CONSULTATION : Managing Change

I have recently had performance review and have been asked to build my “change management” skills as it is likely we will embark on change management programme next year. This is very broad topic. Do you have some thoughts on what I should focus on?

There tends to be common myth that we now live in world of constant change. In fact the issue is that there has always been change at work. Change is caused by things happening in our external and internal environments and these are often outside of our control. For example externally economies rise and fall, customer needs develop and change, and competitors come and go. Internally people change and so the skills level and mix changes. Also new systems are implemented which improve the way we do things but this is always accompanied by change.
So first we need to accept that change is part of life and we need to be able to go with the flow. Then we need to be able to recognise when change is actually needed. As manager this means we need to be monitoring both the organisation’s external and internal environments.
This is of course what lot of strategic planning is about. Having recognised that change is needed we must then be able to manage it effectively.
A key element to understand is that human beings in general don’t like change. To enable people to self-manage successfully through change, you need to be able to create and communicate compelling picture of why the change is needed and what the end result will be. Especially you need to remember that the first thing person will think when confronted with change is, “How will this affect me?” If you can address that question fully you are 90 percent on the way to creating and managing change effectively.

Can you tell me what “management best practice” means? Surely the concept of management in an organisation has been around for long time and the basics don’t really change?

Management has evolved over the past 100 years partly due to ongoing learning and also due to major social change. In very general terms management started out in the “command and control” territory. This was due to the impact of the Industrial Revolution where “bosses” owned the businesses and “workers” flocked into towns to find higher paid work.
It would also have had something to do with the mindsets developed during the First World War when so many soldiers re-joined the workforce after the war. In the 1950s and 1960s management moved more into aiming to create efficiency and effectiveness through scientific measurement of what people did in the workplace and then implementing changes to improve those actions. This also moved through to wide use of ‘management by objectives’. That is making sure each person in an organisation had clear set of targets and their performance was then measured against this with them getting feedback on how well or not so well they were doing.
However, management appears now to have evolved again to being more human-resource management focused. Managers are still aiming to make sure people have clear objectives linked to the organisation’s business plan but they are also deeply concerned with the issues of engagement, culture, and coaching for development. The reasons being that in today’s world key role of manager is to attract and retain good people in the organisation in an increasingly competitive employment situation.
Secondly they are faced with the need to build behaviours into the organisation that enable it to deliver on its strategy effectively. This involves high level coaching skills which is significant move forward on traditional performance management practice which developed originally with ‘management by objectives’.
It is interesting that many senior HR managers are moving into chief executive or general management roles at the moment. The reason for this is that at senior level an HR practitioner has already had the opportunity to develop these high level people management skills.
Does this mean that all managers now need to become HR managers as well? Does it meant that HR as function will disappear as managers in general take on these skills? I suspect there will still be need for an HR function but I do think there will be an ongoing shift to the average manager needing to develop stronger hr management skills.
So the answer to your question of what is management best practice, is really that it is what works well in today’s world. The basics of management are fairly fundamental but their emphasis changes significantly with time. At the moment there is move to management best practice incorporating significant level of high-level HR practice.

Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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