Change Management DescriptionSo what is change management? Well, we can describe change management as the application of appropriate planning, tools, and processes to effectively implement change and ensure its successful adoption.
It doesn’t matter were talking about people or computer systems. The fundamentals are the same for both: plan, use the correct tools and processes, and follow-up. The only difference is that the response of computer systems to changes is more predictable than the response of people. So for the purposes of this article, we will focus on change management as it affects people.
Change HappensOne of the few constants in this life is that change happens. Whether we want it to or not, change happens. Some change is good; some change is not so good. It really depends on your point of view.
One fundamental change is that we all get older. From the point of view of a child or a teenager, getting older is a good thing. However, from the point of view of their parents or grandparents, it’s not such a good change. The challenge of change management, therefore, is to help people adjust their point of view so they see how what is in it is good for them.
Why Manage Change?You know change is going to happen. In the case of getting older, it’s a law of nature causing that change. For many business changes, however, the driving force behind change is usually a business requirement, often driven by competition. If Apple had stopped changing after the Mac, we wouldn’t have the iPad and Apple would have gone out of business.
Since change is going to happen, you have two choices. You can manage change or you can let change just happen on its own. Perhaps it’s all the years I spent as a Project Manager, but I have never seen a change that was left to happen on its own come out anywhere as good as one that was properly managed.
When you manage change you can:
- minimize disruption,
- exert some control over the schedule,
- reduce the pain of the change,
- get the affected employees involved in planning and executing the change,
- build teamwork at all levels of the organization as they work together to implement the change, and
- establish a foundation for change that will make future changes easier.
What Is the Goal of This ChangeBefore you start anything, you need to establish the end point. “If we are going to make this change, spend all this time and money, and disrupt the company and its employees, what is it we are going to accomplish?” How will you know the change has been successful? How will you measure that success? What does the organization look like in the future state when this change has been successfully implemented? Once you know the end, you can start planning from the beginning.
Change Management PlanningThe first step in successful change management is planning the change, from design, through implementation, to adoption. How much planning is required depends on how much disruption the change will cause.
As with all planning efforts, you want to start with the people involved. If you want to change the way incoming sales calls are handled, get sales involved. If you want to change how the product gets to market, talk with the people in shipping and traffic.
Plan the change as you would any other project. Establish the tasks involved. Determine their durations, priorities, and inter-dependencies. Build you project schedule and calculate the critical path. At every step along the way communicate your plan and your reasons behind it to all the stakeholders
Manage the Actual ChangeAt this point, managing the change is essentially the same as managing any other project. Implement the approved plan. Get each task done and keep an eye on the critical path. Monitor your progress and adjust as circumstances change.
Reinforce the ChangeOne unique aspect of change management is the requirement to reinforce the change. Most projects are done when the last task is completed. With change management that is almost true. Change management requires that you continue to reinforce the change after the implementation is complete.
Think of it like a diet. You make a life style change of going on a diet and only eat healthy foods. After a few months, you have met your goal and lost the weight you wanted. If you don’t reinforce that change, you will go back to your old eating habits and you’ll gain all that weight back. If you implement a change to the customer service process that requires all calls to be handled to completion on the first call, but you stop enforcing that, some customer service reps will slide back to getting through the call as fast as they can to make their “numbers” look better and the customers will end up having to call again.