As the end of the year rolls in, you may be thinking about year-end budgets and the decision to invest time, resources and budget in change management for upcoming projects and initiatives. Many executives and senior leaders overlook the importance of managing the people side of change, choosing to handle things on their own. Others are confident their internal transition teams can manage the strategy, rollout, and communications. And some seek to “force change” through sheer will, as in command-and-control management.
However, in my experience, none of these approaches to change serve these leaders or their organizations well.
Change management has a proven impact on an initiative’s success. Organizations that my firm has consulted for have seen measurable behavioural results, performance improvements and efficiency gains when an excellent change management program was in place. McKinsey’s research into the financial return-on-investment (ROI) in change management shows that you can expect to see a return of 143% when best-in-class change management capability is part of the initiative. ChangeFirst, a change management consultancy based out of the UK, published research that showed ROI as high as 650%.
To help you further, keep the following three change management tips in mind as you close the books on 2017, so you can give yourself every possible competitive advantage, and fully realize the intended benefits of any organizational change in your business.
Tip #1: Involve Employees in the Change Process
Increased worker mobility, the effect of millennials in the workforce, and lower average tenure mean that people are less tolerant of a top-down, command-and-control approach to change. New realities require a more collaborative, and participatory approach; meaning leaders on change initiatives need to engage diverse audiences early and often.
Communication is increasingly more of a two-way, ongoing, iterative engagement process, making disciplines around change management less linear than they were in the past. The key to success in today’s business world is to involve the people most affected by the change initiative upfront and as frequently as possible. Invite employee feedback and sufficient input in shaping initiatives. Turn employees into champions of new ideas by showing them the vital role they play in the organization’s success. Invest in relationships and focus on motivation, support, and leadership (versus management) to truly see your change efforts shine.
Tip #2: Embrace the Change Curve
In times of change, people go through a psychological process of transition, often referred to as the change curve (I wrote about this in my last article, here). It’s a natural, human response to change. As leaders, it is your job to give employees time to adjust and absorb the changes resulting from initiatives being implemented in your organization. Put humanity into the change process by actively and continuously listening to your people, coaching them to think new, and checking in with them to help reinforce changes. Learn how to use and understand the change curve by clueing into where you are in relation to your team, and what leadership and coaching may be necessary to get people up the curve successfully and help them let go of old ways of working.
Tip #3: Prepare for the Change Management Effort
It takes a considerable amount of time and effort to manage the people side of change. Leadership will often underestimate the time and skills necessary to implement change, the number of people required for change execution, and the methods required for managing the anticipated benefits.
Recent research conducted by Gartner and again by ChangeFirst shows that organizations consistently under-invest in change management, and should be allocating 15 to 20% of their overall implementation budget to the change management effort. This budget should go to building a highly-skilled and motivated team, including trusted advisors in change management that help employees adopt change faster, more consistently and better. These advisors support the implementation by facilitating review of progress regularly by scheduling milestones, assessing organizational capacity, risks, and receptivity, and optimizing the realization of benefits.
If, as an executive or senior leader, you’d like to deliver value for money from the organization's investments in change and achieve the organization’s strategic objectives, then your best course of action is to plan for the significant effort that’s required. Even the most pragmatic, agile leaders can use support when it comes to having 360-degree vision.
This is the perfect time of year to assess where you’re at with changes you're implementing in your organization and whether you’ve made the right decisions when it comes to managing the people-side of the equation. Assess your current change portfolio by reviewing the organization’s capacity and readiness. Make sure the change initiatives you’ve planned for are benefits-led and set aside time to manage the realization of benefits. Most of all, take the time to thoughtfully plan for your next large-scale change and set your organization up for success early in the new year.