Company change, or business change and transformation, are one of the only constants in the commercial world today. We’ve all been through, or are going through change within our organisations- it’s become the expected norm and a necessary element of survival as a business.
But Who’s Managing All This Change & Who Should Ultimately Be Accountable?
As organisational operations become ever more complex, the answer to this question has also evolved and expanded. The short answer is: everyone within an organisation manages change to some degree, however, most companies operate with a specific hierarchy or structure of roles and responsibilities in order to manage change successfully. Let’s take a look at the different roles…
Most would argue that change is usually instigated by leaders. These are those who sit at the top of the house making the big decisions. Decisions that pertain to strategy, operations, new market opportunities and so on. Large-scale transformation efforts will always require the support of leaders and will ultimately be a core part of their responsibility. But leaders need to do more than just decide the direction of travel. They need to:
- articulate a vision that engages employees
- support all activity that prepares the business for change
- actively execute against plans
- role model new or desired behaviours
- reward and recognise others appropriately to embed change
- create mechanisms that support employee morale during times of change and uncertainty
Some of the above is taken care of through regular management processes, such as project management practices. However, much will be down to the individual style of the leader. As well as their capacity to be comfortable and able to lead through change. Ultimately, leaders belong in first place on this list since they have final accountability for the organisation and its operations, and they therefore must be held to account for delivering change effectively.
However, they are not alone of course! Businesses have layers of teams and functions that are often used to support continuous change initiatives. Two of the most prominent functions when it comes to managing business change are technology and HR.
Technology and HR teams
Technology and digital innovations are by far the biggest drivers of change in today’s world. With HR and people transformation probably coming a close second. With tech as the catalyst, HR are effectively the ones handling the consequences. As technological changes almost always impact people, often in challenging ways. This is clear in automation and robotics taking over activity previously owned by humans.
People Side of Business
In addition, HR are the ones accountable for looking after the ‘people side’ of the business. Change programmes tend to have a significant HR presence to ensure negative impacts regarding employees are minimised. This happens both in relation to personal wellbeing and employee morale, as well as business performance.
A Vehicle For Business Change
In addition, HR are a critical vehicle for business change in their own right, and have become more so over the past decade. As diversity, inclusion, wellbeing, pay equality, leadership, and employee empowerment have risen on the executive agenda, so has HR as both a symbol and cause of much positive organisational change.
Alongside the core business functions, there will be various management teams- from within business functions and business lines of operation. These teams take an active role in supporting and executing change. For example, if large-scale transformation is occurring, leaders and managers at all levels of the business will be expected to actively embed and drive the change. They will undoubtedly need to be involved in shaping activity and ensuring it is fit for purpose.
Mature and large organisations tend to be experienced in assembling project teams and project managers who take on additional responsibilities. This is typically alongside the day job to deliver change into the business. Effectively managing projects, and thus change, is an essential capability for most managers in today’s world. Many will be doing this continuously as a key component of their day-to-day role, and an expected element of their development and career path.
Who is a change manager? A change manager can be either:
- An employee who focuses purely on the discipline of change management. Who only conducts activity that relates to managing change. who was probably hired for this skill only.
- An employee who takes on the role of managing change alongside their other areas of expertise. is likely to be qualified and able to perform the duties of managing change simply because they’ve developed this experience. As an example, after Covid-19, there are many more managers and leaders who feel confident in managing change. They are taking on the role of a designated ‘change manager’ as a result of their experiences, as opposed to this being their career choice .
Whilst change management is a discipline with its own formal qualifications, managing change is also a skill that many will master. This mastery may come without having had any previous training. This is a consequence of the ever-evolving world we inhabit where change often occurs too quickly. This speed often means most of us don’t have the luxury of preparing and learning to deal with it.- We simply have to get on with it and learn as we go!
Most management programs worth investing in will include change management as a core learning component. The majority of manager or leader role descriptions now include managing change as a key amongst the many roles and responsibilities of managers today.
Last but by no means least, let’s not forget employees themselves. Those who are ultimately the ‘receivers’ of change for the most part. Groups such as ‘change champions’ or ‘change ambassadors’ are now commonplace in most change programmes. They are reflecting the crucial role employees will play in supporting the adoption of change on the ground and helping management understand what is or isn’t working.
The Advocates of Change
Employees will essentially be the key advocates and voice of business change. They should therefore be central to design decisions when significant change is being implemented.
So, Who Should Manage Business Change?
In conclusion, when answering the question of who should manage business change, it is useful to consider the key roles. These roles are laid out above in conjunction with the following questions:
- What type of change is being implemented, and therefore who needs to be involved and consulted across the business?
- Who will have the most influence over the success of the change and what role must they therefore play?
- Who will feel the impact of the change the most and what role should they have?
This will provide a strong basis on which to determine roles and responsibilities for managing company change effectively.