Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The change journey

Most business change impacts people and it's often up to the people to take the business forward.There’s a destination and a route when it comes to business change and that’s why we call it a change ‘journey’. We may be unclear on the details and diversions along the way, but we know that to reap the benefits, we must bring people along.  

Getting more benefits from an investment in change will come from people taking the organisation into its future state. Change isn’t easy for anybody. Those managing and delivering the programme must make sure people are involved and engaged throughout and have the right skills to be able to adopt the new behaviours.

Understand resistance

It’s easy to understand why people are resistant and varying levels of resistance are an inevitable part of the change journey. Anticipating resistance and planning around it is crucial and will connect people with the programme even if they do not show full buy-in at any given point. If people are not sure of the benefits of the change or don’t understand it properly there’s bound to be strong resistance. Old ways of working are part of an informal network and culture that can be very hard to replace. Knowing and understanding existing working practices and informal networks means you can support people throughout the programme through communication and learning support.

There are many of ways of gathering this insight quickly and efficiently, such as one to one interviews, attending team meetings, hosting focus groups, as well as just keeping your eyes to the ground. It is important to discover who the key people are early and get to know them. They may not necessarily be integral to your project, but they’ll be the experienced and well connected people with a wide network that you’ll need to tap into.

Plan around your people

The best change projects begin with understanding the impact for those involved. How do they see their role now? What do they look forward to at work each day? And how have they dealt with change in the past? To bring them on the journey you have to understand their values – not what’s on the company intranet but the tacit rules that govern each team. When you learn about informal structures of power and influence, it is easier to identify the most relevant communications agendas. The investment in face to face interviews for example will pay off in terms of confident planning.

A gap analysis will provide knowledge of people’s needs throughout change –  the skills and engagement they need when moving from the world of one company to another – this produces a targeted programme of change management, learning and communications, appropriate to the needs of the audience.

Build and share your vision

People need to know the reasons for change before they’ll buy in to it. Capture this in a way that speaks to everyone. In doing so, the vision of the future state will become clearer – from sponsors to frontline workers, people can see the change as their story’s next chapter, even though not all of them will be delighted by it.

Make an impact

If change is a journey, the engagement campaign is the business’s vehicle. We want people to see it, recognise what it stands for and, ideally, jump on board. Such campaign also conveys your vision. Creativity is essential and depending on your stakeholder’s working practices, you can use a wide array of channels to get your message across. You may create a brand new identity which not only brings this to life but gives them a reminder of the various parts of their new operating model, the services they provide and where individual teams fit in. This should be applied to all the communications collateral to reinforce their new way of working and the need to focus on the needs of their customer.

Exploring and learning

A vital part of the change journey is allowing people the space to explore and learn via practice and hands on experience. Give them the opportunity to voice their opinions on new ways of working and experiment themselves. The journey will probably need to be broken up in chunks that are achievable, each one with different things to do. You won’t be able to do everything at once. And you’ll need to give the right amount of encouragement, motivation and reward for completing each stage of the journey.

Change is constant in businesses now. Don’t let your project be one of those that doesn’t realise the potential business benefits because people somehow got left behind on the journey.

Adapted from Afiniti's Business Change Newsletter, December 2014. Afiniti is a UK based award winning business change consultancy that delivers change with a people focus, producing sustainable changes in behaviour, mind-sets and working practices.