Getting ahead of the change curve-proactively managing change

December 1, 2006

With business moving faster than ever, fragmented communications are typical. This leaves managers to wonder how to keep everyone in sync and correctly informed. Change management can play a key role toward ensuring success in major change events; however, it's critical to define what change management is. As defined by Prosci, a premier change management research organization, change management is the process of proactively managing the people side of change.

With business moving faster than ever, fragmented communications are typical. This leaves managers to wonder how to keep everyone in sync and correctly informed. Change management can play a key role toward ensuring success in major change events; however, it's critical to define what change management is. As defined by Prosci, a premier change management research organization, change management is the process of proactively managing the people side of change.

In other words, if your change will have an impact on people in terms of what they do, how they do it, where they do it or, in some cases, if they will even be needed to do the work, then a change management strategy and plan is necessary. Typical change events that are candidates for a change management plan are mergers and acquisitions, system implementations, reorganizations and business process reengineering.

Reasons for change management

Why? Because people inherently resist change. It equates to fear and fear of the unknown, coupled with a lack of answers to questions. It also encourages those impacted by change to create their own story. This is known as the proverbial "rumor mill." Generally, these stories are far worse than the reality-even if the truth isn't always good news.

Having an organizational competency in change management sets an organization up for greater success. If employees accept, embrace and acknowledge that change is the norm and not the exception, the company has a culture that is nimble and flexible and able to change with external market forces. This translates into bottom-line success-staying within budget, more consistently meeting dates on project schedules, not losing staff and most importantly, ensuring that the changes implemented remain implemented. All of this adds up to savings that can be used for growth, planning and securing new business.

Change management methodology

Besides keeping change management simple, a business should consider a three-phase change management methodology to fit your change event:

Phase 1: Prepare for change

This is where the change management strategy is developed, and where an understanding of the scope of the change should be achieved-how big it is; how many people will be affected; and how long will it take. Assess the organization to help determine the scope of the change management plan and resources needed to implement. Once you've determined the scope, it's important to anoint and train the change management team and find an executive sponsor.

Research shows change management plans are less successful without visible, active and consistent executive sponsor support. The executive sponsor needs to be at a level of authority within the organization to: cause the change to occur; garner the necessary resources; and effectively network to build support. Likewise, to be effective, the change management team should be cross-functional and multi-disciplinary, representing areas both directly and indirectly impacted by the change.

Phase 2: Administer the change

Phase two is where detailed plans are developed. The cornerstone is a communication plan. Most project managers and change management teams report that if they could do something different on their next project it would be to communicate more. Over-communication, from the right source, is powerful and should be used to its maximum.

Choosing the right person for communications is critical. A key communication point in the plan must include an answer to the question: "What's in it for me?" It also should include specifics of how and when the change event will be communicated to each audience.

An executive sponsor roadmap ensures that your sponsor is active and visible by laying out exactly what is expected of the sponsor with a calendar of activities and appearances throughout the change event.