Most organizations undergoing change have various types of change support staff in place. But each is not always equipped to ensure that you get the full return on investment by influencing change initiatives from start to finish. Are you, as a change leader or consultant, equipped with the skills, knowledge, and influence that allow you to strategically guide change initiatives from the start to sustained business results? Is your organization aware of the value added from change leadership?
Your organization will continue to change, so the smartest investment you can make now is to build your expectation, readiness, and ability to succeed at your most important changes. Whether you are currently a project manager, organization development practitioner or a change management professional, you can expand your role and positioning to provide the strategic oversight of a change initiative that good change leadership offers. You might hire a change strategy coach, but up-leveling your own change consulting capability (and/or those of other people in your organization) and becoming skilled at change strategy and change process guidance can add a tremendous benefit to your organization.
The Value of Change Management
The field of change management arose when organizational leaders began to recognize that success in their change initiatives required attention to implementation and adoption, as well as things they had not previously seen, understood, or valued as important. These new insights included the realization that they had to upgrade their organization’s ability to deal with:
- People issues (overcoming resistance to change initiatives in the organization, stakeholder management, improving leaders' communication plans, and providing change-related training programs for employees)
- Process issues (providing assessment and planning tools for implementation and adoption)
By recognizing the importance of change management, and enlisting the support of change management consultants, organizational leaders increased the likelihood of actually reaching their desired outcomes from change. This was all a step in the direction of good change leadership.
Limitations of Change Management
Change management's popularity is evidence that executives have recognized a good deal of what was missing from their traditional project management approach to change and the importance of addressing the people side of change. This is all progress. However, today's reality of change, being more complex and transformational, has revealed that the field of change management, and its interface with project management, has not gone far enough to ensure successful outcomes.
Too many issues still occur in change initiatives that have an enormous impact on project plans, budgets, timelines, and people. Often change management consultants are not brought into a project until there are already issues with the change initiative, or the people and process challenges have been divided up and delegated to change management, human resources, the OD department, or a project management office. The fact that these issues are so often seen as separate from project plans is at the heart of the issue. A higher level of strategic oversight is required, and that is the focus of change leadership. How do consultants enact good change leadership?
Go Beyond Change Management to Strategic Change Consulting
An integrated strategy is required to meet all the requirements of change. You must integrate what is changing, how it will change, and who will be engaged in planning for, designing, and implementing the change. You cannot have a project team design the content solution, and then “bolt on” a change management plan for implementation and hope to succeed. By then too much damage is done and too many dynamics are overlooked on the people side of change. Your change management methodology needs to be integrated into an overall plan much earlier in the change process.
What is needed is a broader approach to guiding the change initiative, from the start. We call this capability Strategic Change consulting. For it to have its due influence on setting up the change initiative for success, leaders must understand its value and call on it at the inception of a change initiative. Their doing so is at the heart of their own change leadership capability. Strategic Change consultants know when to partner with project managers and change management practitioners. Because, ideally, they hold a strategic level of understanding of the process of leading change from start to finish. With this perspective, they can help coordinate the effective collaboration of internal and external change-support resources.
Strategic Change consultants provide guidance on three key areas:
Content refers to what must change, such as structure, systems, processes, technology, supply chain, corporate performance management, technology, etc. You have to create the best design solution for what you are changing. These consultants ensure that the change process is designed to gather the best content input from both experts and stakeholders, and to use it to design the best content solution for the realities of the organization and its people.
People refers to the human dynamics of change, such as stakeholders’ emotional reactions, their resistance, cultural impacts of the solution, leaders’ and employees’ mindsets and behavior, engagement, and generating commitment. Change succeeds to the degree to which people buy-in, implement, adopt, and master it. Change leadership aims at minimizing the negative impacts of change on people and raising the probability that people will be ready, willing, and able to succeed in it.
Process refers to planning the change work from the very beginning of launch through to achieving sustained business results. It includes the plan for every task required to realize your intended results. Everything you do and how it is planned, carried out, and course corrected for both content and people, is part of your change process. Your change process addresses how you scope, govern, design, implement, and adjust your change effort. Consultants and leaders work both at the strategic level with good change strategy development and then, with that guidance, help to create an integrated tactical project plan that accounts for both the people and content requirements.
What You Can Provide to Change Initiatives as a Strategic Change Consultant
As a Strategic Change consultant, consider how you would be positioned to do any of the following. If you recognize the need for more development in any of these areas, and in change leadership in general, pursue that.
Develop the overall change strategy, or facilitate the change leaders to do so. This entails identifying the full scope of content and people initiatives required by the transformation, clarifying the governance of the change (i.e., roles and decision-making), building an integration strategy for interdependent initiatives, and establishing the change infrastructure and resources to ensure the best outcome.
Ensure that the requirements for the change's success are matched with resources, expertise, a reasonable timeline, and change leadership.
Identify milestone events and design change process plans to accomplish the work within a realistic timeframe. (Note: realistic!)
Develop and coach senior leaders and change initiative leads during the change process on their change leadership abilities, mindsets, and behavior, and how to model the personal changes required by the transformation and the desired culture.
Help identify, establish, and oversee conditions for success and metrics throughout the life of the change process.
Observe executive and change leadership team meetings to ensure understanding, alignment, good decision-making, and to minimize political dynamics, confusion, and poor follow-through.
Assess implications of the change on culture, people's reactions, leadership credibility, or readiness and capacity to accomplish the change.
Guide the development of the change communications and engagement strategies.
- Input to the learning and course correction process and help facilitate essential course corrections.
Support the application of a common change methodology on all change projects.
Identify and promote best change practices and ensure the ongoing development of masterful change leadership and change capability throughout the organization.
Provide or ensure quality change education to change initiative leaders, senior executives, managers, and the target groups needed to make the change.
Ensure enterprise-wide alignment of business systems, processes, structures, technology, and policies with the required changes so that the organization can run in optimal form once the changes are implemented.
How Do You Up-level and Become a Change Leader?
We recommend the following webinar for up-leveling your change management skills to become a Strategic Change consultant and offer greater change leadership value.