If your organization doesn’t change it will probably do one thing: atrophy. It’s not sustainable to remain the same - do that, and you’re writing your own obituary.
Like it or not, change happens. The world, people and technology change and organizations need to maintain their vision and mission to succeed. Indeed, the concept of having a purpose, a business case and a strategy demands that you change.
What’s the problem with change?
In the past five years, I’ve seen companies miss the mark on tailoring best practice by layering them on top of each other and not integrating them within their own vision and mission. Sounds more like a Band-Aid when framed this way. In reality, the “Best” practice is rarely done; instead, the recognized best practices become inspiration for tailoring a practice suited for the culture, context and content of an organization.
Adopting best practices without first balancing the unique qualities of an organization with the practices it has in common with others will fail to produce the enduring benefits we are trying achieve.
For example, a company talking about change might decide they want to capture multiple changes within a ‘major change’, so they create a new process to do this. Seems harmless on the surface, but the new ‘major change’ process may conflict or subvert other established processes, like project management.
If a change is ‘major’, using project management processes may be beneficial. When a ‘major change’ is also strategic - having a significant impact on achieving organizational goals - involvement of the executive board is likely, insuring investment and value are within acceptable tolerances. This is most likely a project and will benefit from PRINCE2® processes.
The problem with recognizing a need for change is first understanding the change and then applying appropriate behaviours to manage the change.
Strategic changes: building the future
Organizations need to make strategic changes in order to fulfil their mission and objectives. A strategy needs developing in order to be clear about what’s important to get the company to where it wants to go. Ultimately, it’s about moving towards the future.
But this where the challenges begin, as every part of an organization has its own day-to-day concerns to balance against the higher level corporate strategy. And where departments haven’t understood the corporate strategy there is room for misalignment.
Companies often have plans on paper but haven’t mobilized their people to make the connection between the plans and what they are expected to do. Therefore, business leaders need to make their strategy a reality accompanied by certain rules of change and behaviours in the best interests of the company.
Sharing the vision
Executives must ensure the organization is pointing in the right direction. They are, metaphorically, at the front of the bus and can see the vision; what they need is everyone on the bus with the same vision, which is equally one they can begin to believe and buy into.
But the company needs both the faith and investment from its people without having to tell them what to do every step of the way. People need to participate fully in the journey and be the source of ideas rather than just followers. This fits well with PRINCE2, MSP® and MoP® principles of cascading responsibility through an organization with the right checks and balances to effect change.
What if people think change is too big?
Often, people are scared of change, do not understand it and fear it will take forever or be too complex. For the average worker doing something different can mean rocking their world.
This is where agile concepts can come into play: the change management system, with its portfolios and projects, can be broken up. Agile “epics” are a way of organizing strategy for the company and can aid in establishing programmes to help bring new “features” to the company.
Features deliver through one or more “releases,” which is a cycle of projects that deliver outcomes through a series of prioritized time-boxed sprints. This cadence eliminates a great deal of non-technical complexities that often distract delivery teams and helps in focusing small teams on producing outcomes tied to the strategy. Using agile concepts in a way that makes sense for the implementation team means the company can begin to realize change through an iterative process.
Top Tips for change management
- Look at how you need to operate within the culture and sub-cultures of your organization.
- Bring common sense back into the picture.
- Start looking at change from an enterprise mind-set: see organizational change, operational and strategic change as integrated rather than separate processes.
- Speak in the language of the department/team and allow them to operate in their languages.
- Use your process to translate strategy, plans and progress up and down the business.
If you’ve got change right you’ll find people talking about change more positively and rooted in the future: you’ll hear “we are working toward that target in the next release” rather than complaining about the problems of today or contemplating the future with a sense of dread.
With people working towards a common future, you can expect them to be more organized; chaos becomes almost beautiful with people artfully working within it. Successful change really is an investment strategy, producing results to meet the organization’s vision.
And don’t forget: if you’re comfortable, you’re not changing.