One of my Prosci colleagues, CEO Scott McAllister, asks business leaders who report experiencing unprecedented change if they have an established approach for budgeting, hiring, ramping up new clients, marketing, and process improvement. They always say “yes”.
His next question often gets blank stares. He asks what common approach they’re using to address the people side of their important changes. I see the same issue in the Hunter and other parts of Australia.
Establishing an enterprise wide change capability is still a blind spot for many leaders. The consequences can be significant.
Scott points out that value comes not from what gets built, but from what gets used. That may be OK if organisations fail fast and learn lessons. But many organisations don’t have a culture that supports this thinking. As a leader your role is to ensure employees impacted by change are able to adapt to change rather than blaming them for failing to implement change.
An enterprise wide, rather than a project based, approach to change management is key. Investing a smaller amount of resources up front is better than wasting more resources on failed change management. Here are Scott’s tips for growing change capability:
1. Appoint a sponsor. Research shows that sponsors are the number one driver of change success. Appoint and name one senior individual who has authority, influence and courage to be your change management sponsor.
2. Select your first change initiatives or projects wisely. Instead of starting with sexy, multi-year transformation projects, look for highly visible projects that give you runs on the board.
3. Don’t “train” the senior leadership team on change management. Frame the need for your senior people to be change management sponsors and supporters as a need for change management training and you’re dead in the water. Frame change management for what it really is: an accelerator of business outcomes.
4. Clarify the role of leadership. Sponsors can fall into the trap of assuming everyone is informed about change management as they are. They assume employees will embrace their views from one email. A sponsor and other leaders need to build awareness of why change is necessary, champion the change, and walk the talk in supporting change.
First published in Fairfax Media 14th March 2019