Making Change Work

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Shaky Foundations

Whilst over 60% of businesses will be looking to implement some form of business improvement initiative over the next 18 months, less than 1 in 4 of these change programmes will achieve any worthwhile results that are sustainable for a further 12 months post the introduction of change.

This brings into focus two key problems:

1. Some 40% of businesses are not planning to introduce any form of change, even though it is likely that there will be significant changes in their markets.

2. Only 15% of all businesses will be successful at implementing and then sustaining their change programme, whatever type of change is introduced.

This gap in success is a major issue for the long-term performance of UK PLC, but more importantly is a potential short-fuse time bomb for individual businesses.

Shifting Sands

The reason for not planning to change is a major problem with many causes, but the reason for failure of a change programme can be put down to three main causes.

- Skill Shortage

Failing to invest in obtaining suitable skills relevant to the changes being introduced and/or failing to carry out sufficient skills training.

- Management Motivation

The prevailing management style of the organisation will either hinder or support change, and sadly in most cases it hinders change. This can be seen through management inconsistency and perpetual crisis management that deflates the efforts to change.

- Organisational Environment

Organisations have personalities in the same way that individuals do. Organisational personalities are formed by the collation of individual and team personalities or cultures, flavoured by the prevailing management style of the business and influenced by the levels of openness, communication and sense of shared vision in the business.

CMF ? The PMT for business

CMF or Change Management Failure is as we have already seen a very common problem in industry and is often surrounded by frustration, arguments and expense, and avoiding CMF is the full-time remit of the change management professionals and involves four key steps:

1. Understanding the 'battlezone'

The most important step in a change programme occurs before any decision is made about the type of change or its intensity, focus or cost. The first step is to understand the organisation through cultural assessment, understanding the management motivations and prevailing management style and then understanding the 'hard' angles of change ? amount to spend, key reasons for change, availability of skills etc.

2. Highlighting the leadership path

Once the basic 'battlezone' is understood, the next step is to work with the management team to plan the implementation process, including how it will be communicated, managed and how success will be recognised. The element of communication and the communications strategy cannot be understated in this process.

3. Developing the internal skills

Long-term success of a change programme is a function of 'Communication, Education and Implementation'. All three aspects require skills, whether they are communication and briefing skills, the technical skills of change (such as Value Stream Mapping or whatever the relevant change skills are) or the planning skills required to manage the implementation of change. Skills require training and training requires budget.

4. Managing the momentum

The last reason for CMF is trying to treat change as a discrete activity that can be turned started and finished. Whilst it is true that change can occur in spurts, as proposed by the concepts of discontinuous innovation, the underlying issue is that change has to be in the veins of the organisation whether or not there are active projects everyday of the week or not. Managing the momentum is also about coaching, on-going communication and ensuring there is a consistent message about the change process.

Starting The Engine

CMF does not need to be the inevitable result for 75% of all change programmes, it can be easily avoided if the change process is planned effectively, and planning does not mean delaying as plans can be made quickly and so can change if done correctly.

And as a closing remark to the 40% of companies who will not introduce any form of planned change in the next 18 months, I will quote Tom Peters in that, 'It is not necessary for a business to always grow bigger, but it is necessary that they always grow better.'

Mark Eaton

Mark Eaton is holder of the Viscount Nuffield Medal for his contribution to UK Industry and was formerly the Director of the DTI's award winning Manufacturing Advisory Service for London and South East England. Mark now manages his own practice focused on improving organisational productivity.

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