Change management is a term that is slowly becoming common in business circles. However, it is still a fairly young concept, especially when compared to disciplines, such as project management, which have existed for years and are thus better understood.
Because change management is still relatively young, it has suffered different, often inaccurate, interpretations. The most common is the association of change management with a training session or the release of communication to symbolise the start or end of change. To many, change management does not go beyond that email sent to the team to make an announcement with which everyone must comply.
Change management is a legitimate field and a practice that every organisation needs to take seriously. Unfortunately, it is largely misunderstood even at the managerial level, and so practitioners struggle to justify the budget. The people side or the soft side of change, namely that aspect that involves bringing people on board and getting them to participate in the change, is usually the first item on the budget to be eliminated. The technical side, also known as the hard side, is assumed by managers to be the only side of change that can be seen and felt, so to speak, because it deals with things like financial arrangements, integration of business systems, and physical arrangements. It is therefore often allocated more resources.
However, the people side of change has a massive impact on every organisation, and there are countless consequences to disregarding it. If change is not managed effectively and as a whole, then it defeats the whole purpose of the change. The business outcomes that are desired will be curtailed, productivity will decline, employees will leave, those who remain will not feel motivated, suppliers will be disgruntled, and ultimately, customers will be dissatisfied. It does little good to create a new organisation structure, design new work processes, and implement new policies and technologies without involving the people. It is when the individuals in an organisation embrace change that the financial and overall success of these changes will be realised. Diagrams, charts, and memos have their place, but they cannot be the entire change management strategy.
We have been involved in managing several change initiatives, particularly in the areas of systems implementation and culture change and have seen leadership teams struggle to galvanise their people into embracing and accepting change. Many assume that an announcement will result in a resistance-free buy-in. The question we pose to leaders is, what percentage of the desired business outcomes are pegged on people doing their jobs differently? In other words: you’re considering a change. How much money do you want to make, save, and spend, as a result of this change? To what extent will people doing their jobs differently impact the delivery of these revenues and savings? That is where the intentionality needs to be focused.
In our world, change management is a structured application of a set of tools and processes that manage the people side of change towards the realisation of business outcomes. The type of change that positively impacts an organisation cannot and will not happen by chance. Change management is the systematic management of employee engagement and adoption when the organisation changes how work will be done.
According to Prosci’s Best Practice Change Management Report of 2016, organisations are six times more likely to achieve their business objectives during a change initiative when a structured change management approach is applied. We have seen the results first hand; those organisations that are more intentional about managing the people side of change actually get a better, faster return on their investment.