"Change management takes change management." This may sound like a simplistic observation, even just common sense. However, your success as a change management practitioner will ultimately be determined by how well you understand and operationalize this concept in the work you are doing within your organization.
Obstacles and potential failure await practitioners who overlook or forget to apply change management to their change management efforts. In some cases, those change management efforts will get a head nod, but no meaningful action. In other cases, your work may simply occur in the margin and have no impact on the project you are supporting. Your success at applying change management on projects in your organization will be tied to how you manage the people side of the change: "applying change management".
There is an old adage in the United States: "the cobbler's children have no shoes". The point of this adage is that when we work too closely to something, we occasionally neglect it for ourselves. This is a very real issue for change management practitioners.
Countless change management practitioners have fallen into the trap of becoming enamored by their "solution" - in this case change management - and committing the very same errors they coach others to avoid. As a change management professional, you would chastise a project team for developing a new technology and then simply dropping it on employees. You would tell them how important it is to make a compelling case for why the change is needed, to explain the risks of not changing, and what is not working today. You would tell the team how important it is to have active and visible sponsors participating and demonstrating their own commitment. You would coach them to provide appropriate and adequate training, positioned at the right time in the project lifecycle. You would clearly explain the risks of simply dropping a solution on employees.
In reality, you take change management as your "solution" and make every one of the mistakes listed above. You don't share why it is important. You don't make a compelling case about the risk of not applying change management and why we need change management right now. You don't secure adequate sponsorship for change management. You send people to training without the proper context. You fail to manage the individual and personal change that your coworkers experience when you ask them to apply change management.
Change management practitioners need to apply what they know about change management to the task of getting others to adopt change management - and avoid being the cobbler's children.
Here are just a few of "the changes" you need others in your organization to make in order for change management to be successful on a particular project:
Each of these are unique and specific changes to how someone does their work. It is no different than when you ask a front line employee to follow a new process, use a new tool or follow new protocols. When you ask others in the organization to "apply change management" you are often times asking them to make a change from how they have done things in the past. Managing these personal transitions is at the core of "change management takes change management".
The Prosci ADKAR Model describes the five building blocks of any successful change as:
To start the change process, an individual first needs to understand why the change is needed. Following an answer to why, an individual must make the personal choice to participate. Once this decision is made, a person needs the knowledge on how to change and the ability to implement the change. Finally, without reinforcement an individual will slide back into what they had done in the past and the change will not be sustained. This model applies to changes at home, in the community and at work - it describes the five outcomes that together, result in successful and lasting change.
Now, think about applying the same five building blocks to the change: "applying change management".
When you begin treating "applying change management" as a change that you must manage, you introduce and address change management in a new way. The first aspect of using change management to get others to apply change management is in the individual change realm. Below is a table with some example action steps for just one of the changes above.
Help them connect change management to what they care about
Help them understand their role
Help them fulfill their role
A list with all the above elements should be built for each of the audiences you are asking to do change management. Think about the different audiences you'll be engaging:
Each of these groups will make a change when they begin adopting and applying change management. How will you build Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement for the change "applying change management"?
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.