Earlier this month, Google’s CIO Ben Fried commented on stage at the Forbes CIO Summit that Google has made change a core competency. Fried shared a strategic perspective that the ability to change is essential to stay competitive. He emphasized the need to create a team that flourishes in change. You can read more about Fried's comments here.
A Top Business Trend
Fried’s recognition of change competency as a strategic differentiator points to a burgeoning trend in board rooms and executive suites. Success in change is an imperative. In Prosci’s most recent Best Practices in Change Management report, four of the top trends that change professionals highlighted encapsulate the trend:
- Greater awareness of the need for change management (#1)
- More resources and positions dedicated to change management (#2)
- A broader application of change management practices (#5)
- Increased leadership support for change management (#7)
Leaders recognize that consistently delivering change results is a valuable competitive differentiator and a key to strategic success.
But what does it mean for an organization to make change a core competency? How do you create a team with a mature capability to change? And where do you start?
Mature Change Competency
Change maturity relies on a strong leadership vision like the one Fried alluded to – a vision for a nimble work force that expects change and thrives in it. But producing success at change is further enabled by a structured and intentional approach to building change management as an organizational capability.
A mature change management practice is embedded in the DNA of the organization. At a Level 5 in Prosci’s Change Management Maturity Model, change management is nearly inseparable from the initiatives themselves. Change management begins before projects begin. Planning and design activities are integrated into standard practice. Managers and supervisors routinely use change management techniques to help support a broad range of initiatives, large and small.
The results that a mature change management capability produces are tangible. More projects finish on time and on budget and ultimately achieve faster Return on Investment (ROI). Ben Fried’s description of a team that flourishes in change is a team that sees less productivity loss and less employee resistance when the inevitable and ongoing need to change arises.
Where To Start?
Change management maturity doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something to be built and developed over time. It is best tackled as a change in its own right, with a project plan and a clear understanding of the impacted groups.
Advice from 1,120 change projects across various industries identified the most important activities to launch an organizational change management capability. These are the starting blocks for building your change management maturity.
1. Ensure you have executive buy-in
Like any change, active and visible executive sponsorship of the need for change management is a critical success factor. Advocacy for change management needs to come from not just a single visionary sponsor, but from a coalition of advocates across the highest levels of the organization. Securing this before beginning a capability deployment lends credibility and momentum to the deployment efforts.
2. Create one coherent message
While there may be many motivations for initiating change as a core competency, multiple messages cloud the communication stream. Align key stakeholders around a clear, simple and consistent message of why you are making change a core competency.
3. Demonstrate proof of success
Deploy change management on one or more demonstration projects to build a basis of proof that change management practice works in your organization. Qualitative feedback from interviews and surveys was cited as the most powerful tactic to communicate change management successes.
Be bold in the transformation of your business. Enable your organization to increase its change management maturity by approaching the deployment of change capability with structure and intent. Accelerate your organization’s ability to flourish in change.
"People are creatures of habit, and yet technology has never moved as quickly as it is today. As a result, CIOs need to make change a core competency. The ability to change is essential to stay competitive."
- Ben Fried, CIO of Google