Managing Change Toolkit

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Best Practice Change Management

"And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.
Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new" - from "The Prince" by Machiavelli

From the large number of change management experiences that we have been involved in, we have drawn up the following list of "best-practice" guidelines of approaches that best practice organisations employ.

Six Best Practice Tips

1.      Think long and hard - and then act quickly

All change programmes involve three phases:

Three Stage Change Model

Such phases always exist, although often they may be indistinct and informal.

There is a danger in trying to rush the first stage, "Developing a Change Strategy". Organisations that do so often end-up designing changes on-the-run and inventing ideas as they go along, with the result that nobody really knows what is going on.

With the second stage of "Detailed Planning & Implementation", there is a danger of letting the implementation of the changes spread over too long a timescale - of going too slowly. Organisations that do this often find that other problems arise - productivity falls as people try to cope with both old and new working practices, a "planning blight" develops stopping other things happening, or people that they wish to retain leave and go elsewhere.

As a general rule, it seems to be best to "Think long and hard and then act quickly".

2.     Develop a Change Strategy

Invest time in developing a change strategy covering:

Doing this provides a more comprehensive and robust change plan, the opportunity to build consensus in the top team, and the information needed for a communication exercise.

3.     Build cohesion and commitment in the top-team

Leadership from the top is key to all such change.

To do that the top team needs to signal that it is organised, committed, and considerate. If the team itself is in disarray, then the staff fairly quickly lose trust in them.  Developing the change strategy, planning the changes, and communicating are three key elements in this.

4.     Have a People Strategy

In radical change, people react as individuals and need to be managed as such. When the changes are finally announced, their eyes will drop whilst they think about their own agendas - career, promotion, pensions, their new team leader, who they would be sitting next to, etc. That's the reality.  

At this point traditional management tools (annual appraisals etc,) lose influence - they just don’t seem so relevant to people. What people do want are things like:

The key step is to accept this, and formulate a strategy for achieving it. Two key elements are:

For people in this situation, management is their line manager. If people want to know something, they ask their colleagues and their line manager. Although Project Teams and Newsletters have a role to play in change management, when it comes  to staff morale and involvement  line management is the best way forward.  

The task of senior management is to facilitate this by creating the conditions that enable this to happen.

If you can do it you get a better end-result, less muddle in the middle, and people who really understand what is going on and what the implications for them are. The best way is to get them working in workshops or project teams on how the changes affect their own work processes - an area they know better than anyone else. Its not always feasible but the benefits are massive.

5.     Communicate well - continually

Most changes that run into difficulties do so because people become confused, worried, unsure what is going on, and upset and angry. Some of these feelings are inevitable but others are caused by lack of information and an enforced reliance on rumours for information. The following are the core elements of any change communications strategy:

6.     Finally - manage to minimise the "muddle-in-the-middle"

The costs and disruption of change can be horrendous. Often hidden, they are not all inevitable - most can be avoided. The article "Managing Radical Change" describes this in some detail and describes two cases. In the first case were no major disruptions. In contrast, in the second case the company paid the price with severe costs, disruption, and dissatisfied customers.