Change manangement in a nutshell
Here is a graphic I created to give a quick overview of several tools for change and how they all fit together. I call it the “Change Management Storyboard”
Success factors for change
The following graphic begins with a proven model that describes the factors for successful change. The model shows that if we have a vision for the change, the motivation for the change, the skills to cope with/perform the new behavior, the required resources for the change and a good plan, then we can succeed making the change. The model also shows the typical symptoms that occur in the organization if any of the factors should be missing. (It is difficult to be completely sure of the source of this model. It is clear that the model goes back at least 30–40 years, perhaps even longer. Several older sources suggest that it may be from an American technology company called Raytheon).
Where are we, where are we going, and how will we get there?
The “vision“ for the change paints a picture in which the future is better than the present. This vision for the future requires changes in the behavior of many people in order to realize the improved situation. I usually say that the change vision should describe “how the world will be better when we have succeeded with the change.” The term “world” may refer to an individual department, a business unit or a division of the business, the entire organization, or perhaps the community at large. We should be able to describe the change vision in terms of a concrete improvement for someone somewhere. If we cannot describe how the change creates a real improvement we should probably not implement change.
Change always requires changing behaviors. From a change management perspective this is precisely the definition of change. If an improvement doesn’t require significant behavioral change it is not a change. I divide improvements into two categories, those that don’t require significant behavioral change (Development) and those that do (Change). For example, changing all the servers in your server hall could be an enormous project involving a large number of people and create a major improvement in the performance of your IT environment but it would likely not require any significant change in behavior by your people or your customers and would therefore not qualify as a “change”. But if you then implemented a new IT system that required training and significantly changed the way the people in the organization work that would be an example of a change initiative.
Stop trying to motivate people, inspire them instead
Change frequently requires changes in certain structural aspects of the enterprise such as new IT systems, processes, or organizational structures. These structural changes can be seen as facilitators or even prerequisites for a change but they are not in themselves changes. The change arises when people do things differently. A common mistake many organizations make is that they begin with the structural measures first and when they are well underway into the process they realize, usually quite late, that they also need to address the human perspective. In the best of worlds, we will have just the right balance between these two perspectives, the human and the structural, but if you’re going to “cheat” in any direction, I often recommend that you start working with the human perspective. In most cases, you can start working with the new work processes before the new IT system is in place. Once the new IT system is ready you will meet little resistance in using it because it only makes the new processes easier.
Only when we have managed to communicate the vision of the change, can employees decide if they want to be part of the change. Leaders sometimes are too hasty to draw the conclusion that employees are not motivated for a change, when the real problem is that employees do not have a sufficient understanding of the “what and why” in order to take a stand on the change.
Despite running the risk of oversimplifying the research into motivation too much it is fair to say that there really are no unmotivated people, but that people may not be motivated for the same things. Motivation for change is all about creating good conditions for an employee’s motivation to evolve. In other words, creating a “motivational-climate”. We do this by helping employees understand the “purpose” of the change and that they have great opportunity to influence the change (autonomy). Also, that provisions will be made so that they will have the necessary skills in order to perform the behaviors required by the change (competence). In this kind of “motivational climate“ employees are more likely to feel a strong affinity and loyalty with the business (belonging).
Time to Change
An individual’s motivation for a change seldom happens immediately, it takes place over time. This is where the classic change curve developed by Scott and Jaffe comes into play. When we are first faced with a change, we need time to get through the various phases. We go through the phases of denial, resistance, exploration and finally, hopefully end up in the commitment phase.
Denial – “I don’t know what to think about change” or “This can’t be happening”.
Resistance – “I think the changes seem to be a bad idea.”
Exploration – “What does the change mean for me and what are my options?”
Commitment – “Now I know what I want and am prepared to work to achieve it.”
Perhaps the most important advice I can give in this short text is…to give employees time to get to the commitment phase. In our zeal to get started, we often act too quickly when taking things a bit slower in the beginning will win lots of time later. Another little reminder is that everyone who reaches the commitment phase is not necessarily committed to the change initiative. They are committed to some plan of action related to the change. It could be that some employees decide to leave the company because the change isn’t what they want to do. I have always felt a sense of personal failure if people quit their jobs in the “resistance” phase. But if someone gets to the commitment phase, they understand the implications of the change and simply don’t want to be a part of it, then that is fair enough.
Then there is the matter of the individuals having the skills needed to succeed in meeting the new requirements that the change imposes on them. Change often fails, not because employees don’t understand the change or don’t want to change, but simply because they don’t know how. I have seen many examples of changes that have stalled because management didn’t give high priority to/recognize/allow for the time and expense required to train employees in a new computer system or a new way of working. In fact, frequently the reason people feel unmotivated for a change initiative is simply because they lack the competence to succeed with the new behavior. In those cases, if we address the competence gap we solve the motivation issue.
This template helps us identify the various affected stakeholders, understand how the change affects these stakeholders, and what we can do to help them deal with the change. Here we describe what new demands and expectations will be placed on each stakeholder group and what new skills/competencies they will need to live up to these expectations. After that, we need to define the resources that are required to acquire the new competencies. When we have done this, we can address what the individuals’ “incentives” or driving forces are for the change. (This is what many describe as “What’s in it for me”?) Personal development, financial gain, security, or exciting new tasks can all contribute to the individual’s motivation. These incentives form the basis of what should be communicated to employees. Ideally, the incentive for the individual is not an external incentive like for example money. The best incentives at work go back to Deci and Self-determination theory.How will my work be more intrinsically rewarding for me? Incentives that increase my sense of autonomy, my competence or my sense of belonging are far more effective than simple external incentives. (Sometimes, a change is good for the business as a whole, but not good for a specific group or individual in the organization. In these situations, we must honestly recognize the problem and consider what can be done to help those employees who are adversely affected.) Finally, we create a budget for the change initiative and see to it that the budget includes the costs identified for the “whole“ change. For instance, when decisionmakers say “Yes” to ”x” amount of money for a new IT system, they have also said “Yes” to ”y” amount of money to cover education, communication, and more to create the new behaviors that IT system was developed to support from the beginning. (You may or may not be surprised at how often I have seen organizations implement new IT systems for enormous sums of money only to end up using only a fraction of the capacity of the new system because they lacked the budget to train all the people who were supposed to use the new system.)
Now that we have successfully identified the change factors; vision, motivation, and competence, the question is ”does the business have the necessary resources required to succeed with the change?” Resources can include people, money, tools, etc. A common reason that businesses end up lacking resources in terms of change is that they simply are pushing too many change initiatives at the same time. Change in business is about changing the behavior of individuals in the business and altering behavior is demanding. There is a limit to how much change each of us can deal with at the same time. Be sure to understand the resource requirements and remember that we humans tend to underestimate change. Most changes take more time and money than we think they will.
The final stage is to create and implement our change plan. Change can be difficult to plan because people’s reactions to change can be hard to predict. The only thing we can be certain of when it comes to planning change initiatives is that our plan is wrong. But don’t let that be an excuse not to plan. The only thing worse than the plan is to not have a plan. If our plan turns out to be only 80% right, it means that 20% of the things that happen will be unforeseen events. If we don’t plan our change at all everything will be unforeseen!
This material is only a small part of the material that I usually go through in a change management training but it gives a reasonable overview of the requirements for successful change and some of the various practical tools and models to help address these success factors.