No one has ever finished a project and said:
“We really overdid the change management there”.
OK, so the above quote isn’t from a thought leader or a critically acclaimed theorist that I can properly cite, but instead a fellow (passionate) practitioner. He mentioned it whilst chatting at a networking event recently, and it really resonated with me. And it’s true! You really can’t do too much change management for something that affects peoples’ day to day lives.
But what if you get it wrong…?
Organizational Change Management (OCM) has fast become recognized as being at the forefront of any IT project or system implementation. OCM drives and embeds company culture, adoption of new tools and end-user satisfaction. It is made up of several all-important cogs that slot in with each other to achieve success, so if one of these cogs is delivered incorrectly or not present, the whole program is at risk. Read on for some of these integral, yet often forgotten, pieces that can pose serious threats to organizational change.
1. Lack of visible, executive sponsorship
My time in the industry has taught that one of the most important aspects of business change is securing active and visible sponsorship. This needs to be formed at the very beginning and strongly upheld throughout. Otherwise, without powerful leadership, users in the business are much less likely to take on new technology or culture changes.
However, this sponsor shouldn’t be just anyone – securing the right person to lead by example is instrumental here. If the project is mainly IT, perhaps try and avoid executive sponsorship from within the IT department – someone influential and removed from IT could be the perfect candidate. Sponsorship removed from IT then serves to showcase that the implementation is more significant than “another IT venture”, and encourages users to get more involved.
Executive sponsors at C-Level can be perfect, but make sure to keep them visible and communicative throughout. Regular catch-ups with them to maintain engagement should work, and a structured and easy-to-follow communications plan specifically for them will work wonders.
2. Forgetting about middle management
I’ve witnessed a few change projects where the team have been so active in securing and maintaining communication with an executive sponsor at the C-Suite level, that they’ve lost focus and attention on middle management. Middle managers really are the heart of the organization and the ‘red thread’ between top-level execs and the rest of the hierarchy. Employees look to their direct line manager for support, advice and knowledge, and so getting them on board is crucial for a top-down approach to adoption.
Exclusive information sessions and change forums would be ideal to engage them – perhaps even helping to set up some incentives for their teams. If managers feel as if they are being forced to change, a negative perception will filter down to their employees – make sure they know that they are an integral part in helping to drive the initiative!
3. Involving users too late
There’s nothing worse than people hearing through the grapevine that a change is imminent. This kind of rumor can do damage to the perception of the change, and is often wrong and focuses on the negatives. The more people that hear these ‘Chinese whispers’, the more ominous it sounds and the more damage it can do. By the time official communications are released, people have already made up their mind that the initiative is undesirable.
To avoid the rumor mill, start your communications plan as early as possible, and maintain transparency. If you haven’t fully defined the scope of the project yet, be honest! Announce that you are still in the planning phase and are excited to let them know about it. ‘Little and often’ communications are great, and the earlier the better.
To avoid the above-mentioned threats to organizational change and ensure that your change program is an end-to-end success, enlist the help of myself and the team at Arkadin to help manage the process, and secure the buy-in you need. Learn more about our service