The last couple of years I have been heavily involved in Change Management. Not just from a management point of view, but from an implementation point of view and while it hasn’t changed my mind about change (I’m one of the few people on the planet who enjoy it), my work has brought home a few interesting points that I’d like to share with you! While none of it is rocket science, these three points have made a huge difference in the project I have been working on.
Change is difficult, we all know that, but if you try to implement a change without first taking into account the culture, you are destined to fail. As a Brit, working in the US, culture is one of the first things that I see, especially when it is different to my own. That being said, seeing differences in culture is not the same as understanding them. If you can’t meet the people where they live, you’ll never be able to get buy in for a change or be able to understand the difficulties and fears facing the people you want to influence. Obviously when you are planning a change, you put together a strategy, you list the detractors and the risks, you list the benefits and the reasons for change etc. Without a true understanding of the culture though, your strategy will be missing vital elements. You’ll have blind spots and unexpected resistance because you didn’t walk a mile in the shoes of the personnel affected.
The second thing I noticed was interesting to me, because at first it didn’t make sense. I was taught that when implementing a change to start with the top management. Get their buy-in first and then work down. If the management team isn’t on board, your plan won’t get off the ground. All of this is true. And yet, while implementing this most recent change I noticed a disconnect between the different layers on site. As a result, I worked with the lower levels of the teams and got stakeholders involved at the bottom, rather than pushing the change from the top. When the lower levels don’t feel as though they have a voice, giving them one and having them involved from the beginning of a change can be really empowering.
And finally, having a strategy and a plan is obviously vital, and yet being unwilling to deviate from the plan, not being flexible enough to bend with the wind, can cause its own problems. A perfect example of this was how we segregated the teams. We planned to have four teams, each one representing a different section of the customer base. All of the analysis we’d done suggested this model would be ideal and the skills / talents of the people involved seemed to match this plan perfectly. Fast forward six months into the change and we’ve merged two of the teams into one. Why? What seemed perfect on paper never really materialized and certainly didn’t give us the results we needed. It put additional stress on the team and frankly wasn’t worth the heartache it was causing. In short, you can do all of the analysis in the world but you have to be willing to ditch your perfect plan in the face of reality. Humility goes a long way in change management!
I’m sure there are other lessons I could share, but I wanted to put down on paper a few short notes that really hit home and made the last couple of years interesting to say the least! Hope it helps!!