Managing Change Is Managing People

Changing the way an organization operates is tough. You can spend a lot of money on new software, redesign your business processes, and offer training, but, will this guarantee change? No.

Technologies may change, but organizations usually stay the same. If you want to change the way your organization works, you have to make it happen. The right way to manage change begins with a simple model but involves a process that can be complex and delicate. It entails careful planning, detailed design, and thorough implementation.

The Plan

Defining change. Your first step is defining the change you want to implement. Most important is defining the operational model: What do you want your organization’s structure to look like? What roles need to be performed? How should future business processes look? What technology is needed?

The first requirement for success is keeping your goals realistic. Whatever the nature of the changes you’re seeking, you need to know your organization’s limits.

You also need to understand how change can be affected within your organization — can the change be enacted at a business unit level and pushed down? Or should the change start with smaller groups (like project teams) and work its way up the organization?

Assessing readiness. The next stop is to assess how ready your organization is for change by analyzing three key factors:

  • Stakeholders. Who stands to gain or lose the most through the changes you’re planning, and who among the “losers” will present an obstacle? Who are the key change agents — that is, who are the people that everyone else follows?
  • Business processes. How radically will you change the way you conduct business? And what will it take to make that change?
  • Employee skills. In what ways will your employees need to upgrade their skills? How many will need to learn new skills?
  • Once you’ve assessed the specific points of resistance, identify which of them are the main impediments to change. Then develop specific initiatives to remove each point of resistance — detailed discussions with one stakeholder group, tweaking a business process to satisfy a particular business unit, etc. When planning these initiatives it is important to consider that they can be tightly integrated and very complex.