Sometimes change can be quite subtle and may not even register to begin with, and at other times, like the issues faced with the credit crunch, they can be quite dramatic and require an immediate and significant response.
Organizations are like living breathing systems. It is not possible to change one part of the system without compromising some other elements of organization management, operation or life. Each part of an organization -- service, sales, operations etc -- interacts with other parts of the organization and any one part will provide the trigger for change.
Very often change is driven by an external mechanism. This may be a new leader, economic conditions, regulation, customer demand, suppliers or competition.
Given that research has shown that around 70% of change management plans fail to give a return on investment, the popularity of the formal change management plan is astounding.
The difficulty in setting a change management process is that there is not one ‘right’ answer to what needs to happen in order to achieve buy in. It is the reason why management consultancy has such a bad name and why change programmes fail. Too often a group of consultants will go into an organization with a set template of ‘success,’ a vanilla template, which is then customized (at great cost) to fit the organization's systems and processes. But they rarely customize the change management plan to fit the people.
Successful Change = Process and People
As technology and the pace and scale of change demanded as well as competitive advantage returns gets harder to achieve with improvements in operations, production and service the value added by organizational culture and people has increased.
A socio-technical approach to organizational change argues that successful change involves people AND processes/systems. Many popular organization change programmes such as lean manufacturing and business process re-engineering focus purely on the systems and processes within a business and forget that it is people that make those processes and systems operate.
Employees are often subjected to the most amazing systems and processes that on paper look fantastic but in reality fail to work. On the other hand, in other organizations, the systems and processes are a mess of spreadsheets and workarounds and yet the organization works like clockwork.
A People Centred Process
It is employees that give competitive advantage that cannot be replicated by anyone else and employees who already have the answers in regards to the system and process solutions which will deliver the change the organization is seeking.
This type of change management isn’t as ‘neat’ as systematic top down change management processes. It’s more time consuming in terms of people resource and requires a bottom up approach that is often feared by organizational leadership.
But it is the employees that are the engines of change in any organization – they can drive the change management process and are an under utilized capability in achieving organizational goals.
A successful change management process operates at all levels of the organization – the individual taking responsibility for their performance, the team or department collectively having responsibility for delivering change and the organization as a whole.
Though this type of change is ‘planned’ very often, the change that occurs is emergent in nature as it takes account of the complexity of organizational problems. It does take account not just of the processes and systems (the technical bit) but also the social and political elements of managing the change process as well.
“While the primary stimulus for change in organizations remains those forces in the external environment, the primary motivator for how change is accomplished reside with the people in the organization” Benjamin and Mabey (1993)
Top Ten Tips for Employee Buy In