Keeping Change On Track Bevan


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Keeping Change On Track Bevan

  1. 1. Seven core factors are key to counteracting the frequently encountered pitfalls to change management. Keeping Change on Track Richard Bevan I t’s rare to find a business leader who is not involved with planning or managing a change process of some in relation to a set of seven core factors typically present in successful change. Before reviewing those factors and kind. Whether major (a plant shutdown, the questions we will briefly consider the merger, installation of a new IT system) or nature of change within organizations on a smaller-scale (engagement of a new and the reason that—more often than leader, sales force reorganization, new not—the process doesn’t run entirely compensation plans), change can raise smoothly. questions and concerns, present opera- tional challenges, and impose demands Why Is Change So Often a Challenge? on time and resources. The cost of man- The characteristics and processes that aging the process may increase greatly predict effective adaptation to change if attention is diverted from day-to-day have been defined and described by work with customers and prospects. many leaders, researchers, writers, and We often see significant changes educators. At its most basic, effective implemented with scant attention to management of change requires leaders identifying and addressing the challenges to be very clear about the purpose and it may create among those involved, the the process; seek input and information questions it will raise, and the issues from those involved and affected; deploy and needs it will generate. As a result, sufficient resources to manage the transi- many change efforts stumble, and some tion without losing focus on day-to-day fail entirely. For example, Peter Senge business processes; and maintain an states that two-thirds or more of total effective multi-directional flow of com- quality management (TQM) programs munication and information. and reengineering initiatives fail.1 John The attributes are straightforward, Kotter noted that few of the companies he readily implemented, and perhaps studied were successful in making major considered self-evident. Most people changes to their ways of doing business.2 manage change continually: at home, A simple series of questions will in recreation and volunteer activity, and enable you to assess quickly where the at work. They have an intuitive under- process is going well and where it might standing of what needs to happen if need strengthening. These questions change is to move forward. Even if they assess the status of the change initiative haven’t consciously thought about or4 The Journal for QualiTy & ParTiciPaTion April 2011
  2. 2. documented the principles, they do what makes For example, change rarely succeeds withoutsense. They consult people, discuss the alternatives, a clear awareness of purpose and process. Peopletry to anticipate and plan around the obstacles, need to understand why the change is needed, howadapt their plans as needed, get on with it, and it will be accomplished, their role in the process,address issues and challenges along the way. and what it means for them at an individual level. Yet when organizations implement change, thesestraightforward needs are often missed. The intent Case History: Anticipate the Issues andand the broad strategy get the attention; the details Plan the Responseof execution are forgotten. We repeatedly see change A medical-equipment company was expand-initiatives within organizations stumble and some- ing quickly by internal growth as well as throughtimes fail entirely. We see participants in the process acquisitions. The announcement about consoli-who are unclear about the purpose, the impact, and dating into a single new Midwest plant (fromtheir role. We see insufficient resources assigned several locations in the United States and Mexico)to much-needed systems changes or to prepare or raised many questions and concerns across thetrain people for new roles and behaviors. We see organization.managers and supervisors unable to respond to Would people lose their jobs or face reloca-questions and concerns from their teams. tion? How would the organization retain expertise If the core needs are well known—and perhaps and apply it in the new plant? Was the changeeven intuitive—why does change within the orga- motivated by cost reduction and, if so, what othernization so often present such challenges and run approaches were explored? What impact wouldinto difficulties? Part of the reason is that leaders this have on production cycles, product lines, andand sponsors of change initiatives already face development teams? How would this affect paya heavy workload and multiple initiatives and and other conditions?activities. They rely on the so-called “memo and A transition steering group was asked to developconference call approach” and assign far too few the implementation plan. As the leader com-resources to managing the process of transition. mented, “There wasn’t much source information Significant change calls for proportionately for us. The board made the decision based on asignificant effort and resources: for planning, com- presentation from the planning team. They talkedmunicating, training, and many other activities. In about industry economics and financial implica-some cases, and especially where there is resistance tions but didn’t get into the implications for theto the change, the process of persuasion, engage- organization and our people—how we wouldment, and adoption calls for continuing time and actually get this done. And the rationale hadn’tcommitment from managers at all levels. Initiating been summarized in a clear and concise way.”change will likely create a complex and extensive The team interviewed key executives for briefset of issues, questions, and unresolved concerns. outlines of purpose, rationale, process, and imple-These, in turn, create the need for a continuing mentation steps. They conducted research amongand demanding process of explaining, discussing, employees and other stakeholders (including cus-persuading, and planning. tomers) to explore and understand their reactions Many years of working with change provided to the planned changes and the implications.opportunities to generate a substantial list of the The resulting database of questions, issues, andpotential pitfalls. We have also seen the tactics, ideas provided the raw material for developingstrategies, and processes that provide a positive responses and action plans. The implementa-effect and enable change processes to succeed. tion plan was built on this foundation, includingThese inputs suggest a framework of characteristics activities to address training needs, manageror attributes that can guide successful management support, alignment of reward systems, communi-of change. Of course, no single element in this cation programs and processes, and many otherframework—or even several of them—can guar- actions in support of the change.antee a successful outcome. The absence of even The research jump-started planning, identifiedone will certainly lead to difficulties, and absence major issues to address, and clarified priorities.of more than one will cause the challenges to grow It provided a clear starting point and foundationexponentially. for implementation planning. Follow-up research 5
  3. 3. in specific areas and functions evolved into a key change-management tool. Webinar: A Fresh Look at Some of the Pitfalls Managing Change Change is often imposed without advance It is ironic that most of us know intuitively assessment of the issues, questions, concerns, and how to manage change—be clear about pur- ideas of the stakeholders—those most involved pose, listen effectively, involve those affected, and most able to influence the outcome. Yet and communicate continuously—yet some- if questions remain unanswered and concerns how many change initiatives falter or fail. unaddressed, employees may be distracted and In part, it’s because attention is paid to the distressed. This carries a high potential cost. How strategic need for change, and the broad often have we experienced the frustration of deal- solution; but too few resources are applied to ing with a distracted employee in a business execution, to actually getting it done. providing a product or service? Very often, a poorly In this webinar, the author of Changemaking: managed change process lies behind that negative Tactics and Resources for Managing Organizational customer experience. Change will provide background on the chal- Even if change efforts are well planned and lenge of change, set out a simple framework executed, those involved and affected will ask to guide planning for change, and provide questions and analyze purpose and implica- ideas and guidance about how to deploy it. tions. This is especially true if they haven’t been Richard Bevan will also cover the following involved in the planning. “They never consulted topics: me,” is a common refrain, and it will slow down • Insights into the reasons change efforts the process and create challenges and additional succeed or fail. workload for line managers. Acknowledging the • Approaches to assess the status of a change level and nature of concerns and questions and initiative that is in progress. building a degree of involvement can also pro- vide insight and information about how best • Key factors in successful change, including to manage the process. The energy and focus of strategic clarity, stakeholder engagement, employees, frequently encountered as a challenge and sustained communication. or obstacle, can be harnessed and turned into a To learn more about this webinar, go to powerful tool for change. Following are a few of the pitfalls that cause change to get off track: • Ineffective or missing business case: Managers opportunity to ask questions, offer ideas, or communicate a case for change that is unreal- engage in discussion about the changes. istic or incomplete; it isn’t readily understood. • Line management support not built: Line manag- Here is one of many areas where a robust, ers don’t support the direction and approach. concise business case document is invaluable. They share the uncertainty and concerns of • Costs not recognized: The costs of implementing employees and need to be informed, per- and supporting change are not planned for or suaded, and engaged. adequately acknowledged. Resources need to • Lack of insight into stakeholder issues: Leaders be allocated, workloads adjusted, and respon- assume they know what people think. They fail sibilities reassigned. to identify key concerns and obstacles. They • Systems not aligned: Existing processes and sys- need to listen informally, and at an institutional tems (e.g., rewards, training, and information) level, to the questions and concerns of stake- don’t support the new model. Change ripples holders and (most importantly) to their ideas. across many areas and functions, and these • Minimal involvement: Input, questions, and ideas need to be aligned with the new direction. aren’t recorded and documented. As a result, • Limited and one-directional communication: responses and tactics don’t reflect the needs. A Leaders expect to persuade and inform by one- continually revised FAQ document, available way communication. Audiences have limited online, can be of great value.6 The Journal for QualiTy & ParTiciPaTion April 2011
  4. 4. • Success assumed: Leaders make a premature the details were overlooked; maybe most of the assumption of success and fail to follow up, details; sometimes, all of them. In many change support, and drive continuing change. initiatives, large-scale and small, at least one of the Awareness of these and other pitfalls doesn’t core principles (and, typically, several of them) isensure success, but it does provide ideas about not followed.where change most often gets off track and oppor- Senior leaders often say of their employees,tunities to implement course corrections. Each “They’re smart; they’ll figure it out.” Yes, they arepitfall has a positive counterpart—a proactive indeed smart. They figure out that the directionmeasure to support and facilitate change. isn’t clear and the planning is imperfect. They discover that those leading the initiative, alreadyCore Factors in Successful Change Management committed to a heavy workload, have little time These seven factors summarize the conditions, to focus on the new task. They figure out that theyresources, and processes that support successful need a great deal more convincing that this is achange. change that warrants their involvement.• Clarity. Be clear and unambiguous about the The details are what make change work for purpose of the change, its direction, and the those whom it impacts most sharply. It’s hard approach. work to make a significant additional effort while• Engagement. Build a sense of ownership, belong- continuing to run a complex business, but there’s a ing, and commitment; consult with and involve high price if that effort is not sustained. Employees the people who will be affected by the change. get distracted and unmotivated; customers’ needs• Resources. Put the needed resources in place get ignored or forgotten; and questions, issues, (e.g., financial, human, and technical) to enable concerns, and distractions consume managers. the change. Change can happen without all seven core factors in place, but it’s likely to be difficult, expen-• Alignment. Ensure that systems and processes sive, and painful—for your customers as well as (e.g., rewards, information, accounting, and your employees. training) support the change.• Leadership. Guide, train, and equip leaders at A Simple Assessment Framework every level so that they display consistent com- The questions below can be asked and answered mitment to the change. informally, in a series of conversations or discus-• Communication. Facilitate an effective two-way sions with those involved, or more formally—for flow of information; be aware of issues and example, through an online survey of stakeholders. questions; provide timely responses. They provide a means of quickly assessing status and key issues, with the negative items offering• Tracking: Establish clear goals; assess progress a guide to where attention is needed to keep the against these; adjust and fine-tune as necessary. process on track. The set of factors listed here aligns with models At the least, the areas of concern offer directionand frameworks developed and applied by many for additional research and study. The data canwriters, educators, and leaders. These include John serve as a primary driver of planning. The issuesKotter2 and Daryl Conner,3 as well as Kurt Lewin,4 and questions you uncover in the research processone of the earliest commentators on change and will determine the activities (including communi-still fully relevant. The challenge doesn’t lie in cation, process support, and training) that formunderstanding the process, or even in putting your tactics for redirection.together an effective plan: it’s in putting the plan Following are the assessment questions—twointo action and sustaining the effort. for each factor, one primary and one secondaryMaking It Happen or follow-up—together with some examples of “Everyone knows you have to do these things” tactics that support positive a frequent comment when the elements of suc- • Clarity. Are the purpose, direction, and approachcessful change management are outlined. When defined and documented clearly? Are thesewe ask if those elements have been put into understood and accepted by key stakeholderpractice, it often turns out that perhaps some of groups? 7
  5. 5. • Engagement. Have you engaged individuals and • Distribute the summary. Use it as a platform groups who can influence the outcome by on which to build all communication (internal involving them in the process? If so, have and external) related to the change. you acknowledged their input and ideas and • Create a brief elevator pitch for managers— applied them to planning and action? what’s changing and how the transition will • Resources. Are needed resources (e.g., financial, be accomplished. human, and technical) in place and available? • Develop other tools to assist in the process; for Is a strong and effective team ready to lead and example, a brief PowerPoint® deck for execu- guide the change process? tives and others to use in discussing the changes • Alignment. Do systems and processes (e.g., with their teams. rewards, information, accounting, communica- • Provide managers with talking points and sug- tion, and training) support the change? Have gested responses to key questions. you identified, developed, and implemented • Maintain and manage the summary. Seek input needed changes to these systems? and comment; keep it current, accurate, and • Leadership. Are leaders at all levels of the orga- complete. nization involved in and committed to the • Provide online access to the current version and change? Do leaders and managers follow up enable input, questions, and discussion. on issues, provide guidance and support, and proactively manage the process? Leadership • Communication. Is clear, timely, and complete • Ensure that the primary sponsor(s) of the information available to stakeholders involved change (in some cases, and certainly for major in and/or affected by the change? Do these changes such as mergers or acquisitions, this groups and individuals have access to informa- may be the chief executive) is visible, accessible, tion and a way of providing input and feedback? and driving the process consistently. • Tracking. Are systems in place to assess progress • Engage leaders at other levels in planning and and identify issues to address? Are adjustments implementation; provide guidance and training implemented as necessary and is information as needed. continuing to flow? • Encourage leaders to promote behaviors and Tactics for Supporting the Change Process actions that will support the change. The responses to these questions will suggest • Implement processes and activities to maintain areas for action and perhaps offer ideas for some leadership engagement—for example, weekly of the actions themselves. Ideally, ask the ques- conference calls, regular e-mail bulletins, online tions in a manner or setting that permits responses forums, blogs and other interactive media, and that go beyond a simple answer to the question. planning-review meetings. For example, if they’re raised in a discussion led • Address concerns that leaders may have about by a team leader, there is an opportunity to ask their roles and responsibilities in and after the team members what ideas they have for facilitat- change process; provide guidance, tools, and ing, supporting, and driving the change. The result support. is that awareness of the change process status is complemented with ideas for addressing issues Manage Change Before It Happens and correcting issues and problems. Many strategies for managing change are not Every change is different, but some consistent proactive; they focus on the defined period when themes emerge. Following are just a few examples, change is actually occurring. These include the relating to two of the seven factors, of actions that phase following an acquisition, process redesign, can support and refresh the change effort. division-wide reorganization, or the response to a competitive threat. Such change management Clarity efforts often fall short of expectations in terms of • Develop and distribute a summary document to accomplishment and employee satisfaction. You drive clarity and serve as a reference source on can’t always create the core factors in successful the purpose and process of change. change at short notice: They need to be in place.8 The Journal for QualiTy & ParTiciPaTion April 2011
  6. 6. Change Making: Tactics and Resources for Managing Organizational Change Author: Richard Bevan Or it can be on a larger, even corporate-wide Abstract: This book contains scale, through meetings, surveys, social media, information that the author focus groups, or a combination of methods. If the developed during his years most important stakeholder group is employees, of consulting and teaching. ask them what they think about what’s happen- It includes guidance ideas, ing, what their concerns are, what they need and short case studies, and a vari- what they think should be done. You’ll learn fast; ety of resources. you’ll have answers to your own questions; and describes the change issues you’ll have the raw material for a plan to address addressed by Bevan, “It’s ironic that while most the issue, solve the problem, or lead the change. people know what conditions need to be in place And then make it all work through sustained for effective management of change, these straight- follow-up. Never assume that things will happen forward needs are often missed. The intent gets the as planned. Is the change working? What needs to attention; the details of execution are forgotten. happen to make it work better? What’s working The elements are simple: listen to the stakehold- well and what’s not? Assess progress; fix it; keep ers, learn about the issues, lead with clarity and listening, learning, and leading.” involvement, align systems, communicate relent- Publisher: CreateSpace lessly, follow up, and course correct. Consider ISBN: 978-1449969981 who will be most affected; ask questions and listen carefully to the responses. This can be on a Format/Length: Softcover, 224 pages small, local scale, through informal conversations. Price: $24.95 Change comes more readily to the organization 4. Kurt Lewin, Resolving Social Conflicts: Selected Papers onthat has: Group Dynamics, Harper & Row, 1948.• A clear mission and strategy that guides and informs the goals of teams and individuals.• Supportive leaders at every level who effectively engage, motivate, and communicate with their teams.• Employees who are engaged, informed, and involved. Richard Bevan Creating change readiness means managing in After early experience in manufacturing management,a way that encourages engagement, commitment, Richard Bevan worked for Towers Perrin (now Towersaspiration, and adaptability. A transition is far Watson) in Europe, Australia, and the United States,more likely to achieve success when the leadership including five years leading the firm’s worldwidestyle, work climate, and environment are already communication consulting practice. In 1995 he startedreceptive to change. his own firm, C2K Consulting. He was an external faculty member for the University of Washington ExecutiveReferences MBA program where he developed and taught a course1. Peter Senge, The Dance of Change, Doubleday, 1999. in managing change. He currently serves on the board2. John Kotter, Leading Change, Harvard Business School of advisors for ROI Communication and as strategicPress, 1996. communication adviser for Elliott Avenue Associates.3. Daryl Conner, Managing at the Speed of Change, Random This article draws on material from his new bookHouse, 1992. Changemaking. Contact Bevan at 9