Workplace Change – it’s all about people

There are two big mistakes leaders are making as they ready their organisations to adapt to an increasingly fast paced and ever changing business environment.

They forget that it’s really people who change, not the organisation. Secondly, they think of change management as a one off event rather than an ongoing and continually evolving process.

Changes can appear organisational but the reality is that change only occurs successfully when the people within the organisation change. If they’re resistant to change or unaware of what’s happening and why then it’s unlikely the new initiative will succeed. Yet, many organisations press ahead with the technical steps without engaging those who will ensure its success – their workforce. They also leap into the training phase prior to ensuring their workforce is primed to embrace the training.

There are a number of considerations prior to building the internal skills capability for any change. Asking these questions is a good starting point.

  1. Does your workforce understand the context and purpose of the change, including  the risk of NOT changing? One email is not enough.
  2. Do you anticipate support or resistance? What would encourage greater support?
  3. Are your leadership team engaged and ready to deliver a consistent message?
  4. Is your workforce capability a match for the changes taking place? Do they have the appropriate knowledge and behaviours to support change? If not, how big is the gap?
  5. Have you allocated the appropriate resourcing, both time and funds, to ensure success?

The trap here though is viewing change management as isolated projects. You need to create a change culture as a step toward a broader change management process. That culture is important because change will be ongoing and different. It ensures your people are ready, willing and able to adapt. Specialist expertise (internal or external) to get that culture and change management process right from the start is essential.       

When change is well managed it has the capacity to deliver an ongoing return on the initial investment of time and money. Your workforce adapts more readily to give greater agility in increasingly competitive markets. The other benefit of a transparent and successful process is that it builds trust, further engaging the workforce to build greater resilience and enhanced change readiness for future change.

Research bears this out. According to Prosci, projects with effective change management are six times more likely to succeed than those with poor change management. They’re more likely to stay on schedule and on budget. Research by McKinsey showed that companies with the highest returns from change projects have the best change management capabilities. A 2014 IBM Global report showed the top 20 per cent of organisations identified as having excellent change management capabilities, reported at least 75 per cent of projects as a complete success. A 2012 report by PMI says organisations with higher-than-average success rates for projects have higher-than-average adoption of organisational change management practices. 

Is it time for a (cool) change in your business? 

This article was first published by Fairfax Media

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