With strategic plans in place for 2019, the focus turns to implementation. For many, transformational change will be high on the list. As you look to evaluate resources, you may find yourself needing additional bandwidth. So, you turn to external consultants—whether these are large consultancies or individual practitioners.
“Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.” While the well-known song lyric is about teaching a group of children to sing, the sage advice also applies to implementing strategic business or clinical initiatives.
One of the biggest frustrations Change Agents and Project Teams confront is lack of adoption of the change by the Targets. There is no doubt that the “status quo” is a powerful force, even when a change is positive or entirely rational. Very often, the reason why the change isn’t embraced is because the appropriate reinforcements are not in place. For some reason, we expect people to behave differently, but we reinforce them for staying the same!
Leaders often recognize the need for culture change. They acknowledge it is fundamental to successful transformation, including in planned Mergers & Acquisitions. But while the need for culture change is known, getting it implemented successfully is another story. As the authors of the January-February 2018 Harvard Business Review (HBR) article“The Culture Factor” note, “ In our experience, it is far more common for leaders…to either let it go unmanaged or relegate it to the HR function, where it becomes a secondary concern for the business. They may lay out detailed, thoughtful plans for strategy and execution, but because they don’t understand culture’s power and dynamics, their plans go off the rails.”
Hint: it may not be when you think!
What is the end goal for your strategic initiatives? While it may seem like an obvious question, you’d be surprised at the number of organizations that get it wrong. Whether it is new technology, Agile, continuous improvement such as Lean/Six Sigma, restructuring or a business/clinical transformation, most organizations focus on getting to go-live. Shortly after that date, the project team is dismantled, and the initiative is checked off as complete and probably “successful.”
On a recent new technology implementation for a major, global corporation our consultants quickly realized the new system was actually one of 60 initiatives that were being launched over an 18-month period. Each individual project had its own project team and although there were interdependencies between the initiatives, the project teams were completely unaware of what the others were doing.
Don Harrison, the developer of the AIM Change Management Methodology, has spent his 40+ year career working with global organizations on how to implement complex change. He specializes in delivering tough messages to senior executives on their role as Sponsors. Not an easy task!
The rate of change in today’s business world is certainly at an all-time high. Everyone we know is racing around at a crazy, fast pace trying to implement multiple initiatives all of which are chasing the same limited resources. This nonstop, whirlwind of activity often makes an organization seem like it’s functioning like a well-oiled machine. (After all if everyone is busy, change management must be happening, right?) But, have you ever stopped to ask yourself what exactly everyone is doing? Are they just spinning their wheels with activity or are they making an actual impact with their actions?
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If you are undergoing a business change, whether it is a minor procedural one or transformational in scope, chances are you are going to come across someone, somewhere in the organization who doesn’t like what’s going on. Truth be told, you’ll probably come across quite a few people who disagree with the change. Whether your resistance is out in the open, or lurking in a dark corner somewhere, trust us…it is there.
You’ve heard it time and time again: Project Sponsorship is the most critical success factor in ensuring a fast and successful implementation of any type of business change. But Sponsorship is not just one executive leader who signs the check and authorizes the launch of an initiative. It’s also not a steering committee of key leaders tasked with making strategic decisions along the way.