CHANGE MANAGEMENT : Anne Deering – Action guidelines for organisational change

How can companies lay solid foundation for the ongoing management of change?
The nature of change itself is changing. Dealing with change is fast becoming an essential competence for survival, not periodic or one-off programme. Finding vision of the future state is central to the success of change initiatives.
Everyone is talking about change. Management consultancies say their fastest growing practice is change management. Countries and markets are restructuring. Technology leaps create new competitive scenarios and radically restructure value chains, just as fast as we define the existing ones.
Large companies try acting like small ones, thinking globally, acting locally. They struggle continuously to maintain economies of scale, keeping global focus while identifying and meeting micro-market demands at local level, providing employees with freedom in responding to customers in real time while ensuring consistently high quality standards around the network.
No longer consisting of one-off, pragmatic initiatives, change is now an ongoing process in which new ideas are obsolete almost as fast as they are introduced. Reacting to individual pressures to change as they arise does not suffice, since this necessitates costly and constant barrage of separate initiatives in an effort to catch up.
Change today must be pre-emptive and ongoing – not adaptive and merely means of coping. Capturing opportunities and minimising threats through proactive, offensive actions means linking into the intelligence of the company, and rooting the desire to change continuously in the mindset of the organisation.
So change is here to stay. It is paradoxically the one constant factor in our environment, and it is getting bigger. We may be facing the largest single step change since Adam Smith defined the ground rules of capitalist endeavour. Today’s organisations, management and workforce alike, are challenged to restructure radically, moving beyond traditional models of the organisation in step described as change that may be the biggest social issue of the next 20 years… as massive and wrenching as the Industrial Revolution.

How does effective change begin?
Start with looking out from today’s organisation and environment to build vivid picture of the future. Experts and practitioners agree on the need for cogent and compelling vision of the desired future, but this is often neglected in change initiatives. It must be vision all members of the organisation can commit to, and one that fits the company’s competencies. By reaching out to future vision in this way, looking to the future to ask the question, “What will it take to be world leader in the 21st century?”, organisations can put stake in the ground from which they can work backwards in planning the strategy to get there. In effect managing from the future.
Rather than dragging the whole organisation inch by inch towards future that is receding at about the same rate, stand in the future and only take with you what you need for that future.
Despite this understanding, how many change initiatives do we still launch with the mission “Reduce costs by $200 million,” or “Reduce management layers by half”? At senior management levels these goals may be sufficiently aligned with management’s personal goals to allow for some buy-in and commitment. But further down the organisation corporate and personal goals become increasingly incongruent.
Although they may achieve cognitive recognition, such missions fail to address the other two vital ingredients of attitudes: the affective or feeling, and conative or intending elements. vision of the future must address all three in order to underpin real behavioural and attitude change.

How should companies go about visioning their future?
Successful visioning builds on four key factors:
• Different thinking
Visioning requires completely different mode of thought from regular management tasks, and to be effective must take place in suitable context for reflection and be led by talented and credible visioning facilitator. Off-site sessions are usually the most effective, where possible intermingled with other completely unrelated activities to stimulate the “out of the box” thinking you are looking for.
• Challenging current practices
To build the vision one must let go of perceived current restrictions, and expand the mind beyond today’s realities into the imaginary organisation of tomorrow, building creative tension between current and goal states. It requires the organisation to set stake in the ground of the future and to challenge its own “impossibles”.
For example, try presenting this situation: “It is 2008 and you are being interviewed by the Financial Times. You are asked to explain how you became world leader in your industry over the past five years. What did you do? How did it feel?” Always reflect on and challenge the “but we couldn’t because …” statements: they are useful indicators of potential blocks to action.
• Building the right team
Think carefully about the constitution of the visioning team – both knowledge and personality types, ie, creativity and risk-taking profiles. Bringing in outsiders to the team can help provoke new thinking and provide other models of inspiration.
• Creating safe environment
Building vision of how the organisation will ideally look in the future is an emotional and often frightening process, where control is minimal and safe environment is vital. code of conduct for the visioning team that makes it clear “dumb ideas are okay” and “all ideas are of value” can help, together with the explicit eliciting of the “hopes, concerns and fears” of those in the visioning team.
The evolution of such vision in the context of managing change means exploring the types of qualities, attitudes and interactions that would be worthwhile in the new organisation, and this is only made possible by telling the truth about current reality.
Confirmation of the confidentiality of opinion within the team may help in those environments where the “right” answer is less important than the “winning” answer, and where the carrier of bad news tends to get shot.

Are there common characteristics to be found among companies which have got change management right?
Much of the writing on change management focuses on the psychological aspects of implementing change, especially in the face of strong resistance. This is undoubtedly important but there is sense that the baby may be thrown out with the bathwater. Traditional, relatively mechanistic project management tools remain essential as pro-jects move into implementation.
Based on this evidence, we’ve identified six essential principles of change management.
Lead from the top Top management involvement and commitment to any change initiative are essential. However, the “disappearing CEO” is common character in many organisations. As soon as the change initiative is successfully launched, the CEO goes “back to business”.
But what could be more important to the CEO than the future of the firm? The most successful initiatives we have experienced are those where the CEO is actively and visibly involved throughout the process, dedicating up to 50 percent of their time to the effort, setting the pace, communicating urgency, insisting on breakthrough thinking and results, and leading by example.
Gaining senior management commitment is essential and can be reinforced by incorporating agreed savings and revenue enhancement targets into budgets and performance-related pay systems.
Set aggressive targets Successful change initiatives use goals and targets that stretch everyone’s thinking. Putting stake in the ground sufficiently far ahead forces fundamental rethinking. Through focusing on few key performance objectives and rigorously monitoring progress against them, the energies of the organisation can concentrate on achieving the corporate goals.

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