*Full disclosure – I love change management but I also love cakes and cocktails and making them, so **food features a lot in my posts because I prefer pretty pics of food to ‘officey’ ones, especially as I do indulge in food analogies for change management activities and initiatives.
Change Management is like making a cake – results can be variable in both, so success in your change management initiatives really rely on good practice and good change management. Having all the right ingredients but using them incorrectly, in the wrong quantities or adding or mixing them in the wrong order, could mean you end up with a shonky outcome. It may or may not taste ok but it certainly will not be what you set out to achieve. Some processes are more important than others and some tools are indispensable, just as in managing change. Some practices can all but guarantee success in change – like measuring or using the right baking heat can in baking. I call these key success factors.
Some large programs require making several different cakes that all need to be perfect for the whole to be right. If you think of these cakes as individual benefits the program delivers then it is easier to live with the analogy. And so, some cakes must be made before others are and some are made differently and with different processes to other cakes. Some are simpler than others and different skills are needed – whipping, sculpting in some, while not all are necessary for others. But we still get cake. Yay! So you’ll get change, but will it be palatable, tolerable and bear any resemblance to the vision and business case? Will it have been good change management?
Why Change Management?
The transformative power of good change management is a big part of why I love this discipline, as well as the interdependent nature of the transformation with how your brand is perceived.
What is Change Management?
I am often asked, ‘What is Change Management?’. When I haven’t answered, ‘it’s like cake, obviously’, I have been known to answer, that it’s, ‘trying to manage the things that people resist most in their working lives, mitigate their resistance and responses to trying to manage all of it’. It’s not definitive, but it’s instructive.
Nobody likes change. Well, very few people anyway. They like even less formulating a response to it. They hate having to implement the change especially if it feels imposed, even if they understand the case for it, especially if the impact of the change relative to the benefits personally isn’t a net positive. It’s not a pithy statement, but it is really what change management is. Drop me a line with your pithy statement on what good change management is! firstname.lastname@example.org. Hopefully, it stands to reason that good change management is about managing these responses and avoiding these pitfalls.
Let’s check out some formal and succinct definitions about what change management is. I love this one from Smarp, simply because the definition includes both the concepts of business transformation and business transition which many don’t. Now Business Transition is my thing, my passion. Good change management doesn’t get done without business transition.
Change management is a systematic approach that includes dealing with the transition or transformation of organizational goals, core values, processes or technologies.
I add the following qualifiers and determiners:
- that change management employs a proven canon of tools, structures, methodologies and an ethos that helps to ensure that the desired outcome is in fact delivered.
- that good change management, distinct from the project management process, is focused on the management and modification of the behaviour of people whilst undergoing change, with methods to do this in a way that does not demoralise or alienate your people (staff, stakeholders, suppliers, even your customers).
- Change management is the ultimate people management exercise. People participation and compliance is the single biggest arbiter of the success and rate of progress on your project. Change management projects are contrived, artificially high pressure, constant flux situations over sustained periods of time. Good change management projects reduce the burden of anxiety and uncertainty on people, making stakeholder management and business transition a priority.
Smarp nails this again
The purpose of every change management initiative is to successfully implement strategies and methods for effecting change and helping people to accept and adapt to change.
Why does Change Management Matter?
The majority of people don’t like change and they resist with all their might. If they could they would bite you to resist it. Seriously. They see it as threatening, displacing even replacing and sadly, in many cases, it does. Transformation very often leaves nothing untouched. That is literally the meaning of transformation. So when people don’t like change, it creates fear and worry but what if you could make change initiatives something most people could run to and relish, and if not exactly that, what if you could take most of the sting of the fear and distress out of it? Well then, positive emotions can prevail, there can be better participation, greater engagement and collaboration in your business’ change management activities. That is the purpose of change management. Good change management tries to makes that happen.
Why and When does the Need Arise?
*Disclaimer: Reminder of full disclosure above, specifically regarding cocktails.
Ok, so what makes businesses undertake change management?
Amongst other pressures, stress and distress. The business is strained, capabilities are stretched, profits are reduced, reputation is suffering, people are leaving, the systems aren’t fit for purpose and the business faces high risks of these things happening. The competition is riding high and pushing forward based on their transformation and action can’t be postponed.
This is more of a cocktail situation, and not just because of the stress but because timing and matching the right (flavour/type of !)tools to the right problems play a huge part. Plus, having just added the words ‘stress’ and ‘distress’ to the conversation, the thought of a cocktail is refreshing, no?
Seriously, with how much change is happening all the time, and the crises that propel ever greater need for change, there aren’t many businesses that can avoid change management of some stripe or other. It is needed now to stay competitive, effective, efficient, relatable, relevant and survive and thrive.
Examples of situations that make companies undertake change management initiatives and business transformation are:
- A need for new tech, systems or platforms may mean you need to change a bunch of processes.
- A need to provide data to a supplier, a regulator and customers, all with different structures for that may necessitate a new operating model, and new roles and responsibilities for data validation, structures, standards and security.
- Huge amounts of data that need transformation and load for use in new platforms but which have a high volume and variety will need a big data transformation with changes to other systems. This will give rise to all kinds of integrations and functional changes you may not have not envisaged.
- A need for a new collaboration tool that is both internal or external, to change the frequency of your reports and your ability to respond to enquiries in a much shorter space of time than before that requires an enormous crunching and consolidation of data from a thousand sources but currently have no systems and processes to do that?
- If you’ve had a huge internal or even external crisis but has had a massive impact across your business and the business model needs to change?
- A need to standardise a core process across all of your organisation in different locations.
It can be tough but it needn’t be insurmountable, awful or wasteful. Your ambition should be to ensure that when you decide to jump in, you aim to have a good change management process, that focuses on taking your people along with you –
Nobody likes change.
They like even less formulating a response to it.
They hate having to implement the change especially if it feels imposed upon them….