To say that change management takes change management may sound overly simplistic, especially to an experienced practitioner. Yet, obstacles and potential failures await practitioners who forget to apply change management to their own 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're supporting. Your success at managing change on projects in your organization will depend on how you manage the people side of applying change management.
You probably know the saying, "The cobbler's children have no shoes." The point is, of course, that when we work too closely with something, we can neglect it in our own work.
Countless change management practitioners have fallen into this trap. It’s easier than you might think to dive headlong into a beautiful change management solution only to commit the errors you’re helping others avoid. As a change management professional, you would chastise project teams for developing a new technology and simply dropping it on employees. You would help them understand the importance of making a compelling case for why the change is needed, 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 who demonstrate their commitment. You would help them provide the right training at the right time in the project lifecycle. And you would clearly explain the risks of simply dropping a solution on employees.
When you reflect on your own change practices, you may see that you leverage change management as your solution and make every one of the mistakes above. You don't share why it’s 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 change management training without proper context. You fail to manage the individual and personal change 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 to avoid leaving the cobbler's children shoeless.
Here are a few of changes you need employees in your organization to make for change management to be successful on a project:
Each of these needs is a specific change to how an individual does their work. It’s just like asking 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’re often asking them to change how they have done things in the past. Managing these personal transitions is fundamental to what "change management takes change management" means.
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 of how to change and the ability to implement the change. Finally, reinforcement keeps an individual from sliding back into the old ways of doing things. 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 of "applying change management":
When you "apply change management" as a change you must manage, you address change management in a new way. To get started, try the actions below.
Help individuals connect change management to what they care about:
Help individuals understand their roles:
Help individuals fulfill their roles:
Next, create a list with the elements above for each unique audience you ask to do change management, including:
Each group will make a change when they begin adopting and applying change management. How will you build awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement for "applying change management"?
Change practitioners must set the stage for success, which starts with treating change management like its own change. Identify the changes that you need to happen, including who needs to change, what they need to be doing, and how the new ways will differ. Deliver a compelling case for the value change management has to offer. Clearly articulate what you need to be done. Provide the necessary training, skills and tools to help the people you’re asking to make this change successful. And finally, acknowledge the work of individuals, celebrating the impacts they make on the project and organization when they apply 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.
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