Three ways to ensure your change effort is a success

Guest blogger:

Sarah_PlattsSarah Platts, Open University Business School MBA Alumnus, Change Consultant at FreshNetworks 


As explored in my last post, and at the recent Open University Business School event on change management: focusing on the implementation of change is obviously hugely important. In addition, focusing on the following three messages will further maximise the chances of your change effort being a success:

1. Be consistent, and persistent

A common message was that change takes more time than you think, particularly if you want people to genuinely live and breathe it. Therefore:

  • Be patient, and don’t get side-tracked by short-term goals – change is about the long-term view, so maintain your focus and be prepared for results to take longer than you think to materialise (i.e. years as opposed to days, months). Key to this is also not trying to change too much, but focusing on a handful of projects (e.g. no more than 5 at any one time). It’s also important to keep reinforcing why you’re STILL working on the change, as it involves a significant process of education, as well as considering everyone involved in an interconnected and holistic way. Also ensure to prioritise all the change projects you’re working on so you know which ones are most and least important overall.
  • Focus – it’s worth reiterating this again! Just as it’s important to keep focused on the change and not get side-tracked, it’s also important to focus within each change project on the 1 – 3 core things which will really crack it and make it succeed. Robin Tucker of New World Consulting referred to this as focusing on “the essence”, and not getting bogged down by the detail or minutiae.
  • Measure the change – all the same, don’t just wait and hope! Ensure to have measures in place so the results of the change can be determined, but don’t get too fixated with deadlines. Instead, focus on the outputs expected by those deadlines, and if they were really achieved (again, no box ticking). Finally, check in on the results on a regular basis; be agile and check the change is still aligned with overall company strategy, and if not tweak and realign things as necessary. Basically, beware of “analysis without synthesis”, and ask “So What?” at least every month.

2.  Know what your company is good and bad at in relation to change

Companies have to deal with the following aspects of change:

  1. Directional decisions – i.e. does the overall direction of travel make sense?
  2. Translation & specificity – have you worked out and communicated what the change will mean for and require of each team and individual within the business? “Vision hubbing” requires translating the central vision “hub” of the company wheel through to each of the individual spokes.
  3. Change management – governance of the delivery itself , which is often under-managed (e.g. Terminal 5).
  4. Delivery & operations – how to avoid a bad landing.
  5. Leadership & communication (people) – change is often poorly led and poorly communicated.

According to Robin Tucker, companies typically suffer most in relation to 2, 3, and 5. His advice is to focus on your company’s particular weak areas, and then start optimising each one.

3.  Don’t bother with creating “Change managers” and “Change departments”

  • Successful change is brought about by boundary spanners – managers with T-shaped as opposed to I-shaped skills (i.e. generalists rather than occupational specialists).
  • No change functions! Making change into a “function” with specific “change managers” is a problem because it becomes part of a political system, and a target, rather than a boundary spanner. Change should be driven forward by programme and project managers, and be project-based. Accordingly, make change the responsibility of all organisational departments – that’s the only way to get everyone involved and aligned. Ultimately, change is a process, not a function.

This article was originally published on FreshNetworks on 25 July.

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