7 Valuable Lessons in Change Management
Practising change management in the private sector taught me much about what to do and what not to do. I believe the lessons learned are applicable in many different sectors and business environments. Although I carry these lessons with me always, sometimes they need to be put aside for a moment.
For the purpose of this blog, I am sharing the lessons learned primarily through my experience working within the public sector. I have noticed some trends that appear to be common across many government departments and agencies. These observations formed the basis for this blog and the 7 lessons learned presented below.
1. Assemble the right team of experts, including Project Management (PM), Change Management (CM), and Communications
- Create strong (and integrated) working relationships across PM and CM roles
- Think differently about communications, be strategic in its application
- Assign dedicated project management, change management and communications resources sooner rather than later
- Strive for CM rigour in the same manner as PM rigour
2. Start planning early and continually integrate all efforts
- Planning is an on-going process and needs continual time and effort to keep it relevant
- It also requires an integrated and enterprise-wide approach that is also surprisingly agile
- It will take time to define the details and once you do, the entire enterprise may shift towards a new direction
3. Do not over-saturate your organization with many concurrent major changes
- But if you do … assign dedicated resources to coordinate and integrate all concurrent projects
- The corner of many desks is usually not the way to go …
- Be sure to plan extensively to avoid collisions and manage inter-dependencies
- Adopt creative thinking around resources and work assignments
4. Be mindful of your enablers, partners, and stakeholders and engage them in the process early
- You have more dependencies than you realize, you need support from enabling functions (HR, Finance, Legal, Procurement) in order to be successful
- Start working with partners early to benefit from the identification of opportunities to work differently
- Horizontal collaboration is the new normal and we need to strengthen our existing channels for working together
5. It takes time to reorganize and redesign org structures and working relationships
- Always write team mandates and clarify people’s roles (using a RACI format)
- Never under-estimate organizational history and culture
- Recognize that your people cannot even begin to think in terms of integrating services until they understand the process of integrating themselves and their people
- People are invested in the current state and don’t ‘believe’ things really need to change
6. Be mindful of your governance and approvals processes and streamline them wherever possible
- Executives and Sponsors should communicate endlessly to senior management committees and governing bodies to bring them along in the process
- Change is complex enough without factoring in lengthy delays caused by governance
- Define a diligent but streamlined process for gaining approvals for critical decisions
7. Accept that operational requirements will always trump change agendas
- Get ahead of the curve and communicate to clients that it is not business as usual
- Set new/modified expectations with clients for the duration of the change process
- Manage the concept of trade-offs and reset expectations as required
- Set new/modified priorities with staff for the duration of the change process
- Avoid calling everything a priority at all times, as staff need clear priorities when caught in the daily demands of heavy workloads
All of these lessons learned are either foundational pieces or they are related to the importance of setting realistic expectations during times of change. Perhaps a general acceptance that there will always be trade-offs associated with any major change is a great place to start. Those trade-offs inevitably require us to respond by doing things differently.
After all, when has the adoption of any major change ever afforded an organization the luxury of operating their business as usual? Instead, let’s embrace it for what it is. Let’s start taking more concrete steps to better lay the foundation required for everyone to be successful in their own change management process.
Kathy Roy has implemented business transformation and change management projects in complex organizations for over two decades. She has worked with major companies, both public and private, and with numerous business sectors in both Canada and the United States. She is part of Systemscope's Strategic Business Consulting practice.