Change management

According to Jack Welch (former GE chairman), “If the rate of change on the outside [of an organisation] exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” Most change management efforts fail because a holistic approach isn’t adopted. Change management recognizes that employees are uneasy with change happening in their company. They feel insecure. Standard procedures have been developed to facilitate organisational change. It is necessary to create a sense of urgency during the change management process. This step is often overlooked and leaders can underestimate the difficulty of moving people out of their comfort zones.

The change management business case, to be successful, must implant an emotional element on top of the theoretical steps. A guiding coalition having the right composition, significant level of trust, and a shared objective needs creating. It's too much responsibility for just one person. The guiding coalition should include proven leaders with expertise, credibility and position power. The role of change management is to develop a change vision. This change vision must be imaginable, desirable, feasible, focused, flexible, and communicable. This simplifies decision-making and correctly motivates people. It co-ordinates people. It’s far better to have a clear vision than to micromanage those involved.

The change vision needs to be communicated to as many people as possible for it to be accepted. It needs to be simple, vivid, easily described, and a two-way communication. Undercommunication of a vision is common and hinders the conversion process. Motivation is increased and cynicism is reduced when the whole senior management team start behaving in a different way. Change management relies upon the empowerment of people and the removal of barriers. Alterations to human resource incentives or management information systems may be required. Cost effective competitor information and market analysis can speed up feedback for more efficient work.

The whole process is made easier if short-term wins are created, as soon as possible. These should be visible and unambiguous. Companies that display major short-term wins in one to two years after the start have the most chance of completing the conversion. Clear performance improvements undermine cynics and give support to stakeholders. Change management success depends on gains being consolidated and more change being produced. Critical momentum can be lost if letting up occurs. The resistance to change may return if the thrust for transformation is stopped momentarily. Consequently, the new conduct must be embedded within the corporate culture for sustainable success.

Long-term leadership is important in guiding the short-term management of the change process. If the change management initiative has been successful up to this stage then other activities will be taking place. For example, more projects may be added and there may be a constant effort to keep the urgency at a high level. If the new approaches are to stick then they have to be anchored within the culture of the organisation. This must be the final step. It must be visible, and well communicated. Cultural change comes last, not first.

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