But what is Change Management?

Let’s make something very clear from the start –

  • No one is too old to change. I remember working with Members of the House of Lords and if they can learn, adapt and embrace new ways of working form a digital change – anyone can.
  • This is not ‘technical change management’ ie. How to manage internal changes in an IT department with systems thought a Change Advisory Board or CAB.
  • My type of change management is about people. People are the start, centre and end of the change – and that for any change you’re implementing.

Change Management (also known as Business Change Management) is about taking people from where they are to where they need to be.

Every project and programme seeks to change something (whether it be a system, process, or people). Sometimes this change is introducing something new, and other times it’s replacing the existing status quo. Therefore it’s important that the change is correctly managed, so the right outcomes and benefits are reached and realised.

The exact scale, scope and impact of change is not always known at the start and this is just the beginning of a change managers role – to truly understand:

  • What the change is
  • Why it’s being introduced
  • The gap between where people are, and where they need to be
  • The timelines involved
  • The scope of the change (what we will and won’t be changing)

It’s only when this initial discovery of the change is completed that we can start to piece together the overall change and how to approach and implement it in the same way.

Change, any change, can sometimes be related to the grieving process. As people grieve/mourn from their old ways of working and are introduced to their new world, they go through several stages before accepting the change. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross spoke about the Grief Cycle and the five stages that people go through (On Death and Dying – 1969). Kubler-Ross spoke about the following stages:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

It’s the role of a Change Manager to support people through these changes, get them to acceptance as fast as possible, and go past Acceptance and take people to ‘Embrace’ where they are not just accepting the change, but are part of it. You can think of it as trying to create a faster Return on Investment (RoI) than if people did nothing. Good Change Management increases awareness across the organisation, decreases the period of lower productivity that comes with change, and reinforces that change once implemented to ensure no roll-back.

The question that I get asked the most – but what do you do as part of your job?

Well to be honest no two days are the same (which I enjoy).

I essentially have several roles:

  • Translator – between IT and People
  • Advocate – Representing People to the project/programme
  • Pessimist – What’s the worst case scenario if something goes wrong
  • Optimist – Champion of the change and how the new way of working will be amazing
  • Campaign Manager – Ensuring there is so much awareness of the change for everyone impacted
  • Coach – Supporting Senior Executives in delivering change
  • Educator – Informing people of the change and providing training of the new world

Quite often, when starting with a new client, one of the stories I nearly always here is about how change has been poorly managed in the past. If you think about it, we can all relate to a time or story where change has been poorly implemented for us. Change Managers are there to prevent changes being poorly implemented and challenge how changes are enabled.

Sometimes it’s just about taking a step back from the change and considering if this is the right approach that will generate the right outcomes.

Most, if not all, change is possible. However it requires the right attitude and planning to ensure it lands well and is adopted by those impacted.

When you strip away the various methodologies and approaches to Change Management. What you are essentially left with is the practice of how we move people from where they are (often comfortable with that situation) to where you/an organisation needs them to be. It’s an opportunity to be creative. It’s an opportunity to look at human behaviour and how/why we behave the way we do. Fundamentally, it’s also an opportunity to improve the way change is rolled out and delivered in companies so it’s better for people. Not all change is good, but all change can be managed.