Change is defined as “to make something different”. It is not to make better, but to make different. The responsibility to identify opportunities for change, evaluate the existing business environment, and define the changes that makes a “better difference” in the organization is with the leadership of the company. Also, by virtue of constantly changing business environment, the change itself is constant. A company may pro-actively address the changing business environment and re-align itself for success or it may let the external forces dictate and eventually lose opportunities to compete in the dynamic landscape. Since change is constant, we should call it “Managing” and not “Implementing” change. Instead of using the word “Change”, we could refer it as “Growth”, because “managing change” is effectively “managing growth” which could be either positive growth or negative growth.

The change here is not the application change in IT or functional change related to internal operations of a business division. Those changes are well managed by the Change Control Board within the realm of Project management and ITIL. The change referred here is an enterprise wide transformation that affects the culture of the company and/or its business strategy. The effects of such transformations are felt across the board in the company and get ingrained within the thought process company.

There are several factors that affect a successful outcome of the change process.

 

  • Vision and Buy-In

The vision of change is what the management anticipates the end result after the change process is completed. The goal will go through several modifications and iterations before it is accepted as “achievable” and “acceptable”. It may be months before the vision is accomplished, but everyone in the management and the organization must be committed to the vision.

For a successful outcome, the management itself must have a buy-in to the vision of the change. It may not be possible for everyone to agree on all components of change, but there has to be an agreement at a strategic level that the change has to come through, and it has to happen by the planned schedule. Only when there is buy-in and a sense of urgency at the management level, they would present the vision successfully to their individual departments and allocate the required resources to achieve the goal.

 

  • Communication

Many business changes are introduced after a particularly lean business cycle and that itself is detrimental to employee morale. With information available on-line and at water-cooler conversations, employees are aware that the business is not doing well and any corporate change is perceived as a reactive cost saving attempt – and cost saving starts with “ME losing MY job”.

Communicating the vision, goals, and schedules of planned changes with employees allows management to encourage positive discussions and involvement of employees in the change process. The management should also step in to correct any incorrect assumptions that would make employees wary of the change and negatively influence the outcome.

 

  • Key partnerships

Key employees in different business functions are your best spokespersons. Identify and develop individuals in different business functions who have deep understanding of their own operations as well as how the blocks fit in the organizations. These individuals will be your early adopters as well as promote your plans within their groups. Be careful to utilize their support strategically and not overwhelm them as they do have their regular responsibilities, and their support is over and above their job responsibilities.

 

  • Milestones

Milestones measure success along the path to the final goal. They also serve as reference points to re-direct efforts if there appears to be scope creep or the plan is off-schedule. Create and publish logical milestones along the change path and publish the status. Celebrate these milestones as short-term wins and also use these to bring aboard critics who initially were not convinced of your vision and plan.

 

  • Formal implementation and Closure

Any process is only as good as the execution of the process. Review the implementation, identify, and resolve any miscommunications during the implementation. Ensuring the new process is formally documented in the business process document and the business users continue to use the new process is as important as the initial change itself.

As the changes are formally documented and implemented, the project leadership should also announce a formal completion of the project. This makes the resources involved in the process to be made available to other projects. This is especially true in a matrix organization where people work on multiple projects and have multiple reporting relationships. The formal closure also lays down the final milestone and creates a sense of achievement in the team.

Managing growth by managing change allows for controlled execution and implementation of changes. Unmanaged and uncontrolled changes will result in an organization that is not focused and driving to a common acceptable goal of success. The above process represents a broad set of steps to drive key changes in an organization. The tactical implementation will involve a deeper understanding of the organization structure, policy, business processes, and the work culture of the company.

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