Change Management Will Change Your Life


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All of us have been part of an effort that, for some reason, did not turn out as we intended. It could have been something as simple as that new omelet recipe you wanted to try. Why didn’t your omelet look the same as that pretty picture on recipes.com? Or it could have been the 2013 rollout of healthcare.gov, the beleaguered web portal of the Obamacare initiative.

Somewhere along the way, something went wrong with that omelet and with Obamacare’s website. Identifying what went wrong (and quickly) is a big part of what change management is all about.

What is Change Management?

Whether the goal is to make an omelet or to roll out healthcare.gov, it is important to realize that these products came into existence only after the completion of many individual steps. In the case of the omelet, you beat the eggs, warmed the butter, diced the fillings and so forth. Your future omelet will eventually come from this soup of ingredients.

This soup of ingredients undergoes major and minor changes as you progress through the recipe. The current state of your omelet can be called your “as-is state.” From this as-is state, you make a series of observations and form the “baseline” mental image of your omelet. As you move ahead to the next step in your recipe, you remember this baseline and monitor what the next change does to your effort. You can likely identify a problem faster if you pay attention to what things looked like before.

A lot of change management is simply empirical observation. With a good record of changes and whether the result was positive or negative, the bad outcomes can often be minimized and the good outcomes made more frequent.

Advantages of Change Management

In practice, change management has great practical value to the enterprise. Many organizations are subject to regulatory agencies or laws. For example, U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers are subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

One technical provision of HIPAA is that healthcare providers must safeguard against unauthorized changes to a health record. In this scenario, change management is not simply a benefit but a requirement. For example, if a patient has a documented history of an allergy to penicillin and his record is erroneously updated to report no allergies present, monitoring may help catch an otherwise deadly mistake.

For undertakings that involve many steps or many changes, change management can offer a clear reversion path. The record of change is the “trail of bread crumbs” that gets your product back to a functional state. Let’s say that you are working on an Excel spreadsheet with many embedded formulas, each of which references a specific location in the spreadsheet.

If you start introducing a lot of changes all at once – moving around columns and updating formulas in the spreadsheet – you may find that some of your formulas no longer work. But which change broke your spreadsheet? If you can’t identify the change(s) that did, you may have to redo all of that work.

Another advantage is that it helps preserve institutional knowledge. In large programming projects, for example, the product manager can review the state of the application over time. Each code change or revision is typically checked in to a repository as a sort of archive. The entire evolution of the application project can be observed by looking at these snapshots in time of the code. As a result one can begin to understand the way the product has changed over time – even if the original programmers have long since left the company.

Challenges of Change Management

Change management is often unpopular due to the increased overhead it brings. In fact, if done poorly, it can bog down the output of the entire organization.

There is a cost associated with change management. That cost can come from the time it takes to train staff to use the new process. There can also be capital expenditures if the company decides to purchase a CM software application.

Perhaps the most serious challenge to consider for change management is the overhead it may bring. If the process of change management is more onerous than making the change itself, the CM process may need improvement. If change management is not handled in an efficient manner, the new process may not gain acceptance and consistent use. Worse, the rank-and-file staff may quietly lower their output to the business as a way to avoid using the change management process.

Recommendations for Change Management

Before rolling out a new process or buying new software, the business should identify key stakeholders for the effort of rolling out change management. A project sponsor should be identified that will act as the owner of the project. Together, the stakeholders and project sponsor should identify what needs the project must fulfill to be considered successful. Desirable features can also be included alongside project requirements.

Once the project team is identified and the goals listed, the team should examine what resources should be involved in determining the necessary steps to accomplish those goals. Many goals in the project will likely reveal an interdependency between two groups within the business: for example, the rank-and-file’s acceptance of the change management systems, and the executives’ ability to provide an efficient and functionally relevant system.

Failure to meet such an interdependency can risk project failure. Therefore, it is important that the project team hold conversations with staff outside the project team to determine what an efficient and functionally relevant change management system might look like. This can mean lots of conversations and interactions with entities across the business.

If requirements, interdependencies, and functional concerns are addressed prior to rollout, the business will have an accurate idea of what their change management system will need to be successful.

Nick Harrison has 15 years of experience as a systems engineer. He is currently enrolled in the Western Carolina School of Business, pursuing a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship. Webmasters and other article publishers are hereby granted article reproduction permission as long as this article in its entirety, author’s information, and any links remain intact. Copyright 2016 by Nick Harrison.

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The Role of Change Management in Successful Information Management Solutions

Introduction

Implementation of Information Management solutions necessarily brings change to any organization. Business practices, role and relationships all affect the way in which people work and interact on a day-to-day basis. Whether the driver for implementation is for productivity, compliance or risk reduction there is always the need to consider what impact there will be on user communities.

Document and records management practices in organizations are not often front-of-mind for most managers and employees and asking them to think about information in a different way or even at all, as a corporate asset requires a fundamental mindset change. This will take many employees out of their comfort zone, impact on their confidence and competence to perform the work and creates a situation where individuals can sense a loss of control in their work context.

It is natural that most people initially react with caution with concerns about their future, security and where they will fit in to a new order of things. In any group there will be 10% who are excited by the prospect of change and at the other end 10% who will resist change regardless. This means that there are 80% who can be influenced one way or the other.

The successful implementation of an information management system extends far beyond the design and implementation. It extends beyond the support and operation. Effective information management requires a fundamental mind-shift by stakeholders and everyone in the organization that relies on information in their work activities. This shift needs to be carefully executed to create a requisite culture in which information is appropriately and thoroughly managed as a key organizational asset.

What is Change Management?

Change management is the art of influencing the majority to positively accept and commit emotionally to the change. Many of the issues arising as a response to change can be real or perceived and are closely related in a cause and effect network. Either way, they need to be addressed to avoid resistance or rejection of the change. This requires a combination of communication, understanding, mentoring, coaching and general support with the aim of building trust. It is from this position of trust that the task of building the work culture required for successful information management begins. The ‘4 Cs’ of change management help us think about the change from an effected user point of view.

Comfort People are creatures of habit and develop patterns of working within a comfort zone of daily activities.

Control Changed practices may cause a loss of control over daily routines and activities. This may come through changed reporting lines or responsibilities which can evoke a level of discomfort.

Confidence The introduction of new practices may undermine employee confidence in their ability to perform. Some may see this as challenge, for others it can be stressful. Often the introduction of computer equipment is something that can be discomforting. Some people, particularly older workers may have no experience with computers and can cause self doubt over their abilities to learn the new skills required.

Competence To be able to operate in a changed work environment there is always an element of re-skilling required. This necessarily means that current skills, often developed over an extended period of time will need updating or may become redundant. This uncertainty can impact on an employee’s competence and ability to perform.

The management of the complex web of responses, issues and perceptions requires focused attention. The skills of a change manager are built on an understanding of human behavior and the change manager’s role is to assist people to understand the change and what it means in personal terms and has been proven to be a significant success factor in building Information Management capability.

Why is Change Management important?

As volumes of information inevitably grow and our regulatory obligations increase amid the ongoing business pursuit of productivity, we cannot afford to waste the opportunity to exploit the benefits of information management solutions.

Studies repeatedly show that a key risk in the success or failure of information management solutions is stakeholder resistance to change. Through an investment of time and effort in preparing the user community for the coming change the chances of resistance are lowered. In short without a disciplined approach to managing stakeholders through the change then realization of anticipated benefits is put at risk. This has impact on business productivity, staff moral and the bottom-line. So it would seem logical for us to deploy our information management solutions in the most effective manner.

Some common Change Management pitfalls of an IM solution implementation

We are seeing an ongoing consolidation of the information management vendor community and a subsequent convergence of the underlying technology. There is a growing recognition by organizations that an information management capability is needed. Further, audit activity frequently highlights any shortfalls in performance and organizations react accordingly.

The selection of an information management solution is an important corporate investment and common pitfalls addressed by change management include:

Focus on Technology

Ignoring the emotional needs of users in the rush to get the technology in place can create a real project risk. Many organizations with an information management solution already in place experience a negativity of opinion towards the system. Often the cause of this perception can be traced to an initial technical implementation focus that neglected the needs of those who consequently struggled to apply new functionality in their work activities. An effective change management approach including awareness building and communication can turn this perception around.

Recognition of the Business importance of Information

The low profile that information management has in most employees’ minds can be an issue. We are all busy and in the scheme of things ‘filing’ is not front-of-mind for the majority of employee’s striving to keep pace with everyday work pressures. Document management and filing, can fall down the priority list partly because of work pressures and partly because of limited awareness and can be seen one of the things that ‘should’ be done’ rather than something that ‘must’ be done.

Organizations recognising the business value of information as an asset can then raise awareness of its importance and manage it accordingly. An increased awareness of this importance should also influence the planning of information management system deployments.

Business Case and Budget

The business case for information management is focused on risk, mitigation, and productivity. However; many benefits are intangible and have an indirect impact on the bottom line. Unfortunately associated costs are very tangible and visible.

Consequently, there are challenges in the development of the business case as it can fail to excite the financial fundamentalists who view the whole undertaking in terms of an unavoidable cost that must be minimized. For the uninformed, change management activities can be seen as non-essential and result in budgets being set to minimise cost adding to the risk of failure.

Although not unique to Information management implementations these above factors can create significant project risk. Change Management techniques are designed to address the human behavioral issues that can adversely impact on project success and as such, are a necessary inclusion in any deployment activity.

What are some Change Management best practices for an IM solution implementation?

When it is apparent users are not participating in Information Management practices an objective assessment can identify a way forward that is usually cost effective and will meet organizational needs within a much shorter timeframe. This assessment must take an independent and holistic view of the situation from multiple perspectives.

This assessment must identify the root causes of any associated issues and develop a clear strategy to build the information management capability required. There are a number of common elements that have emerged as issues with information management implementations that have nothing to do with the incumbent technological tool and the strategy developed must consider how these are to be addressed.

The capability assessment framework enables organizations to holistically assess information management practices and to identify improvement opportunities that will build capability. This is achieved by benchmarking current organizational practice against best practice in each of the dimensions of the framework. The best practice benchmark criteria in the framework have been identified through experience with multiple organizations across industry sectors and geographies, and are augmented through industry collaboration and global academic research outcomes.

The dimensions of information management identified in the framework are defined as follows.

Strategy

Best practice organization’s should have a clear strategy relating to its management and use of information The strategy clearly defines the content and structure of the information, how it is to be governed and applied to support the primary business strategy.

Content

We can assume that most organizations have the information content that is required to manage their business. If this is not the case then it is difficult to envisage the organization operating successfully or at all. However, most organizations suffer from an ad-hoc approach to the management of this important asset. Best practices relating to managing this content start by having an inventory of the content, a consistent architecture governing naming conventions, taxonomy, where content is held, how content is held, i.e. hard copy soft copy formats and who can access what categories of information.

Process

Due process governing how information is created, stored, accessed and communicated is fundamental to the governance of enterprise information.

Governance is the combination of processes and structures implemented at management level to inform, direct, manage, and monitor the information management activities of the organization. This consists of clear policy, procedure and business rules guiding information management practices. These must be developed in context of the organization’s business activity and be clearly communicated to stakeholders.

Information management governance also includes the development of business classification schemes, taxonomy, naming conventions and rules governing the creation, storage, protection, communication, sensitivities, use and appropriate destruction of information.

Culture

The manner in which information is treated and perceived in an organization is reflective of organizational culture. Best practice organizations have clear understandings and norms recognising the importance of information as an asset. This mindset needs to be pervasive across the organizational culture and is fundamental to induction and staff development initiatives.

Change management during information systems implementations is a clear best practice aimed at creating the cultural awareness and mindset required.

Relationships

Organizations operate within a network of relationships with stakeholders. These stakeholders include customers, suppliers, regulators and industry bodies. Best practice organizations have clear understanding and service level agreements with other stakeholders in order that corporate record keeping obligations are met and to ensure information is shared appropriately and to the level required to maximize efficiency.

Services

The application of Information as an asset is fundamental to the services or products offered to the market place. Best practice organizations embed value-adding knowledge and information into services to maximize attractiveness and utility. Corporate discipline ensuring the validity of information shared is necessary to mitigate risk of non-compliance and avoid potential litigation.

Technology

Information technology is fundamental to the management of the information asset. Clear and consistent architectures, data and information structures, security and operational tools indicate a mature approach to information management. Best practice organizations have clearly defined architectures.

Change Management Best Practice

The capability assessment framework facilitates benchmarking against specific best practice indicators. The absence of any of these indicators provides an opportunity for the organization to improve. Over and above these specific indicators the following themes have emerged as overarching best practice in change management as information management capability is developed.

Governance

As discussed above governance is the combination of processes and structures to inform, direct, manage, and monitor information management activities. This includes effective record keeping practices. It is important that organizations develop governance practices as early as possible in implementation projects. This often means putting governance in place prior to specification, selection and deployment of a technology solution. This has a double benefit. Firstly: stakeholder’s become familiar with information management expectations and the requisite culture begins to develop; and secondly; the organization gains the opportunity to refine its governance structures prior to full deployment.

Information Management System

The selection of an enabling information management technology to meet performance and functional requirements should follow a diligent approach. It is best practice for selection criteria to consider wider information management architectural needs. The functional richness of available solutions can allow the retirement of duplicative products providing islands of functionality. Workflow or WebPages are common examples of these islands where products have been acquired for a single one-off purpose and are unable to integrate with core applications. Once configured and deployed the new infrastructure can provide the opportunity to create an integrated technology architecture thereby reducing support cost.

Pilots

There are many examples of high cost, high-profile failures in the information technology industry. Often this can be traced to over-ambition and a big-bang approach to deployment.

Implementation of Information Management capability within well defined scope delivered in incremental steps provides many benefits. Primarily incremental implementation through a series of pilot deployments allows adaptation of the solution based on real experience before attempting to conquer the world. Many organizations are benefiting from the adoption of this approach.

User Focus

The inclusion of change management activities focused on preparing stakeholders to take on the reformed work practices mitigate against risk of stakeholder resistance. This involves considering the emotional needs of all stakeholders to ensure that they feel in control, are comfortable and have the confidence and competence to execute new work practices. For many stakeholders the learning of new skills and changed role and responsibility provides enhanced career opportunity.

Architecture

Most of the solutions available in the marketplace offer rich functionality to manage documents and content in a web-based environment. Full use of the functionality on offer can simplify the technical architecture and realize savings in licence and administrative cost further justifying investment.

Change Management Roles and Responsibilities

The change manager works very closely with stakeholders and it is important that relationships based on trust are established. The personal attributes of a successful change manager are empathy and patience. The role and responsibility of the change manager is focused on understanding stakeholder needs, building an awareness of the need for change and supporting these stakeholders as they transition to new work practices.

Some key responsibilities for the change manager include communications, setting up reporting and communication channels, participating in business process reform, workshop facilitation, staff training, mentoring and awareness building. In short, any activity that interacts and prepares the user community to participate in reformed work practices.

Regardless of the scale of undertaking information management projects require a change management capability. In large scale projects there may be dedicated change management resources. For smaller scale projects this role may be a part-time or shared responsibility. The change management role can in many instances be a shared role across the development. Sometimes this can be provided through a corporate change management function. Regardless of how the role is resourced it is essential that it is included.

Many routinely conducted project activities such as workshops, interviews, training and presentations are in fact change management opportunities as these events they are interactions with stakeholders. They therefore present the ideal opportunity to develop the relationship of trust between the project team members and stakeholders.

It is important to avoid the situation where contributing stakeholders feel as though they have been sucked dry for information by technical people. This can be avoided through the development of awareness of the importance of the project team/stakeholder relationship thereby maximizing the value of this contact time.

Further, ‘champions’ can be identified from within the stakeholder community. This provides a critical change management input. As these champions are representatives drawn from the stakeholder community their roles can be a very influential and positive contributor to project success.

Summary

Research shows proves that higher levels of user acceptance and greater use of installed solutions are achieved when deliberate change management activities are included in the implementation work plan and life cycle. Best practice in change management is focused on the early involvement of stakeholders and on building a trusting relationship. Accordingly, leading organizations have recognized its importance and routinely allocate resources as projects are planned

For most organizations there is the opportunity improve information management performance. A place to start is through a benchmarking assessment of information management capability against best practice to identify how to realize available benefits by learning from the success of others.

This paper has emphasized change management and the resultant outcomes and opportunities as best practice. The selection of an information management solution is an important corporate investment. For those organizations considering implementation and for those that have current infrastructure in place, there is the real opportunity to maximize return on investment and to create a work culture that displays the requisite information management behaviours.

Dr. Rod Dilnutt

Rod is the Managing Director of William Bethwey & Associates and a Senior Research Fellow of The University of Melbourne. He has wide experience as a consultant in the private sector and at all levels of the public sector gained in Australia, Europe and the Asia Pacific region. This experience includes ten years in a ‘Big Six’ consultancy firm where he led the Knowledge Based Business Service Line for Asia Pacific.

Rod applies his practical knowledge and expertise to his consulting assignments and is retained in an advisory capacity by many leading organisations. He is also a frequent presenter at industry and academic conferences.

William Bethwey & Associates – The Knowledge Professionals

WBA is a specialist consultant in knowledge and change management. Importantly, WBA has experienced professionals with consulting experience specialising in building organisational capability in knowledge and information management and delivering productivity improvements from the perspectives of people, process and technology.

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Implementation of Change Management

Change indeed is fundamental in life. The reality of the complexity and vagrancy in the environment (external or internal) is that organisations and individuals are constantly being pressurised to change in one form or the other. Change could be rapid or slow, perceptible and imperceptible, minor or substantive.

Vecchio (2006) in a tone of finality submitted that all organisations (whether profit or nonprofit, military or mutinational corporations) have no choice but to change so as to keep up with the pressure from the environment (internal and external). It is a compelling case of “change or die” (Vecchio, 2006:365).

Pressures to change can be obvious or implicit. Managers are expected to anticipate and direct change process so that organizations can benefit from it. Infact Pantea (n.d) of the University of Aard,Romania suggested that underlying the Lewin’s Change Process model is that the change process eventually involves a learning experience as well as the expediency to abandon the “current attitudes, behaviours, or organizational practices”.

The forces of change can sometimes be intimidating and might include forecast of changing economic conditions, changing consumer preference, technological and scientific factors, globalisation and competition, and last but not the least, changes in legal landscape.

Response to the forces of change may require strategic change or operational change. Strategic change is organizational wide and has to do with organizational transformation. While strategic change has a long term focus, operational change has immediate effect on working arrangement within a part of the organization. Operational change focuses on elements like new systems, procedures, structures or technology. Organizational change can be static (Lewin’s model) or dynamic (Continuous Change Process Model).

Change management requires strategic thinking and planning, good implementation and stakeholders consultation. The change desired must be realistic, attainable and realistic.

Lewin’s view of the change process provides us with a tool or model of ascertaining the need for change, its implementation and monitoring. (Lewin, 1951). Armstrong (2006) identifies a plethora of change models including those of Bechard (1969), Thurley (1979), Quinn (1980), and Bandura (1986).

Lewin’s process model of planned change has the following underlying assumption:

1. Change process involves new learning as well as a paradigm shift from current attitudes, behaviours and organizational practices.

2. Occurrence of change is predicated on the existence of motivation to change. This is critical in change process.

3. People are central to organizational changes. Whatever the type of change desired at the end of the day it is the individuals that is the target of change.
4. Deisirability of the goals of change however intensive does not preclude the existence of resistance to change.

5. If change must be effective, new behaviours, attitudes and organizational practices must be reinforced.

Lewin’s planned model of change comprises of three steps described as unfreezing, change and re freezing. At the unfreezing stage, there is need to create awareness to change. The equilibrium that supports the existing practices, behaviours and attitudes must be altered.

Data collection may be necessary at this stage for further analysis so that the need for change may be apparent to all. At the changing stage the goal is to transform people, structure, task and technology as indicated in Vecchio (2006: 373). The refreezing stage requires that assessment of result be carried out with a view to making necessary modifications.

New responses could be developed based on the new information received. Reecho (2006:374) has identified forces of resistance to change to include: employee desires for security, contentment with the status quo, narrow force of change, group inertia, threatened expertise, threatened power, and changes in resource allocation.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT AT ADESHINA ADELEKE AND COMPANY

Adeshina Adeleke and company comprises of a group of professionals specialising in property services it is a single line firm with headquarters in Lagos Nigeria. Adeshina Adeleke and company has branches in Abuja and Porthacourt, Nigeria and has developed competencies in Agency, Valuation and Facility Management.

It has a diversified and yet a cohesive workforce. Its workforce diversity is in terms of gender and ethnic groupings. The company has flat and yet optimally centralised structure. At the apex of the structure is the Principal Consultant who is the Chief Executive Officer.

Subordinated to it are the units/ branch heads. It has a strong and strategy ally culture. In terms of strategic grouping, the firm falls within the SME group and operate within the services segment of the property industry.

Adeshina Adeleke and company is affected by forces of change both in a systematic and unsystematic sense. The present economic downturn has a great effect on the Nigerian economy resulting in lack of liquidity in the property market. The effect of illiquidity is high property inventory for sale and to let within Adeshina Adeleke’s property bulletin.

Sales and letting are down and consistently for a quarter.Sales teams could not meet their targets. The result of the performance variance analysis triggered a need for strategic and operational change on the part of the firm. As a firm, we were caught off guard as the scenario we found ourselves in was never anticipated.

Management felt a need to increase sales and profitability and also to reposition the firm through necessary transformation. Although at the time, we were neither guided nor constrained by any model in managing the desired change, it would be useful to adopt Lewin’s planned change process to analyse Adeshina Adeleke and company’s change management process.
To kickstart the freezing stage the leadership of the firm created an awareness of the need to change, first among the management staff and later among the sales teams. Performance results for three months were discussed and analysed at management meeting.

Management as a whole was made to understand the emerging pattern and be sensitised on the need for a turn around. Subsequently a management staff was mandated to meet the sales teams and middle level managers to educate them on the firm’s predicament and the need to develop a sense of urgency for change.

Once a consensus was built on the urgency of the need for change, a management and staff committee was constituted to look in depth at the firm’s predicament with a view to proffering solutions. The committee’s recommendation include the following:

• Wider consultations with the rank and file so as to sell the change to the majority of staff especially the influential ones who are capable of building a coalition to resist the change. It is important that such groups be made to collaborate in the change process.

• Sales team members be sent on training to acquire further skills in marketing especially on selling during economic down turn.

• Abuja branch manager be replaced with Porthacourt branch manager who has been making waves in Porthacourt.

• A third of the sales team members be made to work on commission basis to reduce the overhead especially during transition period.

• That networking and cold calls should take a paramount place ahead of media campaign

• That our media campaign should be sustained.

• That an interventionist or a change agent should be allowed to lead the change.

Report of the committee was adopted and an HR practitioner was appointed to lead the change. Suffice it to say that we are still in the changing stage of the project. Sales staff are in and out of training both out and in-plant. Consultation is on going concerning those to be converted into commission based staffs.

A committee is looking into our business process and value chain activities with a view to eliminating non productive activities. Contributions of strategic business units are also being looked into so that decisions could be taken on their relevances.

Performances of members of our strategic group are being studied with curiosity. Our IT department is looking into the possibility of massive deployment of Ecommerce solutions for increased performance.

CONCLUSION

The firm is yet to get into the refreezing stage, rather it is still in transition. Time will tell whether those measures are worth the hassles and whether new knowledge will result.

I am of the opinion that the change project gives opportunity to mine data from all aspects and elements of the firm further analysis and decision making. It does appear the change project is slanted toward financials than the human element that ultimately make the change happen.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Armstrong, M., (2006) A Handbook Of Human Resource Management Practice, 10th Ed, Kogan Page. London.

2. Bandura, A, (1986) Social Boundaries of Thought And Action, Prentice- Hall, Eaglewood Cliff, NJ. In Armstrong, M., (2006) A Handbook Of Human Resource Management Practice, 10th Ed, Kogan Page. London.

3. Beckhard, R,. (1969) Organization Development: Strategy and Models, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA.

4. Lewin, K (1951) Field Theory in Social Science, Harper & Row, New York. In Armstrong, M., (2006) A Handbook Of Human Resource Management Practice, 10th Ed, Kogan Page. London

5. Pantea, M.I.I.V.V (n.d) “Managing Change In Organizations. Aard University, Arad, Romania.

6. Quinn, J.B, (1980) “Managing Strategic Change”, Sloane Management Review, 11(4/5), pp 3-30. In Armstrong, M., (2006) A Handbook Of Human Resource Management Practice, 10th Ed, Kogan Page. London

7. Thurley, K (1979) Supervision: A reappraisal, Heinemann, London. In Armstrong, M., (2006) A Handbook Of Human Resource Management Practice, 10th Ed, Kogan Page. London.

8. Vecchio, R.P (2006). Organizational Behaviour: Core Concepts. 6th Ed, Thomson South- Western

Emmanuel Ibukun Efuntayo – is an accomplished real estate professional, and Principal Consultant of Ibukun Efuntayo & Co., a highly reputable firm of Estate Surveyors and Valuers specialised in providing expert – personalised – Estate Consultancy, Facility Management, Project Management, Property Development and Valuation services to clients.

With more than a decade of post-qualification experience, gained from working in the past, with companies like NNPC and Eko International Bank (now EIB International Bank), Emmanuel leads an efficient team of real estate experts recognised for delivering good quality, prompt and courteous services to clients

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Change Management Risk Assessment – The Context of Risk Vs Readiness

Change management risk assessment is complex and multi-dimensional and thus transcends what is traditionally understood by the concept of “risk assessment”. Risk assessment of a change management initiative is based on the premise that “organisational risk” is the inverse of “change readiness”.

In other words, the more ready the organisation is to change, the lower the risk of failure of the change initiative. So if we can establish some useful means for defining and calibrating change readiness then we can take steps to mitigate the likely causes of failure.

An appropriately selected change readiness assessment tool not only informs an initial change management risk assessment, but it also forms a baseline and be can re-administered to measure progress in change readiness – and thus reduction in change management risk – over time.

For a project management based change initiative, these assessments will help to reduce project risk.

The results of these assessments will shape key areas of the change management strategy and plan – specifically the communication strategy.

However, many companies – particularly in North America – do not stop and evaluate lessons leaned from past change initiatives before launching the next one. In recent interviews a key piece of advice that John Kotter offers is for organisational leaders to take the time to get themselves informed about what does and doesn’t work – before launching into action with a change initiative. As he says: “If you get that knowledge upfront, it can save you great grief and money later on.”

But before getting into the mechanics of tools that can be used to undertake a change readiness assessment we need to be understand the context of change management risk assessment and appreciate the significance of a number of inter-related factors:

(1) The marginal rate of change is increasing – and continues to do so

We used to believe that change occurs in cycles and waves that ebb and flow. This may be accurate over long time spans of hundreds of years, but in the present the rate of change is continually increasing and this has a significant impact on any change management risk assessment.

Based on his latest researches, Kotter says: “Many organisations just can’t keep up with the speed of change.”

This is profoundly important because it is closely linked to another major and frequently overlooked factor…

(2) The emergence of the flat world and horizontal management

I was tempted to headline this point the “death of command and control” – but that is not strictly true as there will always be situations where there is a need for firm direction and senior management edicts for compliance with the legal requirements related to the management and governance of organisations, and also in crisis situations.

However, in the “horizontal world” we now live in, information is available to all and the current and emergent technology infrastructure coupled with the proliferation of social media channels and tools allows for almost immediate dissemination and comment of gossip, opinion and factual information.

The days when decisions affecting many were taken by a few and then imposed on the many are dying – if for no other reason than people want and expect to be involved and they resist change that is imposed upon them. This is self-evident in the failure of 70% of significant change initiatives.

One of the keys to change management risk assessment lies in understanding the extent to which the change leadership are engaging directly with the “informal organisation” – sometimes referred to as the “shadow organisation” – from the outset – from the planning stage right through to implementation and beyond.

(3) Recognition of the importance of the emotional dimension of leadership

Many thought leaders in the world of change management and change leadership are now speaking vociferously about the importance of the emotional dimension of leadership and the need to address the human dimension of change.

These people include Daniel Goleman with his focus on primal leadership; John Kotter emphasises the need to motivate people by speaking to their feelings; Jon Katzenbach highlights the value of personalising the workplace; Andy Pearson emphasises how people will respond to their leaders efforts to connect with their emotional side; and of course William Bridges’ says that “A change can work only if the people affected by it can get through the transition it causes successfully.”

(4) The importance of the informal networks

Jon Katzenbach and Zia Khan, Authors of “Leading outside the Lines” make the important point that organisational leaders struggle to recognise the importance of the informal networks within their organisation, and the need to engage with them and mobilize them as a key method of accelerating the efforts of the formal (management) elements of the organisation.

Neil Farmer – a leading UK change expert and the leader of 5 major and successful UK corporate change initiatives – points out that whilst the formal organisation determines all routine aspects of what takes place, and in so doing provides the necessary “glue” of stability and repeatability, the shadow or informal organisation largely determines the scope and pace of change and is thus a major factor in change management risk assessment. He says that where the informal and formal organisations come into conflict, the informal nearly always are the most powerful.

(5) The answers are (almost) always at the frontline

With the exception of technical, financial and legal issues, the answers to issues relating to successful change planning, change impacts, change implementations and most importantly benefit realisation are to be found at the frontline.

In my own work I have found time and time again that the answers to the most challenging business issues, project and programme failures and performance problems always – without exception lies with the front line staff – those directly involved in “doing it”.

Also, the creative solutions to issues identified via change management risk assessment are to be found there as well.

All it takes, in my experience is the time, courtesy and empathic listening to the people at the “coal face” to find out what the issues and impacts are and also to discover what the solutions are.

(6) Stuck in Jurassic Park

The first and biggest step to making all this happen is one that can only be taken by the CEO and senior management of the organisation, and that is to relinquish (or at least relax) “command and control” sufficiently to empower the change leaders to identify and work in collaboration with the informal networks.

In my direct and observed experience, this still seldom happens. The dinosaurs still stalk the corridors of corporate power. The DNA of the leaders and senior management of most organisations (especially large ones) seems to be hard-coded to resist this – thus resistance to truly effective change management risk assessment starts at the top.

Here in the UK at least, this resistance to change in management style reflects the myopia that results from a general business culture fixated on short-term results.

All too often, the only conditions that encourage directors to relax command and control are either the appointment of a new CEO and/or senior management team, or the threat of a fairly major exposure i.e. an issue that is severe enough to create a personal accountability and potentially one that could be politically exploited to the personal detriment of the individual executive.

However, as Kotter’s observed rate of change gathers momentum these people will be exposed to ever increasing exposures and will either adapt or follow the fate of their Jurassic predecessors…

So the common thread running through all of these factors is the people dimension and the paramount need for change leaders to base their change readiness assessments around a detailed, direct and early engagement with the informal aspects of their organisation.

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