Change is hard work. Those who don’t think organizational change is risky and problematic, should stop and put themselves in the shoes of those being impacted by the change. Considering multiple viewpoints is important to successfully managing change. In reality, the only way you can know just how difficult change is to the organization is to solicit honest feedback from all of the people involved during the period of change.
In my last blog, Leading the Change, we discussed how personal change can be — even if it is corporate transformational change. For most people, it still boils down to the individual consideration of “what’s in it for me?”
In this blog, we’ll discuss change competency. How well are we, as leaders, prepared to lead change? Is there anything we can do to lead and direct transformation better in ways that acknowledge the risks and rewards of change? For this conversation, it may be best to start with a frank assessment of our own skills and experience with transformational change.
Skills and Experience
Even confident leaders aren’t necessarily convinced that they have the competency to accomplish change. Almost 60% of managers say they don’t have the right experience to guide them. This isn’t a negative statistic from the standpoint of self-knowledge. Think about it — how many managers or leaders have been a part of a change initiative or have led others through a change initiative? Not many. Those who recognize their lack of experience are probably better equipped to take measured steps toward approaching change. Self-awareness of one’s capabilities enables you to compensate and take action. This includes education and partnering with people with change experience. Effective change managers should listen to their front line people and identify the change enablers. As we mentioned in our last blog, this may not mean simply listening to those who are one rung down on the organization chart, but identifying who their change leaders are by shepherding changes outside the organizational lines and leading in the white space. The real key is listening, and then responding to comments and perceptions so that no concern goes unanswered.
Effective change managers will also become champions of good ideas, no matter whose ideas they are. Periods of transformation are excellent times for setting aside internal politics in order to model responsiveness to innovative ideas. This will go a long way toward building loyalty within transformative projects.
Part of a manager’s effectiveness during transformation will be measured in his or her ability to gain the trust and alignment needed to implement the change. So, loyalty and clear communication (“straight shooting”) work hand in hand.
The effective change manager needs to have one other trait that is vital — perseverance. As many as 70% of change management projects don’t make their way to completion. They falter on one of a dozen different hurdles. When changes seem too difficult or some aspect of transformation becomes daunting, OR, when some other outside fire or project seems to beg for priority, it is easy for a transformation program to lose steam and die. To be effective, managers must keep their eyes on the end goal and clearly recognize when other elements are threatening to impede.
Change Management Competency
The best way to stay on course and keep everyone focused on the end goals is to treat change management as an imperative from the standpoint of organizational commitment. Once it becomes an official project, it has to clearly succeed or fail. It won’t live in the nebulous void of possibility. Individuals and teams will be assigned. People will be responsible for its evaluation, design and deployment. A timeline will be made and adhered to.
Organizational Change Management will benefit from a team approach, with representation from the lines of business as well as administrative managers and supervisors. It must have senior level ownership, so that it can’t be prioritized out of existence. And, it should use a structured approach with the all of the processes, skills, leadership, project framework and structure of any other major initiative. However, structure is not enough. Informal communications and leadership is the secret ingredient for success.
The one major difference, however, is that the change management process will likely contain process change. It takes a bit of change management to deploy change management. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise if change management teams do things differently. They may end up testing ideas that are employed later as a part of the new organizational framework. For example, most IT projects don’t take individuals into account. There is a goal. Everyone contributes to meeting the goal. In organizational change management, much more attention will be paid to communicating and mapping roles, looking at strengths, knowledge centers, and how these will be utilized more effectively under a new framework. Time will be allotted to simply understanding and communicating the changes. A driving success factor (and a good ongoing mantra) is “People are important.”
Understand the Change
For organizational change to be effective, people need to understand it. A communication plan will need to be part of the change management project plan. We’ll discuss more about communications in our next blog. For now, however, we can look at why deep understanding is so crucial to success.
Too often, companies communicate that change will be happening, but they don’t dole out enough information about the end result, transitional phases or even next steps. This method, or lack of method, breeds fear. Clarity regarding the high level vision all the way down to individual impact will dispel many fears and lead to efficient and effective work throughout the enterprise. The change management team will need to first clearly identify the Target Operating Model. From there, they will be able to understand changes that will occur along the way. This will include levels of change, such as how they might bring change excitement to the current corporate culture. It will include discussions regarding strategy and how multiple strategies may work, but there are reasons for employing the ones they end up choosing. Opening up conversations to why particular strategies are being employed will help keep naysayers from shooting holes in the plan — keeping conversations positive and helping stakeholders stay “on board” throughout the process.
Then, employing individual communication plans will further help people to understand the change and reduce fears. Will my next role have more work with fewer payoffs? Will I be gaining a new role, only to decrease in the level of satisfaction I get from what I do? Do I keep my power? Is someone going to be looking over my shoulder more? Hopefully, the answers to most of these questions will be positive. In most cases, the rewards for change, individually, are well worth the efforts involved. Those rewards should be communicated along with any potential risks and drawbacks.
In some cases, associates may see that they are possibly going to lose their jobs. These are real fears to conquer and insurers are wise to address those quickly, clearly, truthfully and often — even when the truthful answer is, “We aren’t sure yet,” or “Yes you will.” Open, honest communications enable the organization to put clear plans and incentives in place to treat people as they would want to be treated.
Change isn’t easy. Wise organizations will adopt the philosophy that, “We need to give these changes an adequate amount of time, thought and effort.” Majesco helps clients create a vision for the Target Operating Model by looking at how an insurer’s people, technology and process will shift in positive ways. We look at outcomes, such as modernization/rationalization, what business information will look like using company dashboards and improved data tools. We help insurers envision what a no touch/low touch business process will be like. We also assist insurers in creating a positive framework for Organizational Change Management.
In my next blog, we’ll look at some of the practical aspects of change, including adapting the change program over time, the methods of communication that should be employed, and managing risk throughout the process.