A Bird’s Eye View of Change Management in Organizations Today

Posted by Paula Alsher on Thu, Aug 11, 2016 @ 11:36 AM

Over the past 30+ years, IMA’s change management experts have been helping organizations worldwide implement complex changes.  From Mergers and Acquisitions to Shared Services to IT implementations, we’ve pretty much seen it all.  One of the distinct advantages of our work is that we have an opportunity to get a bird's eye view into what is going on across global enterprises in terms of change management challenges and practices. Birds Eye View of Change ManagementOne of the most shocking realizations we can share is that although most organizations think they are "special and unique"… in reality, there are a significant number of commonalities across all organizations, no matter their size or industry.  In fact, there are likely more commonalities than differences when it comes to implementation challenges and practices. 

Below we’ve shared just a few of the commonalities in implementation challenges we’ve seen, along with a few tips on how to solve them.

Generating and sustaining active Sponsorship is far and away the most significant barrier to change.

While many enterprise-wide changes are led by Sponsors who are championing the change in words, these same individuals often fail to provide the requisite reinforcements for their own direct reports.  The leaders who are one or two levels down are assumed to be committed to the change, yet they may have their own personal agendas that are far greater motivators to maintaining the status-quo. These high-level Sponsors are inadvertently creating "black holes" that Change Agents are confronted with and often can't overcome-- resulting in many changes that stall out.

Solution: There must be a cascade of committed Sponsors level by level throughout the organization who are consistently expressing, modeling, and reinforcing their personal and collective commitment to the change with their direct reports. 

Lack of prioritization of the change agenda.

If there ever was an issue that was common to almost every organization, it’s that there is too much going on. There is tremendous pressure to do more, try more and hopefully succeed more often.  Whether organizations have 5,000 or 50,000 employees, they are spinning with activity. 

Often times, there seems to be no clear line of sight as to the total number of projects that are actually in play, where resources are being spent, or whether the initiatives are aligned with the stated most critical company strategies. In simple terms, the portfolio of change is not being managed effectively. 

Solution: Focus down to speed up. In other words, to go faster, you have to actually slow down by having fewer initiatives on the organizational change plate at the same time.  It may sound counter-intuitive, but slowing down ultimately results in greater speed.

Many large-scale, complex enterprise-wide changes are not sufficiently well-defined up-front. 

Because there is so much going on in organizations, the pressure to move quickly is driving project teams to begin without a sound change definition.  While budget and timelines, and technical objectives are generally clear, there is not the same clarity on the business and human objectives for the change. 

Organizations are doing a much better job at developing sound project charters, but still lack definition of the "behaviors we seek to see" in the future state.  As we say, “you can't measure success on the back-end if the metrics aren't clearly established up-front.”

Solution: In order to accurately define a change, there must be alignment on the scope of the change, including the new behaviors in the future state, and a clear “From-To” definition.  Four questions need to be answered in language and examples that resonate for every affected group:

  • What is changing for the organization and for me?
  • Why is it changing?
  • What are the consequences for not changing?
  • And, how will success be measured?

"Installation" mindset is wide-spread.

Given the pressures to do so much, the definition of success often becomes activity-based (get the change launched) rather than results-based (get sustained adoption of the change and true benefit realization.)  It's tempting to be seduced by measures of activity instead of focusing on the harder work of implementation

Solution:  Don't be confused and let your organization's transformational change or other project investment become a victim of the installation trap.  It may feel good in the moment to check the “all done” box, but you aren’t going to get to full value realization. Instead, adopt an implementation mindset where success is measured by being on time, on budget, with all business, technical and human objectives met.

There are lots of resources being thrown at enterprise-wide changes without an enterprise-wide change management methodology or change approach.

While there is logic to using one change management methodology when implementing across the enterprise, many enterprise-wide changes are being attempted within existing vertical power structures with no consistency.  But, if you are creating "enterprise-wide" change and “one company” solutions, you can't have multiple approaches with no oversight on how the entire program is being managed.  In addition, the governance structure should provide a clear line of sight from strategy to portfolio to programs, projects, and sub-projects.  

Solution: Employ a consistent, repeatable process (such as IMA’s proprietary Accelerating Implementation Methodology, AIM) for implementing changes. There is much to be gained by uniting the organizational silos with one approach and implementing in a manner that is consistent with the future state.  How you implement is as important as what you are implementing {Tweet This}!

Do you have a birds’ eye view of the change management challenges and practices in your organization?  What do you see? 

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Topics: Change Management Methodology, Barriers to Change, Change Management Consulting