Building the competency to manage change is not like installing a new technological system or training on a new skill or process. Becoming competent at managing change requires a transformation in the way your organization and the individuals within the organization view and react to change. It targets the foundation of how the organization operates, and how those within the organization see themselves in relation to change. The goal of building the competency to manage change is to give individuals the perspective, authority and skills they need to support the many different changes they will face.
This tutorial provides five reasons why organizations today need to get serious about building the competency to manage change - what Prosci calls Enterprise Change Management:
Factor 1 - Competitive advantage
Building the organizational competency to effectively implement and manage change is one of the key ways you can set yourself apart from your competitors. In today's marketplace, many organizations have seen the sources of their historic competitive advantage erode. Rapid access to information, common technologies, best practices, suppliers and markets has resulted in parity for many organizations. The new, global economy is forcing organizations to change the way they do work locally and abroad.
So, if you can no longer rely on historic sources of competitive advantage, how will you set your organization apart? Imagine that your organization can more quickly and more effectively react to change with less impact on productivity. People are ready for change and expect that it is going to happen. Questions are targeted. General resistance is mitigated or prevented. Each new project has a plan and approach for managing the human side of change. This is what is meant by Enterprise Change Management, and we have seen organizations begin to dedicate the time, resources and mindshare to build change management as a core competency over the last few years.
How well you manage change in the coming years - and how effectively you build internal change management competencies - will be a key source of competitive advantage and will differentiate you from others in the future.
Factor 2 - Failed changes
Each of us could list off a number of changes we have seen poorly implemented in our organizations. Some changes end up behind schedule. Others run over budget. Some face tremendous resistance from employees. Some are implemented, but the expected results never materialize. In some cases changes fail completely and are abandoned. Many of the reasons your projects have not fully realized the expected benefits in the past are tied to mismanaging the human side of change.
Now, consider the cost of these failed changes. How much time and money was spent on initiatives that were not fully implemented? What was the impact to the organization of these changes not being implemented? Your organization cannot risk the additional cost and missed benefits of poorly managing the human side of change.
Building the competency to manage change effectively, throughout the organization, can be viewed as a cost avoidance measure aimed at minimizing the impacts associated with failed changes.
Factor 3 - Upcoming changes
In addition to minimizing the risk of failed change, the number and types of changes on the horizon is another reason why your organization needs to build the competency to manage change. The coming years promise to have both a larger quantity of changes and more critical changes than any time before.
Organizations are constantly working to implement new technologies, upgrade systems, improve productivity, cut cost and manage the human capital in the organization. At any one time, your organization may have fifty to 100 projects impacting how individuals do their jobs - with fifty to 100 more on the schedule. Improving how your organization manages change will directly impact the success of each of the initiatives underway and those planned for the future. Additionally, the higher priority and more strategic initiatives have a direct impact on how employees do their jobs - meaning there is a greater need for change management.
With such tremendous churn on deck, effective change management will be critical to project outcomes and the organization's ability to meet its objectives.
Factor 4 - Consistent application
While there certainly is value to applying change management to a single project, the value is magnified when organizations begin consistently applying change management on each and every change - a key component of change management competency. The adoption and deployment of a common approach results in more consistent application both by individual practitioners and across numerous projects. This step of adopting a common approach includes common processes, tools, practices and language throughout all levels and all projects.
There are numerous benefits of more consistent application of change management. First, a common set of resources and subject matter experts can support a variety of change management practitioners. Learning curves are shortened when a common approach is consistently applied. A common approach also provides a platform for continuous learning and improvement. Each time change management is applied, practitioners can generate lessons learned that will improve the subsequent change management efforts. Without this consistent application, continuous improvement of the change management process and approach cannot occur.
There is also a risk of not adopting a common approach. Think about a single manager who is being asked to fulfill three completely different roles by three change management practitioners supporting three different changes. While each of the practitioners is working to optimize the adoption of their particular change by using change management, the manager may become confused and disengage altogether from all change management activities. The same backfire effect can occur with senior business leaders, project teams and other project support functions (like communication specialists or training specialists).
One of the first steps in building change management competency is the selection and deployment of a common approach, which improves change management efforts throughout the organization.
Factor 5 - Personal competency
Finally, there is an individual perspective related to building organizational change management competency. Aside from the 'organizational' reasons given above, managing change is an emerging and important individual skill set that leaders, managers and supervisors throughout the organization need to add to their portfolio.
There are several key best practices that show why managing change is a necessary personal competency at many levels in the organization. All four of Prosci's best practices reports have identified the role of the primary sponsor as the number one contributor to success. The sponsor's role includes actively and visibly participating with the project team, building a coalition of sponsorship with peers and other managers and communicating directly with employees about the need for change. However, fulfilling these roles does not come naturally for many senior leaders. Even the best leaders in an organization may need support, training and coaching on how to be an effective sponsor. The same holds true for managers and supervisors when it comes time to fulfill the role of coach, communicator and resistance manager when changes are introduced.
Project team members can also build personal competencies related to managing change. Even the Project Management Institute has started to add the management of the human component of change to the body of project management skills.
A final element of organizational change competency is the collective individual competencies built throughout the organization - from the person sitting at the very top all the way down to front line supervisors and employees. Change management competency shows up across the entire organization, and must be managed both from the organizational and the personal perspective.
In organizations across the globe, there is in an increased need to truly build the competency to manage change. Building the competency sets your organization apart and improves the execution of each new project being implemented. It allows you to minimize the substantial negative consequences of mismanaging change and better position yourself to be successful on future initiatives. Building the competency to change is not easy - it requires design, project management, change management and commitment from the organization - but it will be critical for success in coming years.
Tim Creasey is Prosci’s Chief Innovation Officer and a globally recognized leader in change management. His work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world on managing the people side of change to deliver organizational results.