Organisational transformation is necessary to keep up with changing business landscapes, economies and market disruptors. But the process is hard. Once a strategy is in place, getting alignment across stakeholders and ensuring processes have the required uptake across the business is a new challenge. We asked Change and Project Manager, Linn Øhman, to share her insights into creating a process that sticks, drawing from her years of experience in change, business consultancy and strategy & operational improvement.
Change management has a strong correlation with business performance
The ability of a company to change in the face of constantly evolving circumstances dictates its long-term success or failure. The companies that are quickest to adapt are the ones that recognise the value of incorporating change management into their very foundation. The IBM “Making Change Work” survey of 1500 professionals from companies of all sizes - across 15 countries and 21 different industries - found that projects with a dedicated change manager had a 19% higher success rate compared to those without. Change enhances viability, and companies that were more successful in managing change delivered higher revenue growth.
People are at the heart of change and their involvement is paramount
Effective and lasting change is not something that occurs through a one-way, top-down channel on an ad hoc basis. It should be a constant process; one that resonates through an organisation, sparked by empowered change leaders at all levels and propagated by feedback, engagement, and two-way communication. However, navigating the “change curve” is not always smooth sailing; it can be met with indifference and even resistance along the way. This is where a dedicated change manager can chaperone the process and bring it back on course when things drift. A successful business transformation relies on change managers cultivating a genuine motivation to change among those who need to operate differently to deliver the desired results. Employees who feel involved in planning and implementing a change are more willing to change – and by listening, engaging and debating, resistance to change is reduced. A good change manager, therefore, drives a project through the change curve, maintaining focus and meeting scepticism with resolute engagement to deliver results on the other side.
A model for change
Getting to practicalities, the ADKAR model sets out five sequential building blocks - all of which are needed to move people through a successful change and to increase their feeling of involvement:
Awareness of the need to change
Desire to participate and support the change
Knowledge on how to change
Ability to implement required skills and behaviours
Reinforce to sustain the change
Managing change in practice: top tips
You engaged in a current state assessment, you designed the ideal future state, you picked the right software and now you want to ensure all these changes stick successfully?
During my time as a project and change manager, I’ve realised one must focus on creating business processes that have staying power.
Here are my top six tips for making change stick:
1. Start change management activities sooner and align it with the project management methodology
Change management often seems to be ignored when organisations deliver projects. Whilst the project manager should primarily focus on the “what” of the change, the change manager should focus on the “who” and “why” of the change.
Change activities should happen throughout the life of a project. When the project is near completion and the benefits are about to materialise, it is imperative to liaise with the project manager and formulate a sustainability plan wherein you consider which activities will cease at the end of the project and which will be maintained and enhanced by the business going forward. Then plan for the handover and ensure ownership of these with the relevant staff.
2. Create and share a vision by painting a future state
Creating and communicating a crystal-clear strategic vision and agenda set the foundation for a successful project.
Once you’ve prioritised your change efforts and know where to start, inform employees and stakeholders of the change and the action, develop enthusiasm, and encourage involvement in the initiative. Develop a desire to support and assign change agents and champions across the organisation. Encourage employees to provide input to the change and create an action plan out of this to enable successful execution.
3. Keep stakeholders informed and engaged
Projects with strong support from the top showed 35% greater improvement after a year compared to those without support. A key aspect of strategy execution is to create deep commitment and alignment. Make sure benefits and the realisation of these are owned by top-level management.
4. Constantly communicate
Change sustainment requires ongoing dialogue and communication so that individuals understand why certain actions, processes and behaviors are expected of them. Educational efforts, coaching/mentoring and review and evaluation may help everyone in the organization understand the evolving impacts of change, ongoing efforts to sustain the change and the associated benefits.
5.Get people to buy into the change and make it relevant for the people affected
The key for getting buy in and managing change effectively is to communicate with employees and explain exactly what’s in it for them. How are their daily tasks affected, what needs to be done differently and what benefit can they expect from the change effort?
Shifting the paradigm from how work used to be done (the present state) to how work will be done (the future state) includes removing the tools and mechanisms used in the past that are no longer of value.
6.Institutionalise the change and focus on results
There are huge benefits linked to taking a portfolio management approach to change, such as directly linking the project output back to the organization’s strategic plan. Create an overview of the business’ planned change initiatives and create a benefits realisations plan which summarises the benefits to be realised over the coming planning period (typically over the course of a year). The benefits realisation plan acts as a baseline against which progress can be tracked. Implement ways to measure change activities, such as translating strategic drivers into KPIs for measuring performance and achieved changes in employees’ behaviour.
Evolution and change are necessary to ensure success. No matter the scale, change is something that requires a shared vision and a genuine drive to get there. Communication and engagement at all levels is essential to encourage and not stifle change. A dedicate change manager can help move a project through the change curve, from initial conception to making it stick. I hope my top tips for managing change in practice have been useful and that I’ve underscored the crucial role held by a change manger in agreeing, quantifying, and identifying benefits.
Change & Project Manager
Linn combines analytical thinking with people leadership. Linn has 10+ years of experience across International Development, Healthcare and Financial Services.
Linn is a Prince2 Practitioner with substantial experience in project & change management. She is an able partner with executive-level clients and stakeholder management related to Ministries and delivery of projects within both the private & public sector. During her most recent assignments, she has been hands-on implementing change in complex environments within fragile states and with the UK’s national response to COVID-19.