Colin D Ellis
Leadership | Culture | Success
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Change Management Is Not Just About Training and Comms

Change and transformation are topics that organisations talk a lot about but, in general, aren’t very good at. A recent SAP survey found that of the 84% of organisations that had started transformation initiatives in the last year, only 3% had actually successfully completed any.

One of the reasons for this is that senior managers get all excited when they’re pulling their business plans together about smarter, faster ways to do things, whilst at the same time forgetting that in order to achieve this, they have to stop doing some things and redefine the way they get things done.

Cultural evolution is frequently cited as the biggest enabler of successful change; yet very few organisations ever take it on, choosing instead quick-fix training solutions, restructures or funky office fit-outs.

However, every project undertaken – regardless of the method used to deliver it – provides an opportunity to move from one cultural state to another. You could be opening a new office, implementing a new policy or upgrading a technology system, whatever it is, there’ll be something new or different to use at the end and people have to be ready for it.

To successfully prepare your people for change you need to get a few things in place:

  1. A sound business case for change
    This will answer the ‘Why this? Why now?’ questions and provide a foundation on which the activity required to deliver the change can be built

  2. Public accountability
    An senior executive within the business who is prepared to throw their reputation and effort behind the activity and to ensure it delivers what was promised in the case for change

  3. A strong team
    Built at the start of the project, it works collaboratively to deliver value (as outlined in the case for change) as quickly as is possible to satisfy the customer need

  4. A strong vision and definition of the future state
    To motivate and inspire the team and ensure that those using the outputs from the initiative understand what’s required of them

  5. Clear unambiguous communication
    Not just about the activities required to complete the initiative, but also on the personal change required to achieve success.

Underpinning all of these human activities is the need for high emotional intelligence and a growth mindset and for too long we’ve downplayed the importance of these. In our continued rush to do more, the requirements of and impacts on people continue to be underestimated or simply not considered at all. 

If people don’t believe in the change, aren’t involved in it, don’t feel part of it or simply don’t understand it, it will fail. Similarly, if people get in the way of change and there’s no consequence for doing so, it will fail. 

And here’s where great change managers add the most value. 

They understand that cultural evolution requires a different level of energy and actively lead the team building work at the beginning of the initiative to ensure it starts with the right intention.

They work closely with those accountable and responsible for delivery and ensure that messages are delivered in a way that stakeholders understand. 

They help people move away from the familiar to the often uncomfortable ‘new’ way of doing things. 

They coach, mentor and remind people of the cultural evolution that’s required. 

They hold them to the required behaviours and ensure the right path is followed for those trying to stand in the way. 

They are realistic optimists and help people to see the positives, rather than telling them to be positive.

They are empathetic, honest, trustworthy, disciplined, resilient and they build influence across an organisation. 

They are, to paraphrase Matt Church from his book Amplifiers, Change Makers not Change Managers.

Cultural evolution occurs every day and organisations can utilise their change management practice to help them do this positively. They can, and should, do a lot more than training and comms.


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