6 top tips for change management

Posted on: April 26, 2011

It was with great delight, a couple of weeks ago, that I ran the first half day PM Forum training session for senior marketers on change management and leadership. It was an intense morning with so much to get through – looking as we did at changing ourselves, changing others and changing our organisations and then considering the core contemporary models of leadership.

Focusing on the changing of organisations, we explored a change management framework where the objectives, tasks, methods and outputs for each stage of the change programme (analysis, design, plan and implement) and compared various 10, 8 and 7 stage models from Harvard. For example, the modified seven stage model by Beer, Eisenstat and Spector comprises:

  1.  Mobilise energy and commitment through joint identification of business problems and their solutions
  2. Develop a shared vision of how to organise and manage for competitiveness
  3. Identify the leadership
  4. Focus on results, not activities
  5. Start change at the periphery, then let it spread to other units without pushing it from the top
  6. Institutionalise success through formal policies, systems and structures
  7. Monitor and adjust strategies in response to problems in the change process

At the end of the session, I asked the participants to identify the most valuable tools and tips discussed. Here’s their thoughts:

1.       Create and share a vision

This obviously requires commitment from the top and a strong link to the strategic aims of the business. Those who are leading the change programme need to earn the trust of those who they need to lead the change. Identifying key influencers and placing them in a “champion” role can speed up the process. Whilst most remember to “announce” a change programme, many forget that you have to keep communicating throughout it – and about successes and results as well as what still needs to be done.

2.       Use a framework

Change management programmes are often complex and comprise many elements. Sometimes the start, middle and end are unclear. Having an over-riding framework or plan which draws together all the elements and shows the big picture is helpful both to the architects and the implementers of the change.

3.       Produce a storyboard

Whilst most will have a plan, at the initial stages it helps to tap into creative thoughts by producing a storyboard of what should and might happen on the change journey to the final, desired state.

4.       Use force field analysis

Many people “sell” the change programme based on the benefits to the organisation, without answering the “what’s in it for me?” question at a business unit, department or individual level. At these levels it is helpful to explore both the forces supporting the proposed change as well as a systematic analysis of what forces (and their strength) preventing it from proceeding. For the professions, which are by nature risk averse, you must carefully consider the organisational and personal risks of failure and find ways to alleviate fears.

5.       Think about the individuals

As well as considering the champions it is important to consider those who resist the change – whether they agree with it or not on both a superficial or genuine level. Techniques such as reframing can help to understand individuals’ perspectives more easily and avoid “framing” them as problems. Furthermore, assuming (as you do in NLP) that all behaviour comes from a positive intent it is then possible to understand the reason for the resistance and what the individual is trying to protect. Another issue is that often people must consider what they will stop doing (or do differently) in order to find the time to undertake the new behaviours required by the change programme.

6.       Find time to support people

Whilst planning a change programme takes time, the major time commitment comes in helping those in the organisation understand the programme and adapt their own behaviour and that of those in their teams. This is often a long and ongoing process – changing attitudes and behaviours is not an overnight activity. Regular face to face communication, bite sized training sessions and a genuine desire to listen to learn in order to modify the programme are critically important. New methods of internal communication were also considered – and the power of social media was recognised in this role.

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