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October 4, 2009 at 11:12 am #82276
From the IT Performance newsletter
How to Deal with the People Factor of Change Management
A 2008 McKinsey survey of 3,199 executives around the world found that only one in three organizational transformation or change projects succeeded. This situation occurred mainly due to the people factor that is involved in any type of any quest for change, and the irrational side of human behavior, according to Carolyn Aiken and Scott Keller, authors of the paper “The Irrational Side of Transformation” (McKinsey Quarterly, 2009). When changes such as new technologies, new processes, new groups (e.g., consultants) are introduced to the work environment, workers have counterintuitive ways of interpreting these changes and may act differently than expected.
In their book “Change Management: The People Side of Change,” Jeff Hiatt and Timothy J. Creasy discovered the top five obstacles to implementing change were as follows:
1. employee and staff resistance
2. middle-management resistance
3. poor executive sponsorship
4. limited resources
5. corporate inertia and politics.
Four out of these five obstacles are about people, while only one of these obstacles refers to resources. Yet if people were not a problem, limited resources should not be a major “show-stopper” either for any change project. For example, with the availability of free resources, such as open-source technologies, almost any project that seeks to introduce improvements in enterprise systems is possible. If people are receptive to changes, it should not be difficult to pool time, talent, and knowledge.
Given that people are usually the most common change obstacles, there are some approaches to manage the human factor of change management, based on the authors’ suggestions.
1. Display a pro-active executive sponsorship. Change projects must be clearly communicated and championed by top management as they make the toughest decisions as well as authorize the allocation of resources to a project.
2. Encourage buy-in by middle managers and employees. Middle management and staff members support initiatives that they believe will both benefit the business as well as themselves. The question, “What’s in it for me?” must be sufficiently answered by higher management to rally the support of their subordinates. The answer may be procedural, professional, or ultimately, financial in nature, but whatever the answer may be, the relevance of the change project must be communicated to everyone in the enterprise.
3. Build an excellent change management team. Build a team of the most dedicated, skilled, and if at all possible, charismatic people to implement the change process. These people can in turn encourage the support of all of the people who will be affected within the company.
4. Err on the side of over-communication. Remember that cynicism, if not downright suspicion, runs rampant when change is introduced. Communication is therefore essential in working through these psychological and professional barriers. Build a solid communication plan to constantly inform all concerned workers. Moreover, provide as much transparency as possible about the project’s status and desired outcome. Most importantly though, you should be open to questions.
5. Train and condition all concerned individuals to adapt to change as early as possible. Provide the skills needed to implement the change to an initial batch of appointed employees. Then, gather their thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses of the project.
© Copyright 2009 Auerbach Publications
October 5, 2009 at 12:15 pm #82280
Erica A MorinParticipant
Admiral Grace Hopper says “You manage things. You lead people.” While I agree with all the information in this post, it is pretty much exactly the same thing I read and hear everywhere else on the same topic. The definition of crazy is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. Where is the break with the conventional? Where is the attempt to shake things up? Instead of a top down approach to change, start from the ground up.
An analogy if I may. Say there is a fire in a building and the only way out is the fire escape outside. People at the top have to make a decision to go to the roof or the ground. Some will go up and meet resistence from the people who are trying to go down. There will be a few tussles and those determined to go to the roof will get there. Are they trapped by this move or able to escape with help from others or can they jump to another building? There is little chance that those people on the lowest most floors are going to trek to the roof no matter what anyone above tells them about “the best choice”. These people will go down and push the ladder down for the final drop to the ground where you might get hurt but you would be on the ground and safe. If the drop is still too far, then it is easier to hold someones hands and lower them to safety then to try to push them up from below. Plus, there is the added benefit of having more people and resources on the ground to help then on the roof.
So, then how does change take place? You ask the people on the bottom what it would take to get them to go to the roof instead of the ground. Or even better, is there an alternative to the ground/roof option that no one has even considered? What do the people in the middle think? Of course, the time to determine all this is not when the building is already burning. The “Gosh, I didn’t think they’d react this way” realization isn’t helpful when the fire is licking at your heels.
So, I guess for me, why change is difficult to manage is because change – in this context – is about people and they need to be led – not managed. I think change is about leadership and I don’t mean about those who call themselves “the leaders”. It’s about recognizing that leadership can come from many different and unexpected people in the organization and figuring out the way to lead these leaders will cause the changes to occur that ‘management’ wants.
October 7, 2009 at 4:51 pm #82278
A teacher, asking why school administrators make so much more than teachers was given this response: “If an administrator does an excellent job, they’ll earn little more than the resentment of most of the teachers, staff, and public for doing what appears to be very little. But if a teacher does an excellent job, they’ll earn the undying love of practically everyone for what is obviously very much. Which job do you suppose will be harder to fill?”
Management is ultimately facing the task of getting more productivity out of their resources than they pay for. If they fail there can be no profit. If they succeed someone must have been short changed. I think the best managers understand that this means their only real means to avoid leaving their people with the sense of being exploited is to ensure that the psychological rewards of the work make up for the discrepancy in remuneration. So I see management as a form of programming where the unit of code is the employee and the challenge is to most wisely connect them in ways that not only facilitate getting the work done, but leaves each member of the team with a great deal of ownership in the final product. With that in mind, I’d like to offer my insight on the five points made in the article.
1) Display a pro-active executive sponsorship. The risk here is that the more effectively you can communicate an overall strategy the more you risk robbing your people of the ownership of the work. The goal is the same–a shared understanding and agreement about what to do–but the opportunity is just as important. Try to allow the team to reach your conclusions on their own. Nothing can motivate someone as much as an opportunity to demonstrate the value of their ability and ideas. The better a manager is at allowing their employees to set their own agenda, the harder they will work to reward your trust and faith. It also means never letting something like credit stick to you. Make yourself the best infrastructure they could have to do the work.
2) Encourage buy-in by middle managers and employees. Again, it’s the way this is done that matters most. What does an employee, or middle manager, want most from their boss? The message to convey is that your job is to further their careers and skill development; to deploy them in ways that promise to add more than just accomplishment to their resumés. It’s easy to do if that really is your goal, which it should be. To get them to see a solution they’re missing can be a huge challenge, but it is crucial that you do it without taking away ownership. Play dumb and just keep asking questions until they get it. The more genuinely you can convey the sense that it is their job to solve the problem, and your job to ensure they’re always working on things or in ways that promise to create more opportunities for them, the more they are free to concentrate on the work and not their own issues. A great manager finds a way to make the ultimate results more important to their underlings than it is to them. Try to get them to work at getting you to buy-in to the project, while you stay more concerned about them and their careers than the project. I think this is the philosophy that Erica is also explaining as a ground up approach. Remember that you aren’t just doing the work, but cultivating an ever more fruitful grove of trees in the forest where you must spend every working day.
3) Build an excellent change management team. I would have used the word strategy instead of team. The risk is that you’ll see solutions in particular people rather than the strategy as a whole. It can leave you exposed to the perception of favoritism, or some employees with an inflated sense of importance, responsibility, or even an unfair burden. The strategy approach leaves you more likely to look for milestones, measures, and more mechanical ways to gauge performance and distribute the process or changing more equitably. It doesn’t mean that it’s never appropriate to have a specific person or group responsible for orchestrating a change. It’s more about freeing employees of the burden of responsibilities that are inherently yours for a good reason. The change management team become more about finding the best strategy rather than actually making change happen. It up to them and you to make sure the people making the change don’t lose ownership of it.
4) Err on the side of over-communication. I agree with this even to the extent that some time should be genuinely “wasted” in regular bull sessions where everyone is given an opportunity to discuss anything they’d like, even stuff that has nothing to do with work, like politics, news, or personal life issues. It’s your opportunity as a manager to find out whether people are generally optimistic or pessimistic, what parts of their jobs they hate and love, where the conflicts between personalities are. How the group feels about the change is revealed more in how they talk about other things. This is also an opportunity to help them realize that you are more interested in how they feel about the change than you are in succeeding. I honestly think this is the most telling mark of excellent management–by convincing employees that they are more important than results you most empower them to struggle towards those results and trust you to worry about them. It is better to hear them over-communicate to you why the change is or isn’t working than it is for you to communicate to them how important the change is, or what you think might help it happen. If you can’t find a way to make them discover that perspective on their own, you’re probably going to have a hard time getting the most from your people.
5) Train and condition all concerned individuals to adapt to change as early as possible. I would replace the word early with painlessly. Again, the trick is to convince them to sell you on the change. Make sure they know your job is to ensure they are not stepping on each other to make the change happen. There should be no doubt in your mind they can meet the challenge, and quickly. You are there to hold them to a pace that won’t burn them out. If they can see you believe that, they’ll have the attitude most conducive to cooperation and results.
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