Managing Change: Principles for Success

Vicki Heath
 


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The rate of organizational change has not slowed in recent years, and may even be increasing. In spite of the importance and permanence of change, most change initiatives fail to deliver the expected organizational benefits. It is little wonder then that the fear of managing change and its impacts is a leading cause of anxiety in managers.

To lend assistance, there are now available many guides to help change agents drive and manage change. These serve a very valuable purpose. Nonetheless, guidebooks can only assist so far. Every organization is different; different structures and processes, different environment and different culture, just to begin with. No guide, no matter how comprehensive, is able to offer prescriptions to suit every company’s particular circumstances and objectives.

Add to this the fact that bringing about change in today’s organizations is fundamentally about changing people’s behavior in certain desired ways. Implementing the new accounting system hardware and software and distributing the new procedures is only the start. Managers, supervisors and operators need to be engaged enough to use the new system effectively. Much of the change process is about developing and nurturing relationships. An approach that displays integrity and engenders openness and trust with all employees is a necessary ingredient of success. This goes to the heart of what change agents, sponsors and implementers are as opposed to what rulebook they follow.

A principled approach to initiating and managing change will fill in the gaps left by the guidebooks and bring to life the human dimension of change. There are five principles that generally underlie successful change programs. These principles are supported by a wealth of research and experience and are summarized below. Adopting these principles in both spirit and practice will enhance significantly your program’s chance of realizing its proposed benefits. Let us look at each of these principles in turn.

1. Sponsorship

The change program has the visible support of key decision-makers throughout the organization and resources are committed to the program.

How this principle can be applied: A senior executive is nominated as Program Sponsor.

2. Planning

Planning is conducted methodically before program implementation and committed to writing. Plans are agreed with major stakeholders and objectives, resources, roles and risks are clarified.

How this principle can be applied: A Business Case is written and approved prior to implementation.

3. Measurement

Program objectives are stated in measurable terms and program progress is monitored and communicated to major stakeholders.

How this principle can be applied: Program milestones are defined.

4. Engagement

Stakeholders are engaged in genuine two-way dialogue in an atmosphere of openness, mutual respect and trust.

How this principle can be applied: Employee representatives sit on the program steering committee.

5. Support structures

Program implementers and change recipients are given the resources and supporting systems they require during and after change implementation.

How this principle can be applied: New procedures are documented.

The social, legislative and business environment is changing constantly. This permanent state of flux is placing increasing demands on our managers to proactively drive change and on our employees to be ever adaptable. Rulebooks and guides can only go so far in providing assistance. The recognition and adoption of certain change principles will fill in the gaps and provide the necessary human dimension to any change initiative.

Such principles will need to center on the importance of executive sponsorship, methodical planning, goal setting and progress reporting. In addition, the human dimension of change will need to be embodied in such principles as the value of engaging the various stakeholders and providing initial and ongoing support to the change implementers and recipients.

2006 © Business Performance Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.

Vicki Heath is the Director of Business Performance Pty Ltd, a company providing practical online information and resources in a range of business areas, including change management . Her company's guides, tools and templates assist organizations engage and develop people, manage organizational change and improve project delivery.

Her comprehensive guide, Managing Change in the Workplace, is intended for everyone expected to lead, manage and implement change. It covers every aspect of managing change, including essential principles, managing stakeholders, dealing with resisters, the role of project management, building effective change teams and more. The Guide is complete with a reusable and customizable workbook. Download the Guide and the free Change Role Skills Gap Worksheet at http://www.businessperform.com .

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