Change Management

Recently I was chatting with somebody who is involved in a project which involves a huge amount of change.  We were discussing the change management process and the assessment of readiness of an group to change.  I was recalling several process I have been involved with that involved significant change.

In my recollection, the biggest factor was the serious commitment of the senior people to push the change.  I recall one important project involving a completely new system for billing and customer service that was running into significant resistance from the manager of customer service.  Each week the sponsor would meet with the manager and the delivery leader and discuss the issues and set out an action plan.  After a few weeks the manager simply ran out of excuses and switched over to the new system.  The sponsor made it clear that we were going to switch to the new system and the manager had no place to hide.   In addition the senior person took real leadership on the issue and suported his manager.  I saw a great example of leadership and tenacity.

One factor in change is the reluctance of people to spend the time to work on the change versus doing their day to day job.  Most people’s day to day job really is a full time job so finding time to work on the change is a problem.  Again the person must be given direction on how to spend time on the change.  The most effective is to have somebody more junior take over their day to day job so that their time is freed up temporarily.  Again their manager’s participation and support is really key. 

One problem with introducing a new procedure or system is that it does not work perfectly.  These flaws can give people lots of excuses not to use the new system.  The flaws give people a place to hide.  The key is for the delivery people setting expectations that things will not be perfect initially and be available to help people through the difficulties.  In addition, the person’s supervisor must also be determined to work through the difficulties and treat things as a challenge.  I often have said that as we learn a new system, we learn what does not work and do not use those things.  These items can be fixed later.

As people work though the challenges of a new system, the determination of the organization to make it work is key.  This determination can overcome many setbacks which inevitably occur.  The most successful systems are those where people believe they must work for the organization to survive.  People can do heroic things when their backs are to the wall.

Underlying many of these items is the readiness of the organization to embrace change and make it work.  More about that in future blogs.

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