When organizations go about changing, the hardest work is almost always related to people. Getting people ready, willing and able to work differently is easier said than done. Defining a vision is important. But translating that vision into real change is an entirely different challenge that is where the rubber really meets the road.
Too often, we see well-meaning change management programs fail. A successful change management program ensures that a few critical things necessary to change an organization are in place.
First and foremost, successful change management ensures that there is active and visible sponsorship. That means leaders are engaged in the change in a way that people can actually see. Among other things, leaders need to be present (literally and figuratively) at key meetings, say the right things at the right times, prioritize meetings with project team members, ask informed questions about the change and make efforts to be available for informal conversations.
Second, successful change management ensures frequent and open communications about why the change is needed. People understand why the change is important and how the company, customers, and they themselves will benefit. Effective communication requires repetition, consistency, and transparency. Appealing to both the head and the heart helps too. A need that can be felt emotionally rather than just understood logically is more apt to spur action.
Third, successful change management ensures a structured approach to managing the people elements of the transition. There are periods of assessing the impacted stakeholders and potential areas of resistance. There is an understanding of how to manage the individual transition that people will experience. There is an approach or methodology that provides a means for planning the work and carrying out the change management activities. And the approach includes work to help reinforce and sustain the new behaviors after the change is initially implemented.
Lastly, successful change management ensures that there are dedicated resources to manage the change. What projects succeed without people focused on getting it done? Dedicated resources and funding for managing the people elements of the change ensure that the work is the primary focus for some person or group of people. When the organizational change elements of a project are left to the project team without any specific focused resources, it is understandable that they fall to the bottom of the priority list.
Knowing these critical success factors for change management is the first step in actually putting those things into place so that a change management program can thrive in your organization.