by Allan Ung
"Change is the only constant."
Heraclictus , Greek Philosopher
Change is the only constant. It is a fact of life and especially in the workplace. Whether it is moving to a new office location, adopting new processes, implementing an IT system, or re-engineering business processes, change happens to everyone all the time.
However, many change initiatives fail to be sustained because of the lack of effective change management. To ensure that change is successful and enduring, it is important to take note of the following key factors:
Commitment from the Top
Top management must be committed to the change initiative. Regular management reviews of the change implementation progress versus the plan must be conducted to ensure that the roadmap and scope of change are well-defined, timelines and key milestones are adhered to, and resources such as people, time, and money are allocated where needed.
Future State Vision
Define and rally around a compelling vision for the future state. Communicate the potential threats, urgency of the change, and the risks if the organization does not change. Identify the key resistance issues and stakeholders who are impacted by the change and address them. Create a compelling vision and an urgency for change so as to move people out of their comfort zones to a change in behavior and the way they value-add to the business and customers.
Communicate the vision to middle management and staff regularly with the right messages targeted at the right groups and at the right time. Utilize all available channels of communication and opportunity. Get feedback from employees on how they see the change issues and what ideas they can offer to resolve them. You need to walk the talk if people are going to perceive the effort as important. Engage in behaviors desired of employees, and make it clear that you are totally committed to the change and you expect the same from them as well.
Institutionalize the deployment process to ensure that every function, process, and individual is aligned to the vision and objectives that the organization wants to achieve. With such a mechanism, the vision and objectives can be cascaded down to every department, team, and individual with clear accountabilities and targets. Review achievements against the respective targets for the teams and individuals regularly to ensure that the change initiative is focused, aligned, and stays on track.
Change strategy and infrastructure
Define the change strategy and the change programs required. Identify the tangible and intangible results to be achieved at the end of the change process. For changes affecting an organization, setting up a change management team is necessary.
Training and education
Review the relevant business functions and work processes impacted by the change to determine the new skill requirements for the stakeholders. Identify the required training needs, consolidate the training plan, design and develop the training packages, and collect feedback. Fine-tune the training plan, schedule, and programs based on feedback.
Test the new approach with one or more pilot teams and prove that new ways are better than the old. Involve your employees in the problem-solving or process improvement and empower them as necessary. Highlight the tangible and intangible benefits or quick wins as a result of implementing the new practice/process/system to gain wider acceptance. Follow up on areas for improvement and unresolved issues.
Ensure that the change initiative is sustained. Celebrate the achievements and encourage people to continue with the new ways of doing things. Draw learning points as reference for subsequent processes and/or systems and for mass implementations.
In conclusion, change management is critical for long-term success. It is important to have a clear vision, communicate effectively, institutionalize the deployment process, train stakeholders, empower employees, and ensure that the change initiative is sustained. With these factors in mind, change can be managed effectively to achieve success in the long term.
Article by Allan Ung, Principal Consultant at Operational Excellence Consulting, a Singapore-based management consultancy firm that assists organizations in maximizing customer value and minimizing wastes through adoption of Design Thinking and Lean Thinking practices. For more information, please visit www.oeconsulting.com.sg