Managing Business Change and Transition
The Right Ingredients and Mix for Managing Change and Transformation
I have a cake statement (it’s actually more of a making cake statement and yes, cake) and a pithy statement – actually a couple of pithy statements, related to managing business change and transition successfully.
Change Management is like making a cake. You can have all the right ingredients but if you use them wrongly, use the wrong quantities or put them in the wrong order, you’ll likely end up with a shonky creation. It may or may not taste ok but it’ll certainly not be what you set out to achieve. Some processes are more important than others and some tools are indispensable, just as in making a cake. Some practices can all but guarantee success in change – like measuring can in cake making or using the right baking heat. I refer to these as key success factors.
Now, some large programs (a group of related projects) are akin to making several different cakes that all need to be perfect for the whole to be right, when combined in look, taste and texture, equivalent to function, fit and efficacy for example. If we 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 than other cakes. Some are simpler than others and a range of different skills are needed – whipping, sculpting in some, and not necessary for others.
But we still get cake, we still get the desired transformation from skillfully combining a set of inputs and using a range of skills and tools to deliver the desired outcome.
I live and breathe project management and program management, and maintain a blog about what managing business change and transition should look and feel like, but if you are just getting started, this page attempts to give you quick info that’s not too exhaustive and tiresome but gives a flavour of the what and why.
Organisational change is the backdrop to change management. A Project management structure allows us to define parallel and phased workstreams through which a parcel of the deliveries that constitute the change can be created.
It is s a change delivery methodology that enables the crucial dimensions of programme deliverables to be S.M.A.R.T. Read more on Project and Programme Management here.
To be more serious for a moment. When I am asked this question, depending on my mood, I have been known to answer that it is ‘the process of trying to manage the responses and resistance that people exhibit while you try to change all that they may even need you to change but don’t want to actually go through’. This is the essence of managing change of any kind. It’s not definitive, but it’s nonetheless instructive. Nobody, well very few people, like change. They like even less formulating a response to it. They hate having to implement the change, more so when 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’s true.
Drop me a line with your pithy statement on what change management is! firstname.lastname@example.org. While I wait, here are some more pithy, formal and authoritative statements about what change management is.
I love this one from Smarp, simply because the definition includes both the concepts of business transformation and transition which many don’t. Now Business Transition is my thing, my passion. Good Transformation doesn’t get done without mucho focus on it. OK, pithy statement alert!
‘Change management is a systematic approach that includes dealing with the transition or transformation of organizational goals, core values, processes or technologies.’
To this, I add, that there is a proven, myriad cannon of tools, structures, templates, methodologies and an ethos around ensuring that the desired outcome is in fact delivered. To which I further add, that it is focused on the change, management and modification of the behaviour of people whilst undergoing change and methods to do this in ways that do not demoralise or alienate your people (staff, stakeholders, suppliers, even your customers). Change management is the ultimate people management exercise. Their 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 a sustained period of time, so successfully managing business change and transition lies in how well the people side is managed.
Smarp nails it 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.’
For one simple reason. There are people who rush headlong, heedless into the unknown. That’s not most people. The majority of people don’t like change and they resist it with all their might. If they could they would bite you to resist it. Seriously. They see it as threatening, displacing even replacing them and their anchors or crutches, and sadly, in many cases, it does. Transformation very often leaves nothing untouched. That is literally the purpose of transformation.
When people don’t like change, it creates fear, worry and deep discomfiture in them but what if you could make it something they run to and relish? Ok, ok, what if you can’t do that exactly but 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. This is accomplished through the project business transition process, which is the critical link between execution, implementation and cutover for change adoption.
Stress. Distress. The business is strained, capabilities are stretched, profits are reduced, people are leaving, the systems aren’t fit for purpose and the business if not yet in distress can see that high risks exist that real issues will arise. This is more of a cocktail situation (I also love making cocktails), and not just because of the stress but because the 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? Check it out.
Honestly, with the rate of change is happening all the time, and the crises that propel ever greater need for change, I think there aren’t many businesses that can avoid some business transformation initiatives and change management of some stripe or other. It is needed now to stay competitive, effective, efficient, relatable, relevant and survive or thrive.
– Do you need new tech, systems platforms? Well, guess what? You may need to change a bunch of processes.
– Do you need to provide data to a supplier, as a regulator, a customer all with different structures for that data? Guess what? You will need a new operating model, new roles and responsibilities for data validation, structures, standards and security.
– Do you have huge amounts of data with a high volume and variety? Guess what? You need a Big Data transformation and that will need changes to other systems and will give rise to all kinds of integrations and functional changes you have not envisaged.
– Do you need a new collaboration tool that is both internal or external?
– Do you need to change the frequency of your reports and your ability to respond to enquiries in a much shorter space of time than you have before, that requires an enormous crunching and consolidation of data from a thousand sources but currently have no systems and processes to do that?
– Have you just a huge internal or even external crisis that may have affected the whole world but has had a massive impact across your business and the business model needs to change?
– Do you need to standardise a core process across all of your organisation in different locations?
– Do you have huge amounts of data with a high volume and variety? Guess what? You need a Big Data transformation and that will need changes to other systems and will give rise to all kinds of integrations and functional changes you have not envisaged.
You get the idea. It can be tough but it needn’t be insurmountable, awful or wasteful, when the right approaches for managing business change and transition are adopted.
What are Change Management key success factors? Some sage change Management big wigs have made some pithy statements explaining it, a little like the one below.
Change Management is like making a cake. You can have all the right ingredients but if you use them wrongly, in wrong quantities or put them in the wrong order, you change them from their original states incorrectly and you could end up with a shonky creation….
Ahem. Moving swiftly on! I’m serious not just about managing change successfully but about serving people and the clients who commission transformation programmes, I evangelise robust end to end business transition management, which enables managing and transitioning change that sticks. Business Transition is the primary factor for managing change successfully and it compounds the effect and power of the other key success factors of change, i.e the factors that facilitate change adoption and sustainable change outlined below:
A) Business Transition B) Visionary Leadership
C) Attitudes, Behaviours and Collaboration to drive change
D) Align change and brand strategies
E) Skilled Change Management Expertise
F) Target Operating Models G) Diverse Teams
H) Sustainable Teams.
Read the full article here. Managing business change and transition is ultimately about benefits delivery and sue attention and care to these factors will get you there.
So what makes change management work? Why does it fail? What can we accomplish with it? Why am I writing about it when so many others are doing so? The short answer is Business Transition. The important process of Business Transition Management should be a key part of your business’ change process. It deals with how employees are helped through consigning their As-Is process to the past and helping to design the To-Be process and adopt the future state processes and systems, in relation to the change to their own roles. Business Transition Management helps to reduce the stress in the process and disruption for everyone.
Business Transition actually refers to a) Personal Transition – how the change affects individuals and how dealing with this with efficacy and sensitivity influences and facilitates b and c – b) Project Transition and cutover of new systems and processes to Business as usual c) Business Transition to the newly defined target operating model and how people are equipped to adopt new technologies and ways of working. Actions in this regard directly translate to the extent and success of change adoption, and addresses new roles and responsibilities in the business architecture, equipping and skilling up people for these new responsibilities, whatever form that may take as well as an influential narrative that determines how the employee perceives their new position. This helps with managing loss of colleagues or any structures or strictures they psychologically rely upon.
The transformation is required because, in order to reach the goals that will get your business where you want it to, you’ll need to change your processes, your IT, your ways of working and even mindsets, though this latter sits squarely in the bailiwick of change management with regard to taking people along with you on the change journey and making change stick.
Transformation can be to any and all of systems, IT and Tech, operations, processes, people, tools and platforms and operating models to position your organisation to implement its business strategies and attain its competitive and brand positioning vision. Transformation rarely arises in benign environments or circumstances. There is usually a driver, which may internal and external but will generally be because the organisation needs to be better in some way and needs to raise capability to do that. Common exigencies are regulatory, legal. Technological or those brought on by competitive threats and mergers and acquisitions.
Examples I have worked on are regulatory-driven projects in banking transformation to enable banks to produce reports of varying periodicities to for example give a daily snapshot of their liquidity ratio, which involved a holistic transformation of the finance space. From the reporting platforms and tools used, the actual process and responsibility for compiling and validating the reports and so necessitated an entire operating model overhaul and standardisation, wholesale IT and technology chain and data taxonomy and schema changes. This change was across a function of the Bank, like Finance and Treasury, but some changes would have been bank-wide, like Windows upgrade which was huge but it can be seen that the behavioural change and the emotional and psychological effects of this change on the people in the organisations are totally different, and so the Windows upgrade was legitimately a project management exercise but may not be seen as a transformation from a strategic change management perspective.
Find out more about Business Transformation.
There are 8 Key methodologies is the area of Change Management and some version of one or a combination of two or more are used to deliver change projects all around the world or as a basis for developing proprietary or tailored models.
Read more about effective methodological approaches here.
Here’s some refreshing information that will put power into your change process – follow best practices that prioritise and incorporate transition management for value realisation in your change program. Optimal practices prioritise everything to do with your organisation’s people that the change will impact the most closely, and other stakeholders. The easy equation is that the Best Practice Change Management = Best Practice People Management because it just solves so many problems, stops so many issues from arising and means that planning for transition and change adoption with people at the center is a massive risk mitigation strategy.
Putting Business Transition at the center of the business transformation sphere ensures that you are taking a 360 degree risk and action survey of all parts of the change project in advance of cutting over to the future state, which is when so many change programs start to fail because that is when reality hits for the first time. Testing and Transition are indivisible, in this regard for assuring the sustainability of the benefits delivery your change projects are supposed to be delivering.
The infrastructure for managing change is an important consideration for successfully managing business change and transition and must be structured but flexible, enable decision making but allow transparency. A large number of the transformations that businesses will undertake in the coming years will be digital and brand transformations or a mixture of both and so clarity on software that allows collaboration between the client organisation and their transformation partners, as well as within the project teams, will be critical to smooth transitions.
There are several tools out there to help your business from start to finish in change delivery, from planning, preparing, tracking, reporting, monitoring and resourcing your change initiatives. A few examples follow.
If you are a small business or professional services firm undertaking a moderately complex transformation and requiring integrations, Cloud-based FreshService is a contender as they integrate with a great range of apps and of course Slack and Amazon Web Services amongst others, as well as Freshbooks and Quickbooks, of particular interest to SMEs. Functions include workflow approvals, reporting capabilities and release and incident management modules.
If you are looking to go it alone, don’t mind eschewing some integrations and a larger organisation, Whatfix is a possibility who serve a wide range of sectors. They claim to guide your team through the relevant processes and quite importantly from a change adoption perspective, claim to increase the rates of adoption of new software. Whatfix change management guides stakeholders through the change processes and helps to increase adoption rates for software products without the risk of productivity gaps.
Intelligent Service Management helps businesses plan, execute and rollout changes using best practices, with an ITIL Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) change management function.
A project’s macro environment has implications for its success. Your change project is a short term construct in an established larger environment, albeit one that may change, so the parameters of your project environment and its constraints and opportunities for your project, should be identified using the PESTLE (Political, Economical, Social, Technological, Legal, Environmental).
Political factors include stakeholder considerations, policies, power and affiliations that may affect project sponsorship plus any reforms or wider changes your sector is undergoing.
Economic: Budgets are notoriously volatile in projects and projects can be closed abruptly if forecasts rise significantly even if reasonable and wholly expected. Changes in the market for human resources or for particular skills can change the OPEX profile considerably. Macroeconomic considerations have been responsible for the premature closure of many projects, keep an eye on macroeconomic when there are economic shocks.
Social factors are cultural norms in your particular location and other locations, especially if your business has offices in other countries and the prevailing attitudes of that country as they affect the culture of your offices and employees in that country.
Technological factors force you to look at the technological and legacy landscape both within the organisation and on the horizon that may impact on any software and system business solutions that your project seeks to build or implement. Technical constraints also matter – the bandwidth and infrastructure to accommodate, effectively run your solutions, as well as opportunities for automation?
Legal and Regulatory environment so that regulations and rules by which your industry sector or business must comply, if not already a driver must be planned for and incorporated.
Environmental factors include your geographical locations and prevailing conditions there that may affect your plans for timing and resources which are significant enough to incorporate into the master plans.
Being in business means being in competition, being in the spotlight, being measured against your peers against 100 different parameters In today’s competitive landscape, which means it is just crucial not only that your project actually achieve the full billed benefits of the change exercise but also that it is sustained. All actions must be driven by and mapped to the benefits your change program is supposed to be delivering.
When your organisation invests or plans to invest in change projects, how can you be sure that you will fully deliver the benefits were set up to realise. Benefits delivery happens when value is realised from the various and integrated initiatives of the transformation program to fulfil the expectations of set business objectives whilst reducing and mitigating exposure to risks. Stakeholders’ expectations must be mapped to common and agreed business objectives, actions to realise them and ways to measure achievement.
Using an integrated framework to achieve your transformation with business transition and people change management at its core are instrumental in realising the full benefits of the program.
Many projects run at great cost fail to deliver on value realisation and benefits delivery because risks are not optimised and there is not a common understanding and agreement of the project’s benefits, and how it will be measured. Focus whistles down to how the job is done at a micro-level and it can be forgotten when one is don in the weeds, why exactly the work is being undertaken in the first place.
Examples of project myopia or misplaced priorities are:
Designing, developing and implementing new solutions to critical business problems and the transitioning the attendant new process can be intimidating and prove challenging. Clearly defining business requirements and getting the design, process and schedule right, can make all the difference. Taking an end to end view from inception to post-closure benefits realisation can help maximise the value realisation and the ROI of your project.
Solutions development is how problems are solved and ways are found to take advantage of technology to do more and greater things through software development and digital transformation. The solution may need to be accompanied by a change in operational and functional processes and the way that business architecture is defined.
Solutions should be driven by people and how they would use them and should incorporate the concepts of usability, highly functional as well flexibility, intuitive to use and provide full autonomy to the user within their defined roles. Work with people who can help identify opportunities for automation and efficiencies.
Solutions development has three key components.
Change Management skills to identify the gaps and challenges and determine what the business case is, the requirements for the solution and how to plan and project management skills to estimate, monitor and implement the project, using an accepted methodology.
Sponsosrs and stakeholders – people who can speak to the problem and willing to sponsor the change required to remove it, normally the leadership of the teams most impacted by the issues.
A development team hired by the change/project leaders to design and develop the technological components of the solution and test it.
Evaluating the functionality of the solution to validate that it meets the requirements of the business case is a very important step and is known as testing and quality assurance.
It’s a process that spans the entire solution development lifecycle, where analysts verify that the requirements raised map to the problem statement and business case and at the next steps, that the designs match the requirements. This verification mindset is extended to when solution components are ready through aggressive testing at unit test level, technical and system integration testing and system tests, Each layer of testing delivers a layer of confidence and lacquer of legitimacy because it separates the solution developers from those who challenge, assure and prove that it is fully, intrinsically fit for purpose at a deep technical level but also coordinate tests with users and dress rehearsal TOM integration dress rehearsals as part of business transition.
The objective is always to try to break the system by ensuring that all envisaged paths of use work but that also scenarios that may not have been envisaged can be handled elegantly.
It makes everything else work, no doubt about it. Or not.
Great leaders and managers of change understand one thing – people are central. Prioritise people, clarify their roles, communicate the urgency sincerely and consistently and you massively increase the chances of a successful project. The change imperative is often driven by the understanding that things need to be done differently in order to effect a situation conducive to the company’s prosperity and such an undertaking requires a huge amount of coordination, dedication and teamwork.
Despite the billions spent on big name consultancies, change programs have been proven to fail a whopping 70% of the time. As we outline in Best Practices and Success Factors, leadership without vision and communication can miss the mark. These matter simply because they concentrate on how to get into people’s attitudes, behaviour and their ability and willingness to collaborate. Even those who are not natural communicators can learn how to better communicate and their inherent interest in people and their welfare can still make itself felt in a way that is positive. The People Side of Change is the most critical part of making transformation work and good leaders and change managers really understand this and work hard to get buy-in and participation from staff.
It’s well known and understood that diversity and inclusivity change the game in organisations that pay more than lip service to it because they perform better significantly. This is just as important within a change organisation and inclusivity and using cross-functional teams is a bedrock not only of an effective team with great team dynamics that reduce the risks of toxicity and bullying, it also gives a better chance of having high performing teams that deliver better outcomes. A business transformation process is a great opportunity to create and foster a culture that values and grafts in people from a more diverse background, both from a background perspective but also from a socio-ethnic one because it has been proven this can lead to stronger business performance. A culture that values inclusivity is more likely to learn lessons and make gains in paying attention to diverse and less authoritative voices when managing change resistance and the feedback loop.
Teams made up of and enriched by different kinds of people in terms of temperament, presentation, personality and confidence. People who are introverts or naturally quite quiet, for example, must still be heard.