Change management is an evolving discipline that has changed significantly over the last few decades.
Although the key principles of leading change have remained relatively the same, the practices of change management have to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of people in today’s organizations.
Trends such as globalization, the gig economy, a multi-generational workforce, increased mobility, digital transformation and artificial intelligence are forcing us to set aside traditional, linear approaches in favour of refreshed, feedback-driven approaches to creating and implementing successful organizational change.
Thankfully, the appreciation for and recognition of change management’s value as a strategic capability has also grown, resulting in a broader awareness and application.
So, what do our strategic change advisors at Pragilis think about changing change management? Here are a few trends in change management we think will take hold in 2018 and beyond.
Trend #1: The conversion of change management from an art to a science.
Although change management has earned significant credibility as a discipline in the last few years, we still see organizations struggle to justify the investment in it.
In our experience, it hasn’t always been able to attract and retain the resources it requires because of the lack of demonstrable proof and data points.
What’s needed is an increased focus on benefits-led or results-driven change; where measurable, short-term performance goals are identified at the onset of change and are used to validate the return-on-investment (ROI).
The change sponsor or coalition of sponsors should identify the benefits (i.e. through a benefits discovery workshop) and also demonstrate their clear contribution to organizational objectives.
Progress should be measured through leading and lagging indicators.
A benefit dependency network is a helpful tool for mapping the investment objectives, expected benefits (both quantitative and qualitative) and the resulting change impacts.
We’ve seen it done backwards too many times on digital projects - investments in digital capabilities should be business- and results-driven, and not the other way around.
Trend #2: Change management as an internal capability.
Organizations that are continuously managing a portfolio of multiple, complex and overlapping change initiatives are recognizing the need to build an internal change management capability.
They value it as a key competitive advantage; helping them to be more agile, execute more nimbly, and increase future capacity for change. It also increases the probability of change success, organizational agility and expected returns.
A recent McKinsey study found that organizations with excellent change management capabilities had collected, on average, 143% of the value they expected from their projects.
The business case is clear - when you make managing change the responsibility of all your employees, it definitely pays.
Trend #3: New approaches to stakeholder engagement.
Change in organizations today and into the future will require more open, participatory, experimental and feedback-driven stakeholder engagement models.
Social media is being used to shorten the distance between leaders and employees, discover employee sentiment and drive behavioural change. Collaboration tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams are channelling communications, bridging cross-functional teams, and promising a new form of productivity.
Innovative hacks to break down silos, such as the #randomcoffee movement, are also taking hold across organizations fueling up for continuous change.
Gamification and principles from behavioural economics are being leveraged to provide the momentum needed to overcome organizational inertia.
In an age of information overload, isn’t it time we helped reduce that sense of overwhelm for the people in our organizations? By leveraging new and innovative approaches to engaging with your workforce during times of change, you can do just that.
Trend #4: The proliferation of digital change tools.
These tools help create visualizations of change plans, shared dashboards for noting change implementation progress and risks, and diagnostics for identifying anticipated areas of resistance. They’ll give you an overall picture, or portfolio-level view, of the change efforts being undertaken in your organization, and helpful insight to combat change fatigue.
In addition, change management simulation tools such as Harvard’s Change Management Power and Influence simulation, offer an immersive, experiential learning tool allowing you to experiment with different strategies for effective change management. Backed by research from premier business schools such as Harvard, MIT and Wharton, it combines proven change management theory with hands-on practice in an engaging, low-risk simulation experience. It won’t be long before these tools are accessible for all business leaders to understand and use.
It will be exciting to see how the discipline of change management evolves; continuing to grow in reach and credibility amongst the business world. My personal hope for the discipline is that it epitomizes the famous Churchill quote, “to improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”. Change leaders will have to adapt to and drive their energy from renewed practices in change management if they hope to succeed.