Change Management

What is Change Management?

Everybody who has worked as an employee has his own experiences with changes that his company has ever implemented. Such changes may take on different forms, e.g. change of working procedures, organisation structure, reductions in staff numbers, and the introduction of a new information system. Each change has a differing impact on various working groups or individuals. Each individual then reacts differently to a change that concerns them. It is only human instinct to intuitively resist any change because it tends to bring uncertainty.

Change Management is a set of tools that guides the implementation of major changes, and its role is to make simplify this in a given situation.

Why is Change Management important?

Each project due for change implementation is usually very much focused on the technical side of matters, and tends to neglect the people aspect of the change. Therefore, an obvious or subtle resistance of individuals or groups that are opposed to the project tends to arise. This fact jeopardizes success of the project. Thus, conditions for the implementation of a change vary in each company. These conditions are influenced by past developments and changes, management and leadership styles, the corporate culture, and other factors.

The aim of Change Management is, in given situations, to minimise any resistance against the change, and on the contrary, to evoke active support for the success of the change among employees. There is a lot of experience with projects around that were well designed, but failed because they did not gain the support of their targets.

What is the subject of Change Management?

It is possible to break down Change Management into a few phases:

Analysis of the change. The first step of the change management is to assess what kind of impact it will have on the company's various departments and on individual employees. The impact may take on a form of greater or smaller changes of existing working procedures. It may be a combination of more jobs into just one position that has been up until now demanding the use of a few employees, or it may even be a cancellation of a present work post.

Proposal for change. The extent and nature of the change is of key importance in forecasting possible resistance. It is then necessary to design an individual plan for preventive actions so as to gain support from selected employees. For this purpose, there are four defined groups of involved personnel:

- Sponsor (sponsors) - usually a manager with appropriate authority, in whose interest is to make the change happen;

- Agents - people who actively implement the change, usually as members of an implementation team;

- Advocates - people or groups of people, whose interest is to make the change happen, but they do not have authority to decide about it. They often bring arguments in favour of the change;

- Targets - people who are somehow affected by the change.

It is necessary to prepare a change management plan for each group. One of these plans is a communication plan, that has to select and use a variety of communication tools to explain the change and its impact on the organisation and its people.

Pre-implementation phase. The preparation of a general environment for the change and the involvement of the entire organisation into the implementation process.

Implementation represents in particular the monitoring of this process, and making subsequent decisions in reaction to the present status. Based on past experiences, there are some typical trends in the reactions of people to a change. These depend much on the level of information obtained, and on difficulties related with the implementation process. The role of the Change Management is to identify these stages and to apply relevant measures for the elimination of resistance against them.

What is the result of Change Management?

Change Management is, apart from its preparation and initial analyses and plans, a type of constant communication with people. This may be in varying forms - workshops, individual discussions, articles and so on. Their aim is to explain the reasons for this change, its impact on specific groups of people and individuals, and to suggest solutions for those, who are negatively affected by the change.

The Change Management expert cooperates closely with the project sponsor.

What benefits can you gain from Change Management?
The main contribution of a professional Change Management project, is the initiation of the change in a specific time scale, and in a collective team atmosphere where each person involved is aware of the value of their contribution for the project's success. However, the main results can be noticed upon the implementation of their future changes. Only then will people resist much less against the change, based on their positive experiences.

Why engage an external consultant?

An external consultant who has an independent view on existing structures is more respected by employees, and his arguments are accepted more enthusiastically than those of managers. This element of respect is even greater if the consultant has a long working experience history (the grey hair effect). The independent aspect of a consultant is perceived to be a benefit, especially in sensitive matters with individuals concerning the negative impacts of the change.

My own experience:

- Change management as a part of a restructuring project of the head office of a large Czech bank;

- Change management as part of a re-engineering process in an international machine manufacturer.