We’ve spent a lot of years in the global Change Management marketplace. Over 35 to be exact. And after all this time, people still don’t seem to “get it.” Day after day, we speak to Sponsors, Senior Executives, and sometimes even Change Agents who still think Change Management is just a buzzword. Or, they believe it is something to be done “out there” by other people. Some still think they can send an email out to the organization announcing a change, and then check Change Management off their to-do list for good.
But any good Change Consultant knows none of those things are true. They know exactly what Change Management is, and how important it can be in order to reach full benefit realization for every strategic initiative. Don Harrison, developer of the Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM), puts it like this, “How a change is implemented is just as important as what is being implemented.”
During his Change Management Training programs, Don teaches Change Management is a lot of things, but it is definitely NOT this:
A Set of Checklists and Tools
So many Change Management practitioners still believe all they need to do is complete a couple of templates, fill out a few checklists, and voila...Change Management is complete. But when Change Agents hide in their offices working through a toolkit that came with their shiny new Change Management Framework, they are potentially missing the most important actions Change Agents can take. Wouldn’t it be better if they were out in the organization actually Managing Resistance, Generating Sponsorship, and creating a Reinforcement Strategy?
Yes, when it comes to Change Management, checklists and tools can be very helpful. But—tools are just that...tools. No matter how deep or robust a toolkit is, it is not going to be sufficient to drive behavior change. Instead, the elements of a Change Management methodology should be structured around principles that guide you through the technical, business, and people-side of a change implementation.
A Communication Strategy
If we’ve said it once we’ve said it a million times. A Communication Plan is not the same thing as a full Change Implementation Plan. But for some reason, people still think if they build a plan to send emails, create a website, and link it to their Facebook Page, there will be unanimous buy-in, and magically everyone will change their behavior.
Think of it like this; if we could change behavior just by communicating more effectively, people wouldn't smoke and everyone would be at their ideal weight. Yes, having a Communication Plan is important, crucial even. But it is not enough. A Communication Plan must be blended with the other elements of Change Management, including Target Readiness, Sponsorship and Cultural Alignment.
End User Training
While building Target Readiness is an important element of Change Management, like Communication Planning, it should not be mistaken for a full Change Management plan. Targets of the change need more than just skill-building to be ready for the change. They also need information (communication), motivation (reinforcements), and confidence (we won’t even mention the Resistance Management that needs to be done.) So while a Training Plan, like a Communication Plan, is important, again, it is just one piece of the larger Change Management puzzle.
A Lot of Activity
When a change is on the horizon, the office can seem very busy. Meetings are being held, emails are being sent, and training classes are being scheduled. Obviously, lots of activity must mean things are going well and Change Management is occurring. But are people doing the right activities? It's tempting to be seduced by a lot of activity, but actions that are focused on getting the initiative launched (or what we call "Installed") should not be confused with the true hard work of implementation.
What is Change Management?
Now that we know what Change Management is not…what is it? Simply defined, Change Management is the process, rigor, and discipline surrounding the people side of a change implementation. Every initiative should be measured by the following 5 metrics of success:
- On Time
- Within Budget
- All Business Objectives Met
- All Technical Objectives Met AND
- All Human Objectives Met
Only when all five metrics have been met will you have full value realization and behavior change. Without behavior change, there is no true change, which, in turn, means Return on Investment has not been achieved.
Real Change Management is a daily exercise in power and politics. The most impact Change Agents will have is on unplanned interventions. As Change Consultants we know when you pay attention to the people side of change projects you will ultimately be more successful. But again, the goal of Change Management should not be simply "to do" a process. Instead, core principles should be used as a guide on what to do, given the day-to day realities and challenges of a project. Think of it like the dashboard on a car. Just as you have a series of warning lights that come on and off, Change Management should be used as a risk dashboard for the human side of a change.
In today’s crazy, fast paced business world, time is a precious commodity. Every organization we know has too many projects chasing after far too few resources. Given this reality, what is the best use of your Change Agents’ time? Should they be in their offices filling out checklists, planning training, and writing emails about the wonderful rationale behind the change that is coming? Or should they be out in the organization Defining the Change, Generating Sponsorship, Creating Readiness, Managing Resistance, and Developing a Reinforcement Strategy? Change Management is this…not that.