The bad news: change management is ridiculously hard, perhaps the single most difficult task you’ll ever face as a business leader. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most important. In a typical situation, you as a leader will want to transform a highly complex (and inefficient) business model … through a convoluted (and largely undefined) minefield of cultural, technical, and political barriers … to get to a (poorly defined) end state. It’s no wonder most transformation efforts fail to achieve their goals.
The good news: there are a set of change management best practices that you can use to greatly improve your chances for success. Each of these practices is basic in concept (though not ...view middle of the document...
There are many change management approaches and methodologies, but they all require the application of sound project management practices to be successful. At its core, project management dictates that you must first identify the requirements for the project, then design the implementation work plan (tasks, schedule, and resource needs), then implement the plan while continuously monitoring your progress toward meeting the requirements.
III: Thou shalt empower dedicated change management resources.
Transforming a business is a lot like changing a broken wheel of a Roman chariot while the chariot is charging into battle. You must find a way to replace or repair the wheel without slowing or overturning the chariot or ejecting its occupants, and without preventing the driver from winning his current fight. In practice, change management requires specialized skills, knowledge, and tools that your leadership and management team probably don’t fully possess. It also involves a commitment of time and energy over-and-above what is required for their normal duties—extra tasking that impacts their ability to complete their traditional daily workload. Burdening them with complex change management tasking for which they possess neither the ability nor time is setting them up for failure. To be successful, you need two things: an expert Change Manager with authority and unwavering support of senior leadership, and one (or more) chartered and resourced Implementation Team(s) within your workforce to perform the extra workload required during the duration of the transformation project.
IV: Thou shalt communicate relentlessly.
People seem to like the idea of change, but few actually enjoy the reality of having their beloved routines and traditions disrupted. You can't get people to listen if you don't have their attention. You must convince your workforce (especially the powerful and influential stakeholders) by espousing the shining benefits of making the change, and threatening the dire consequences of NOT making the change. A strong, multi-faceted communications plan that pounds the message home over and over and over again is critical to changing the behavior of a workforce. There must be a visceral sense of urgency, strong enough to force even the most cynical employee to make hard, difficult changes to their ingrained behaviors, rituals, and routines. Everyone must clearly understand their accountability in the change campaign, and the professional consequences that may befall them if they don’t do their part.
V: Thou shalt design with the end in sight.
The most daunting aspect of managing business-wide transformation is the fact that the changes can impact dozens, even hundreds of jobs, require retraining the workforce, and significant investment in new technology, equipment, facilities, and other infrastructure. If you cannot tell your workers exactly how to do their new job tasks, and give them the proper tools, they will not be able to complete...