Changing change management
Use these six ways to influence leaders’ attitude to change management. By Hazel Dunbar
An anonymous HR Manager was once heard to say, “We don’t have the time, energy or budget for change management – that will have to come later.”
The problem with “later” is that this particular organisation had been through multiple leadership and structural changes and was now embarking on another structural change under the newly appointed CEO. “Later” has become “now” and change management therefore needs to shift from a process used for large scale change such as a merger or restructure to becoming a day-to-day business process. Change management should not be a mopping up process to sweep up the debris of change. Rather, it should build resilience and provide a vehicle for two-way communication.
Taking change management seriously works. The importance of change management as part of business was highlighted by Robert Kaplan (co-designer of the Balanced Scorecard), in a recent workshop in South Africa on executing strategy. He stressed that change management is a leadership imperative and not something that gets outsourced. In fact, any change in strategic direction requires change management.
For example, organisations seldom think of performance management system design and implementation as requiring change management. However, change management can be extremely beneficial in terms of focusing the efforts of every member of the organisation in the same direction through a well-designed performance management system.
In a fast-moving world, change management needs to become a natural way of life in business rather than an occasional mopping up intervention after traumatic change.
HR Managers can influence a change in leaders’ attitude towards change management in the following ways:
1. Understand change in context. As a business partner, HR Managers can become more strategic by keeping abreast of current and future change in an organisation. They’ll need to develop a network within the organisation, allowing them to be sensitive to changing dynamics.
2. Hone your skills as change partners. It might be stating the obvious, but in order to drive change and transfer knowledge to others, HR consultants need change management knowledge and experience. HR Managers should drive change within the HR team, transferring knowledge about the organisation’s change within the HR team.
3. Get change on the radar. Campaign to have change management on the agenda and in the budget for most organisational initiatives through educating leaders. Whenever there is a discussion on a new initiative, HR Managers as part of EXCO should be asking questions around change management if the leaders are not already.
4. Form key internal partnerships. Form partnerships with senior leaders, building trust around change management. Work closely with the marketing and communications teams. If they understand what you are aiming to achieve, they can gear their communications accordingly. See the HR/Marketing relationship as a collaboration in change management.
5. Upskill the organisation. Train leaders on change management and how most organisational initiatives relate to change management. Coach leaders to become change agents and not just supporters of changes.
6. Measure change efforts. Working with leaders to identify measures of the change progress will help the organisation know when to commit further resources to the change management effort. For example, are further resources required, is the communication programme getting the right message across, has the mood become more positive? You can conduct spot surveys to quickly establish whether your change management programme is on track or not.
Hazel Dunbar is an Executive Consulting Psychologist at Work Dynamics, www.workdynamics.co.za.
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