to change, and what the sources of resistance will be. Then you can build a plan to address those resistance factors and reduce them.
Build an environment that supports the change: The environment or culture builds up over the life span of a company. The change cannot be successful unless old behaviors, beliefs and unwritten rules that guide today's actions are analyzed to determine which ones to keep and which ones to replace. The current environment is strong because it's been around for a long time. To get rid of undesirable behaviors, beliefs and unwritten rules carefully, study that history and even more carefully, plan the change.
Develop skilled change agents: To implement change people need to learn what it is and procedures to introduce it. But people also need to build the skills of change management. The people who are responsible for change must understand the change process and know how to build a comprehensive implementation. Eventually, lots of people in the company become change agents and things need to be done differently.
These change agents have to integrate the technical and the human elements of change into a single Implementation Plan. We can't settle for a high degree of technical competence only. We must demand that aligned with the technical know-how is the understanding of what happens to people when they must change.
So how are you feeling? You’re probably thinking change takes work, and you’re right! Rome wasn’t built in a day and changes don’t happen that fast either, because they require time and skill.
Given these factors, which one or two, if you honed in on today would help ensure your next change sticks?
Are you undergoing change? Assess your risk for free today with our Change Risk Assessment.
When it comes to leaders being sponsors of change, we’ve learned a lot over the years, both watching those who’ve done it well and those who haven’t. And in that time we’ve identified 7 key lessons that will help any be a stronger sponsor of change.
Leaders of course need to be focused on the organization, but also on the key stakeholders, and their needs throughout each phase:
#1 – Clearly Address the Stages of Change
Targets of change need to know:
– Why change is necessary and no longer viable
– What the future holds and how they fit in
– How you plan to support them during the transition
#2 – Provide Clear Definition of the Future
Targets of change need:
– Terminology that makes sense to them
– Clear definition of your “vision” statements
– Measurable goals
– To see where they are in the picture
#3 – Address the Dip in the Delta: Leaders need to accept the inevitably of the delta dip, whether in a measure of productivity, or quality or customer satisfaction or whatever key measure may be impacted. What you can do is adjust the change or its implementation to absorb that dip. And let the Targets know you recognize and have a plan for the dip.
#4 – Consistently Gain “Target” Perspective: Targets may not be able to easily recognize why their feeling of frustration and even fear exists. Give them a framework within which to analyze and assess their feelings and an opportunity to articulate their resistance
#5 – Choose a Change Approach: Directive, Facilitative or Collaborative: The approach used in the change is determined by the level of urgency, not the inherent management style of the leader. Leaders have to be able to operate in all three styles to ensure success in different types of changes.
# 6 Know the Difference Between Sponsors and Change Agents: Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the sponsors and those of the change agents. A good starting framework may be…
Make it clear that resistance will be addressed
Systematically identify the target populations and the sources of potential resistance
Commit the resources that are required to reduce the resistance
Systematically identify the actions required to reduce the resistance and build the plan of action
Do the communicating
Write the speeches
Provide the rewards and reinforcements
Determine what those need to be
Be very careful not to delegate your role as a leader to the project team, the change agents.
When starting the project be sure to clarify the unique responsibilities of each role with the change agents.
#7 – Establish a Governance Model: Multiple change initiatives can be overwhelming and gaining alignment and support are critical as you integrate project management with change management.
Remember, managing change requires commitment.
Managing change well and performing the sponsor role well are changes. Leaders need to understand the change process and their role and be willing to make the changes required in themselves and in the organization.
Are any of these lessons familiar to you? And what might you add to the list?
- Rick Rothermel
Ensure your change programs are successful. Assess your risk for free, today!
Each change – whether in the beginning, middle or even end stages – comes with its own level of risk. And it’s important to know where you stand at each phase to ensure you’re managing for success.
Many organizations find themselves scrambling to better manage their changes when they realize the risks their running with under-performing or failing change programs. And a lot of people look for a “quick fix” for projects that do not deliver on schedule, run over budget, and/or cause chaos and frustration in the workforce and in the Board Room. But practicing good change management is often the secret weapon to success.
So whether you’re at a critical point in a change or about to embark on a new one, now’s the time to identify if you are already doing a good job at managing it or if you need to consider a new approach.
Take our free Change Management Risk Assessment. By downloading the assessment, answering 10 questions and averaging your score you’ll be able to determine where you fall on the risk scale:
- 80-100% Your score is strong and your risk is low.
- 60-79% Your score is adequate and your risk is moderate.
- 40-59% Your score is weak and your risk is high.
- 0 –39% Your score is insufficient and your risk is significant.
Based on where you land, you’ll get the tips and strategies you need to succeed.
Don’t wait. Get the Change Risk Assessment today to ensure you’re on track for a successful change tomorrow.
A great deal has been written about the impact leadership can have on employees’ decision to change or not to change. And leaders have had too many experiences with failed changes not to be sensitive to this reality today. They often, however, encounter three main problems:
1. They can’t imagine why anyone would resist
2. They don’t know when they are not being good leaders of change
3. They don’t know what to do to be a good leader of change
So let’s dive in...
1. They can’t imagine why anyone would resist
Business leaders are paid and entrusted to make sound decisions that are right for the organization. When those decisions require organizational change, why would people want to resist? Why wouldn’t they just fall in line and adapt?
Leaders have to focus on the change from the perspective of the people that are most impacted by it, which, for many leaders can be difficult.
2. They don’t know when they are not being good leaders of change
Too often leaders aren’t aware of the fact that employees don’t have the information and support they need. One reason for this is that they are often isolated from any agitation that employees might be feeling regarding the change. Leaders may even go home at night confused and frustrated. Why isn’t the change going faster? What’s holding it up?
Nobody is telling them what specific resistance issues are being generated for which specific groups of people. Why not? First, there is no systematic way to gather that data and assess the resistance sources and to what degree. And second, many organizations have a culture of filtering out bad news. By the time it gets to senior management, the hard data is sifted out and only vague generalities are left.
3. They don’t know what to do to be a good leader of change
Leaders need to not only be effective business leaders, but effective change leaders as well. Undoubtedly, it takes a concentrated effort to be a good sponsor of change. It is a skill to be learned. The single most important lesson to remember is that resistance to change makes sense from the perspective of the individual who is impacted. The ability to see the change from that perspective is key to good change leadership.
Being insulated from organizational issues that are impeding change is one of the top issues leaders face.
What can you do to ensure that the right information (both the good and the bad) is being delivered to leaders?
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