When is Change Management REALLY needed?

Change Managers often encounter difficulty in gaining support and buy-in from leadership on change activities because a project is deemed straight forward and easy.

Tell me if you recognise this example – “we believe that the new system will be such an improvement on the current way of doing things, that nobody would possibly show any resistance towards it”. Sound familiar? I’ll bet it does, particularly when you are looking at project cost – managing change is the last thing on the budget, and possibly the first to go when cutting costs. Nothing worse than spending money on an item that is not tangible, right? This popular belief on smaller or less strategic projects is due to one of the main culprits being the assumption that a little bit of training and some communication here and there can be done, and miraculously everything is going to be fine. But a major pitfall to successful project delivery is not taking into consideration that the project would affect HUMANS in the organisation, and more importantly, it will most likely change the way that teams perform their daily functions in its entirety. This is where Project Implementation meets Change Management, they are two sides of the same coin!

Change management is so much more than just training and communication. A couple of emails and newsletters just won’t cut it! Why, you may ask? Well, it seems to be the logical belief that if you tell people what to do, how to do it and why they should do it, it should be enough to get them to adopt the change. Right? Wrong. The majority of humankind is not logical when it comes to change, and even though training and communication are essential means of influencing change, it is not the complete solution to managing the ‘people side’ of change. Without a structured buy-in plan and the reinforcement through an established ‘fit for purpose’ change management approach, you may be left wondering why employees aren’t showing up for your training sessions, why communication is not taken seriously, or why the organisation is not seeing the intended results.

So, to answer your question as to why change management is more than just training and communication… Change management calls for an in-depth understanding of the change, who will be affected by it, and how they will be impacted. It involves anticipating resistance to the change, and then navigating ways to unearth and mitigate the resistance. It involves preparing leaders to actively drive the change agenda and to support their employees, not only during the change, but also after the project implementation has been completed and all the consultants and technical experts have left the site, leaving you to get on with things on your own. This being a vital element to successfully sustaining the change in the long run, irrespective of the size of the change project.

Let’s have a look at some of the problems you may encounter when implementation a change project without proper change management facilitation:

  • Loss of Control: By having been excluded from the selection and design of the new system or process, people may feel that the change is pushed onto them. When left unprepared, leaders often choose to lean on their authority to force people to adopt to the change, and as a result, employees may find reasons to slow down the progress in order to gain back some of their control.
  • Hidden “Work-Arounds”: People find ways to make ‘bad’ systems or processes work for them. Yes, that is a fact! If the old system had its drawbacks, employees over time found the loopholes and created “work-arounds” to save time and energy. These work-arounds may also have filtered down to other teams and departments, who have by now come to rely on them. If overlooked, these work-arounds have a habit of sticking around and complicating matters even after a new system has been implemented. Allow seasoned change managers to help you make sure that the status quo doesn’t win.
  • Overload: In an ever-changing economy and world, even the simplest of projects will take time and energy. It becomes one more thing employees have to deal with, and this may cause an overload and overall change fatigue. When left unaddressed, other problems may rear its head as a result – lack of attention to detail, important things slipping through the cracks, resignations, and the list goes on and on.
  • Resentment: During the resistance phase, employees will start to feel some anger, fear and resentment – this is where the inevitable push-back will intensify. Without the right communications- and change plan, employees will also be left feeling uncertain and negative. Negative behaviour, more often than not, has a knock-on effect among colleagues and causes lower staff morale. As a result, this could ultimately undermine the organisational change goals.
  • Not achieving your ROI: Most likely, there is a financial reason for implementing your project, whether you expect cost savings, cost avoidance, increased revenue, etc. And more often than not, the change may also impact the way your business operates. Should your change project be primarily focused on schedule and budget, you would be overlooking one of the biggest risks to your project and ROI success… the unexpected ‘human factor’ stumbling blocks that will undoubtedly be strewn across your implementation path.

Yes, some projects really are simple and easy to implement because the changes are small and don’t impact many people, but if these small changes matter to you, they have to be done right. In fact, the smaller successful changes all add up to a massive successful journey – completely redefining your organisations ability to manage and achieve transition goals. Change management is a vital part of the implementation process and success factor.

Don’t set your project, organisation or employees up for failure by deeming a change project as ‘easy-peasy’. Involve change management experts from the beginning to analyse and prepare your organisation for successful change.

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