Change management is no longer such a new management discipline; however, it continues to evolve significantly. Scholars from across various specialties, ranging from psychology to business and engineering to the social sciences, have contributed to insights on the various ways in which humans and human systems interact with, react to, and overall experience change. Because of the discussions brought on by these insights, change management is a common part of our business vocabulary – so common, in fact, that, we risk using it in the same way many use terms like “business development” – that is, without fully understanding it, or with varied definitions in mind.
People define change management differently – training, communication, and managing resistance are three examples. Richard Beckhard, a pioneer in organisation development, defined the change management discipline as “an effort (1) planned, (2) organization-wide, and (3) managed from the top, to (4) increase organization effectiveness and health through (5) planned interventions in the organization’s ‘processes,’ using behavioural-science knowledge.” Perhaps a better definition is that it is a structured and holistic approach to drive successful individual and organisational change towards a desired business outcome. The underlying premise with both interpretations is that change does not happen by chance but by repeatable, intentional actions and steps. In other words, the change the business wants to see will not happen by chance.
Most organisational change is event-triggered. These triggers can be internally driven, such as new strategic direction and positioning, and geographical expansion; or externally driven – by political, social, technological or economic factors. An organisation’s ability to adapt quickly to the change determines its survival or competitiveness in its chosen market. Its ability to anticipate external trigger events and readily position the business is critical. Most changes impacting organisations today are complex, the markets volatile and uncertain. Over the next few years, the rate and pace of change is likely to increase, not slow down.
You may ask: What does change management have to do with driving and delivering business results? The answer is simple: everything.
For example, the introduction of a new Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), intended to facilitate better engagement with customers and convert leads to sales, is not only a technology change, but also a change in how users utilise the tool to engage customers and sell the organisations products. Users of the system need to embrace and adopt the platform as it represents a shift in how they work and how they view the CRM. How the users of the CRM leverage on the technology to drive sales for the organisation is where the return on investment lies. Sadly, many CRMs have been shelved and overtaken by excel and e-mail as the delivery tool for managing leads, complaints handling despite organisation significant investment. By applying a structured approach to drive adoption and usage that addresses both individual users with organisation deliverables (i.e., by applying change management), the likelihood of the organisation to achieve desired business results and return on investment is increased.
Nyawera Kibuka is the CEO, Change Advisor and Prosci® Advanced Instructor for East Africa @ Cedar Consulting Ltd (http://www.cedarconsulting.co.ke)
Nyawera is passionate about seeing organisations manage change effectively and use that capability as a competitive advantage. Change is not ‘warm and fuzzy’ but requires a structured, intentional approach using the right tools and processes for the desired business results to be realised.