By Melanie Franklin
I am often asked to create the framework or method for managing change by organisations who already have a project management approach and want to include all of the ‘softer’ activities that they associate with implementing the change and creating new ways of working.
When change management was becoming a recognised management discipline, about 10 years ago, this request was easy. I would create a step by step approach for managing a change, beginning with activities to identify, verify, scope and assess the feasibility of the idea.
The next step would be planning all of the activities needed to move from the ‘As Is’ to the ‘To Be’ state. Implementation would include activities to communicate the need for change, build a sense of need and want for the change, and continue the communication to support and encourage all of those involved.
The last step would be to embed the change, which involved celebrating the changes already made to reinforce the benefits of the change, and the removal of tangible aspects of the old ways of working so that staff couldn’t return to the old ways of working.
There is nothing wrong with what I have described above. Although this is a linear model, implying that change goes smoothly, moving from step to step without any problems, the approach does help those new to change understand all of the things they might need to do.
However, this approach did originate from the world of programme management, where organisations would create detailed plans of all the things they were going to do, and mobilise effort around these plans, on the assumption that ‘if we can just make this leap into new ways of working, everything will settle down afterwards’.
As change becomes a more normal part of our working lives, change is often smaller scale but higher volume, so we need a different way to cope. I think this way is to build a capability rather than a process.
To build a capability, we need to think in terms of knowledge, skills and techniques. Essentially, we need to provide content that enables staff to learn how to professionally understand, plan and implement change at whatever level in the organisation they are.
I am currently doing this with an organisation, where we have built an Academy. By giving it a name, we have created a sense of pride in being able to access the materials, and a recognition that entering the Academy is part of a career development pathway.
The Academy uses the intranet to host all of its content, enabling users to access whatever guidance they need when they need it. The material is not based on a lifecycle model, implying that everyone starts at step 1 and moves through each subsequent step in a linear way. Users might enter the Academy for support for a change which is already scoped and planned, but is struggling to be implemented.
The Academy materials are a mixture of formats to meet the different learning preferences of all those involved:
- Slide decks explaining specific change management techniques
- Video clips from volunteers who talk the audience through an example of how they have used a particular technique and what they achieved as a result
- Templates and checklists for specific activities so that even without lots of training, people will have the confidence to undertake an Impact Assessment or host a workshop.
One word of advice is that all of the materials in the Academy have to be created by very experienced Change Managers. Change is rarely the same twice, so the content has to reflect how things might work with explanations of how the approach can be tailored for different circumstances, and that only works if those transferring their knowledge have experienced change in lots of different circumstances.