Change management is an approach to transition individuals, teams, and organisations to a desired future state. For over three decades, academics, managers, and consultants, realising that transforming organisations is difficult, have avoided the subject.

My Way or the Highway

Major organisational change is profoundly difficult because the structure, culture, and routines of companies often reflect’s persistent and difficult-to-remove ways of working, which are resistant to radical change even as the environment of organisations change.

What started out as a financial buzzword in the early nineties has become fundamental business practice, with executives recognising the need to keep abreast with the competition in a rapidly developing corporate new world.

Navigating change

Globalisation and the constant innovation of technology result in a constantly evolving business environment. There is an ever-increasing need for Change Management Lead’s / Senior Managers who can help organisations successfully navigate change in today’s business environments. The focus of this movement to date has been on how to partner with organisations to define education, training and communication platforms that help to support the change initiatives and concerns of company employees. The critical aspect is a company’s ability to win the buy-in of their organisation’s employees on the change initiative.

While a project team is important for success, a senior level advisor is invaluable and can work with an organisations leadership team to avoid common pitfalls that change management projects often fall into. There are four key areas where an Advisor should act as this resource as follows:

1. Defining A Strategy 

Executives should start by asking themselves what exactly needs changing and why? Organisational change directly affects all departments from entry level employees to senior management and must be aligned to a companies strategy. Too many programs are heavy on the jargon and light on the substance. Executives are often sold on an idea only to realise as the change initiative begins that they need a different outcome, tool or process to be successful.

In this situation the strategy for change needs to be re-aligned with the organisation and its goals.

An outside senior advisor with a unique perspective of the organisation will play an important role in helping an executive to explore and shape the strategy they are defining and highlight whether it will truly create the outcomes they desire. This upfront partnership can save money on the back end of a project, by avoiding costly re-scoping of initiatives.This relationship between senior advisor and executive should therefore begin as early as possible in the process.

2. Coalition Building

Its important to give people multiple opportunities to share concerns, ask questions, and offer ideas and to make following up with answers and updates a top priority. Executives must reach out across their functional work streams to build a large cohesive team to support the project once the correct strategy has been set and the urgency for the project has been established. A good senior advisor will be able to guide an executive though these interactions.

As a senior change management professional, it is important that you help leaders of the organisation craft the correct message. While leaders often know what it is they want and see the urgency for themselves, the outside view that a coach provides can support the development of a team around the initiative and help to navigate the strategic and political interests in linking the change to the interest of multiple team members.

The more people are involved in the process, the fewer will be acting as internal saboteurs.

Communication Is Key to Successful Change Management

3. Communication

Don’t confuse process visioning, planning and endless powerpoint presentations with communication. 

Change is uncomfortable, and adapting to change is messy. A Gantt chart can not capture the hard side of change management. Why? Because tasks are easy to list, but behaviour and long-held habits are not easy to change. Gather outside information, solicit perspectives, and adapt the approaches for your organisation and group.

The importance of communication within an organisation around the change cannot be underestimated.   Executives often fall short on communication in two main areas, not communicating the right message and not communicating it frequently enough across an organisation. It is often thought that everyone else in the organisation is on board and understands the change, however, the reality for an executive is not the reality for another worker who may have lost a job because of a well intended change initiative. A senior advisor can apply consistent pressure to the leader of the change around the need for communication and its messaging.

Quantity Is Fine, but Quality and Consistency Are Crucial

4. Share Relevant Information Quickly

Most CEOs and managers are quoted as saying, “You can’t communicate too much,” Part of the communication will be the support the urgency in messaging.   “My way or the highway” is often used, but is not an effective communication strategy.   Senior Advisors can work with executives to tailor their message to each area of the organisation in order to define content that is important to them.

A study by Towers Watson shows that “only two-thirds (68%) of senior managers say they are getting the message about the reasons behind major organisational decisions. Below the senior management level, the message dwindles further to (53%) of middle managers and 40% of first-line supervisors understanding reasons behind major organisational change.

The forwarding and cascading of information does not work as consistent communication around the change will be necessary at all levels of the organisation using a variety of communication pathways and vehicles. As a trusted advisor it is important to encourage executives to lead by example in both their messaging and communication of the change agenda.

Only 25% of Change Management Initiatives Are Successful over the Long Term

Maintaining The Change

Many leaders and managers underestimate the length of time required by a change cycle. It is paramount that as the change effort reaches its completion that leaders of the change recognise that the process does not end there.   The role of a Senior Advisor will be to guide them to the idea that work must be undertaken to maintain the change over time. Maintaining change does not mean that an executive must own the initiative forever, just that they take the necessary steps to ensure that change has a lasting impact by integrating the change into the corporate culture and measuring the benefits and highlighting areas for future improvements.

The outside unbiased view is that a Change Management Lead is crucial to the success of a change management program.

This article provides food for thought rather than counsel specifically designed to meet the needs of your organisation or situation. Please use it mindfully.