One of the many challenges facing organisations in 2017 is the constant pace of change. Learning to respond to this change in a positive manner is vital if organisations wish to remain competitive and agile in the face of challenges.
Much of this can be achieved by implementing a strong change management strategy, but what does this look like in 2017?
WHAT IS CHANGE MANAGEMENT?
According to Business Dictionary, at a simple definitional level change management means ‘minimizing resistance to organizational change through involvement of key players and stakeholders.’ The Association for Project Management (APM) suggests ‘change management is a structured approach to moving an organisation from the current state to the desired future state.’ Outlining a generic change management process as including the five stages of ‘assess, prepare, plan, implement and sustain’, observers could be forgiven for thinking that change management is simply a case of following a set process with guaranteed results.
A MORE COMPLEX PICTURE
Yet this is not the complete picture. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, better known as CIPD, points out that ‘research shows that most change initiatives fail to accomplish their intended outcomes and may even limit the potential of an organisation and its people.’ CIPD argues that ‘there’s no single model of change and no single solution to effective management,’ meaning organisations must look beyond the simple definitions posited above in order to understand the nuances of change management.
Change management can take many forms and as such CIPD suggests that one response to change is that ‘organisational forms are themselves evolving.’ This can mean that ‘traditional organisational models following functional or matrix lines are being supplemented by new models that rely on project teams, on networks and on virtual structures’ in a bid to increase responsiveness and agility.
IS ALL MANAGEMENT CHANGE MANAGEMENT?
For HBR contributor Robert Schaffer, separating change management from everyday management can actually cause an unnecessary division within teams that hampers progress and can even increase resistance to change.
Schaffer argues that ‘today’s change management movement has arisen in response to the difficulty companies have had in making constant, rapid improvement a routine aspect of work.’ As a response to this, Schaffer notes that increasing numbers of organisations are employing dedicated ‘change management professionals’, but that in fact this misdirects resources and efforts away from ‘striving to make innovation and improvement routine.’
Schaffer argues that rather than devoting months to crafting a detailed change management plan, highlighting several objectives that have thus far not been achieved and allocating teams to tackle these objectives can prove more effective. He suggests that ‘maintaining a short time frame for these experiments permits the rapid testing of many modest innovations,’ allowing the organisation to learn which processes work best and which can be carried forwards in the future.
PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE
Another HBR article, written by contributors Michael L. Tushman, Anna Kahn, Mary Elizabeth Porray and Andy Binns, suggests that currently companies are not ready for the future of change management, which looks increasingly likely to be data driven.
Arguing that although data science has not yet become a reality in change management, ‘the companies best positioned to change in the next decade will be the ones that set themselves up well now, by collecting the right kind of data and investing in their analytics capacity.’ There are a number of ways that HBR sees organisations can begin to buy into data-led change management, from introducing real-time employee opinion tools to using social media to generate insights about stakeholder responses to change.
Itself evidence of the fact that even the face of change management is subject to change, data-led strategies could become the norm in the very near future. HBR believes ‘this will move investment in change from an act of faith to one of data-informed judgment [and thus] from a project-based discipline struggling to justify adequate investment to one that is advising on business outcomes and how to deliver them.’
The old adage that ‘change is the only constant’ seems fitting here, and so assessing your ability to react to and anticipate change in 2017 is vital for your organisation to thrive as we head towards a new year.
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