In the day-to-day life of any organization, processes and priorities have to evolve to address changing business needs and growing external driving forces. The key to sustainable change management is understanding the human side at an organizational level.
Tackling change in organizations can be messy, but change agents have to be prepared to face the challenges. The most significant challenges are often cultural in nature and require a high degree of alignment with people's expectations, hopes and anxieties. Aligning for change involves achieving a 'critical mass' within the affected population. This requires convincing people that change is needed, that it makes sense and that everyone will benefit in the long run (including managers). The key to success is understanding the different needs of different populations, including the impact on the work environment.
Alignment involves bringing employees on board with changing priorities and policies. This might involve recognition of their role in shaping the change process, feedback on how they are affected by the change, and opportunities to develop their skills throughout a process which is difficult for them.
Culture and values:
Cultures vary widely across an organization's workforce. It is important to engage with multiple cultures, and in some cases this may require significant intervention. In the case of a merger or acquisition, for example, it might be necessary to establish very different ways of working before any effective integration can take place.
Change agents need to prepare the system for change by diagnosing what is needed and how best to go about it. This also requires building necessary relationships with all concerned parties at every level and assessing the business environment in which the change will occur.
Once prepared, change agents need to roll out the changes. This might be a process of simply implementing new policies and procedures - which are relatively straightforward - or it might require more extensive change management processes such as social engineering or identifying and seeking change champions.
Recognizing the need for change:
Change agents can end up being trapped by their own success and not realize they need to adapt their approach. They will need to engage with different stakeholders, and in some cases this will require identifying new change champions.
Change agents need to recognize that any change is likely to bring problems as well as opportunities, so they should continuously assess the changes they have introduced and identify new solutions.
Roles in change management:
Change managers are responsible for designing a process whereby changes can be effectively implemented in an organization. They might be in charge of the strategic or operational aspects of change, or they might be involved in implementing day-to-day change.
The key to success is understanding the different needs of different populations, including the impact on the work environment.