What is Change Management?

The skills to deliver Change Management Initiatives are essential for every small business. HR Management skills within the Business allow strategic change and transformation to happen.

Much of the output of pretty much every management institute is devoted to advising businesses on Organisational Change Management, on identifying and supporting the key roles in Change Management and pointing to the reasons initiatives fail.

Harvard Business Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter believes that change is, first and foremost, a Leadership and Management skill, and that Companies that manage change best are “the integrative environments that support innovation, encourage the building of coalitions and teams to support and implement visions.”

 

The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.

– Peter Drucker

Why do companies undertake Change Management Initiatives?

Change Management Initiatives are what a Company must undertake to:

  • Respond to changes that are external or internal

  • Protect the Company through an organisational response to threats or opportunities

  • Enable and support Employees to accept and implement change required by the Business

  • Provide an organised approach to change and the support necessary to effect it

  • Allow employee teams and entire workforces to undertake and implement change

  • Help future-proof businesses by maintaining competitiveness

What is the role of HR in Change Management?

When a Change Management Initiative is agreed and designed, there is only one function in the business capable of overseeing and delivering it, and that’s HR.

Not only is HR uniquely qualified to oversee the project management necessary to succeed, HR also has the influence and skills to lead the Leaders, train the trainers, inspire and equip the workforce – and keep the energy around the initiative going when everyone else has forgotten why you’re doing it.

And beyond regular transformation effort by businesses, the outcome of the entire Mergers and Acquisitions sector is reliant on HR functions effectively managing and delivering each and every successful change management initiative.

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How does HR support Change Management?

  • Getting absolute clarity on the Management vision around Change

  • Agreeing short and long term goals

  • Communicating the strategic vision

  • Matching the timeline of Change with management processes, people and resources

  • Identifying the Organisational and Individual training needs to permit Change

  • Establishing the skills gaps and designing and applying the Training Programmes to fill them

  • Being the untiring champions of the change initiative


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What are the Principles of Change Management?

Successful Change Management has a structural dimension that ensures that what is planned and built is fit-for-purpose and robust.  It’s a subject that many management authors have written about, but the success of the initiative will always rely on the skills and guile of the Practitioners of Change: the people and teams within the Organisation – supported by HR – who have to deliver on the promise.

The HR Function knows how to move people (and in more ways than the physical), to take any guiding principle within a process and make it a real, achievable objective, and to take the management models that underlie Change Management and reduce them into actionable and measurable tasks.

This structure derives from ensuring the principles of any Change Management Initiative are firmly in place:

  • Understanding fully the precise problem or opportunity that Change addresses

  • Having a clear, persuasive and memorable Vision for Change

  • Understanding how any embedded Company culture may need to ‘change for change’

  • Total buy-in and engagement from the Company’s Leadership Team and Management

  • A programme that involves every layer within the Organisation

  • First-class Communication – at the start and at every stage

  • All necessary Training and Resources (no cutting corners)

  • An ethos of Ownership and Accountability across the Organisation

  • Continuous Measurement against the Plan – and immediate recalibration when needed

The skills and determination to being about a Change Management Initiative reflect a Business that is aware, responsive, agile – and properly lead and managed.  And within this, the HR Function is where the management professionals who can deliver on Change Management operate.

What are the benefits of Change Management?

There is one obvious and major benefit of Change Management, and that’s delivering Change.  The ability to initiate and manage change can mean success or survival for a Business.  An inability to do so can mean the slow – or sudden – death of a business that may have been around for decades.

Whether we are talking about a Total Business Transformation, or a more prosaic Process Alignment measure, Change Management abilities offer businesses some substantial benefits:

  • Makes clarity of purpose and desired outcomes a headline within the Enterprise

  • Creates an organisational agility and commercial ‘suppleness’ that is ready for whatever’s thrown at it

  • Has a galvanising effect among Teams Employees and Departments through a common purpose

  • Highlights processes outside the Change Management target areas but which can be improved

  • Creates permanent Competitive Advantage within the Company that remains after the initiative is complete

  • Brings about improvements across the business, sometimes in unexpected but valuable ways

A culture that embraces Change and all its attendant processes is one that can withstand unforeseen challenges, but can also make itself stand out among its peers in terms of results, performance and employee satisfaction.

What is the ultimate goal of Change Management?

The most worthwhile goal of Change Management is that of creating a culture of innovation within the organisation.  And why do that? To deliver on Strategy. 

Corporate cultures can be enabling, liberating attitudes and values.  Or they can be dead freight.

A company culture that values and embraces Innovation is one that is more likely to achieve its goals, rise to unforeseen challenges, surprise and delight the Customer – and inspire and retain its Employees.  With this come more particular goals, which include:

  • Overhaul and improvement of accepted practices and processes

  • Establishing Continuous Improvement as a norm within the business

  • Making company-wide skills and process reviews integral to the Company’s ethos

  • Identifying and creating Leaders who step up and show the way when Change is needed

  • Involving and motivating all employees across the Business

  • Adapting existing Employee Objectives to fit with a revised overall strategy

Change Management Process Examples

 The Harvard Business Review puts it very succinctly: “change management is management, and management is change management.” 

But a sobering article by Deloitte says that most Change Management efforts fail. 

So, what are just a few of the most widely known examples of the Change Management Process that worked?

Netflix streams content right into your Smart TV and always did, right?  No.  Netflix was a subscription-based video rental company renting films that were sent to customers by post, and in so doing disrupted the traditional rental companies.  Its streaming services were only introduced in 2007. Win.

IKEA: did you know that the Swedish ready-to-assemble furniture and home accessories giant is about to reinvent itself as a ‘Circular‘ business, with its customers leasing instead of buying and owning its furniture?  That’s Business Transformation (we should really use all capital letters for that one) right there.  But IKEA had already undergone a major Change Management Initiative to change itself from a catalogue sales company to the e-commerce/retail player it is today.  Win.

Google was founded in 1998 and only began to book revenues when it started selling search solutions to other online companies.  But that all changed when the Company transformed itself by developing and launching its AdWords programme, turning itself from a business that made and licensed search engine technology into a digital advertising behemoth.  Win.