Change management has come a long way over the past decade or so. It’s evolved from a top-down, process-driven, project management based discipline, to an agile, people-centred, integral part of business operations. Effective change management is now a vital component of running an organisation. Formally adopted or not, it exists in some guise in order for businesses to continue to innovate and evolve.
But why do businesses need change management and why is change management important?
The short answer is:
“To maximise gains from periods of change or transformation whilst minimising disruption to business as usual”.
When a business goes through a period of change, it will almost always be doing so alongside running normal operations. Therefore it is wise to actively seek to manage the change so that gains can be realised without losses. And the number one risk factor to not realising benefits is people.
Managing the people side of change- the main purpose of change management today
Most organisations consist of a bunch of people doing a ton of different activities. Technology and management software of various types is now a massive factor in driving business forward. Managing this technology and everything else non-tech related ultimately rests with people.
People are notoriously bad at changing, or at responding well to changes no matter how de-personalised they are. Managing the people side of change has therefore become the single biggest factor in the progression of the change management discipline and its progress as an accessible and accepted core part of organisational life.
Management professionals and leaders are now expected to be able to support employees through periods of change.This requires an understanding of the emotional experience of change and the ways in which adoption of new thinking and behaviours can be encouraged and sustained. Much of the change management discipline is now dedicated to getting this right first and foremost. A key benefit of change management is the positive impact it can have on leadership capabilities.
More than a management process
Understanding change management- even just the basics- will create a business impact far beyond that of a simple project management process. Change management is more than a process. It’s a discipline that enables company growth and progress.
Some of the many benefits of change management are:
- It provides a methodical, structured approach for embedding new behaviours and mindset into your business
- It helps your leaders to recognise the people side of change and the emotional impacts it can have on employees. Therefore, making it easier for them to manage and support employees
- It increases your ability to get the most from people and achieve benefits and outcomes from innovation initiatives quickly and effectively
- It enables your business to be more agile and adaptable to unforeseen disruptors and risks
- It instils confidence in leadership and shareholders, empowering you to explore new ground and capitalise on opportunities
Common business challenges that change management tackles
Most businesses invest in project management capabilities, but this only gets you so far. People are at the heart of change, and change management is largely about managing people through periods of change and helping the business achieve return on investment. Two of the most common, critical business challenges that change management helps with are:
1. How to change employee behaviour
This could be as simple as directing people through a new process, to cultivating a more customer-centric culture. Both types of change require a deliberate approach to ensure they are adopted. Anything that necessitates changing people’s perspectives and beliefs will absolutely require some careful thought and action.
As an example, cultural change has become a substantial undertaking in the last decade. Many organisations embarking on a typically unsuccessful journey to apparently change the long-standing belief systems of decades of management thinking. This problematic objective illustrates how challenging it can be to instil new ways of thinking across a workforce. Let alone one that has grown up in a time when distrust in leadership is widespread.
We are creatures of habit, and we fear losses more than we crave gains! The complexities of human psychology agree with this statement. The factors that influence our decisions and behaviour are increasingly recognised as core to the effective implementation of business transformation. Approaches to how we communicate, engage and upskill people within a change management strategy reflect this.
2. How to innovate successfully
The biggest challenge with innovation is not thinking up new ways of doing things; it’s implementing them effectively and efficiently in order to maximise return on investment and minimise disruption to business as usual (BAU).
Two ways in which the methodology of change management can help with this are:
- Providing a structured approach to anticipate how BAU will be impacted and planning for mitigating key risk factors ahead of time as far as possible
- Identifying core requirements in terms of resource, capability and commitment from the business to make the change a success before we begin implementing. Thus allowing us to prioritise and make adjustments accordingly
Through implementing effective change impact assessment activity. An effective change impact assessment can make or break your chances of capitalising on innovations. Since an impact assessment helps you identify ahead of time where your biggest impacts are likely to be from both a technology, process and people perspective.these are three key areas that most business elements align to.
When you understand the impacts on your business, you can direct resources, time and capability to the right things. You can determine key risk areas that you need to keep a close eye on. As an example, a change impact assessment will help you:
- Identify where new skills and knowledge will be required
- Determine whether processes are fit for purpose in support of innovations and where potential efficiencies can be made
- Understand what type of technology enablement you need for the future
Concluding Why We Need Change Management
In conclusion, the Darwinian concept of being adaptable to change remains true when it comes to maintaining business strength and achieving growth. Organisations that adopt change management competence as a core part of business operations will outlast those that don’t.