As we all know, there is a big difference between wanting something to happen and actually making it happen. If great planning were a sure sign of success, then change failure rates would be much lower than 70-80 per cent. Therefore, the big question is: what actually makes things happen – differently?
1. Understanding the critical path of the sequence and schedule of major changes. This includes having deep industry expertise coupled with strong project and programme methodologies and resources..
2. Being change smart about how to help people shift their behaviour to use new technologies, processes and structures in a sustainable way.
3. Taking action makes things happen. It may seem a statement of the obvious, but the ability to plan-do-review and either persevere or adjust quickly so as to keep moving is crucial to success. There are so many ways for change projects to slip into failure, inertia being an important one.
4. Keeping it real makes things happen differently. Some projects and programmes have a better sense of reality than others. You can find many stories of changes that slipped months or years and came in millions of pounds over budget because of poor intelligence.
In the early (initiating) stage of a change project, the challenges of implementation are often underestimated. By hooking into the history of change implementation, learning from both good and bad experiences, there are clear insights for change leaders about the likely results from new change projects if old practices are repeated.
The four points above relate to the capability and resources available for change, both of which people need to be able to adapt to new business requirements. But what really makes thing happen is having people and organizations with the available capacity to absorb change demand. When change demand exceeds capacity, organizations lose their edge in the marketplace, leadership credibility is eroded as changes start but never get finished, and there is a high cost in terms of employee engagement and productivity levels.
People’s ability to operate under turbulent conditions without losing efficiency and quality creates unquestionable competitive advantage for organizations and should be explicitly managed. We are living in times of great volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – in this VUCA world what makes the difference is the speed with which organizations can innovate and adapt their working practices. There are more ideas, different strategies, added priorities and new projects that all need to be implemented.
Managing change capacity is about monitoring the demands being made on capacity, to understand what is remaining for key priorities.
This has been adapted from Enterprise Change Management: How to Prepare Your Organization for Continuous Change.
About the authors: David Miller is the chairman and founder of Changefirst, a global training and consulting organization which specialises in change management. He has helped organizations successfully implement major change for the last 25 years, initially as a senior executive for American Express and more recently with clients ranging from HSBC, BT, Roche Pharmaceuticals and The Linde Group.
Audra Proctor has over twenty years’ experience in multi-industry and international change execution. She is a regular speaker at public speaking and client events and currently manages global relationships for Changefirst where she leads continued research and development.
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