I was drawn to the emerging field of change management early in my career. After graduate school, I landed a technical writing job, which quickly evolved into positions of leadership in documentation and training. I was primarily responsible for documenting software, creating end-user training, and building knowledge management systems. It did not take long for me to see that people need more support to guide them through change.
The Value of Managing Change
The value of managing change became increasingly evident to me over time. So when I had the opportunity to transition into management consulting at Accenture, I did. There I managed change (or business readiness as many clients called it) as part of the Talent and Organization Performance group. We addressed components of change including stakeholder management; leadership and ownership; communication; training and performance support; and organization design.
The scope of work that change management practitioners perform has grown tremendously since then. Practitioners now have access to end-to-end processes and to practice communities that support them. In 2011, the Association for Change Management Practitioners (ACMP) was born. In 2014 the organization launched the first Standard for Change Management™, followed shortly thereafter by the certification process and CCMP exam.
Change management is now well defined. The Standard outlines detailed processes, and multiple third-party organizations provide methodologies that complement those processes. But even while the necessity of devoting time and resources to the people side of change is gaining acceptance, there are still widely-held misconceptions that must be put to rest before businesses can fully realize the benefits of organizational change management.
One misconception is that change management leadership is only valuable in areas that touch employees the most—communications and training. Not so. Change management is an end-to-end process. Practitioners guide stakeholders at every stage from project initiation through closing and beyond. Their work ensures the company can sustain the change and realize expected benefits.
The challenge is to make change management part and parcel of the business plan, and not an add-on that is managed independently.Deloitte – Demystifying Change Management
Another misconception is that if leadership adopts an approach to change at the beginning of an initiative, no further change intervention is needed. The idea is when management grasps the approach, they can use it to lead employees through project execution. This way of thinking about change management eliminates the need for a robust, end-to-end OCM engagement.
With no consistent and enduring vision of OCM during a project, stakeholders tend to lose sight of the big picture. I experienced this phenomenon first-hand when I was responsible for change communications on a large program with multiple high-level initiatives. Consultants trained key stakeholders in OCM concepts early in the program. But two years later, when it came time to address communications, stakeholders were not prepared. They had no overall vision of how employees would view the change in the long-term. Without that knowledge, the risk that communications will not support a smooth implementation is high.
Despite a fast approaching deadline, I had to step back and redefine the change management approach. Then I met together with the various initiative leads to unite them going forward. It was also necessary to hold brainstorming sessions with change leads and SMEs to reassess stakeholders, and thereby ensure effective change communications. (See the related case study.)
The third misconception is that there is only one side to change management—the soft side. Leaders of pragmatic-minded organizations tend to believe change management is too touchy-feely. They think it adds no financial or measurable value to project implementation—it is extraneous. Because change management processes are now well defined, practitioners can use them to help organizations measure readiness, risk, engagement, adoption, and even benefit realization.
Agility and other change management-focused consulting firms are also adept at communicating change. Furthermore, we know how to look at change capability and change capacity to create more flexible, agile organizations.
What’s missing, we believe, is a focus on the not-so-fashionable aspects of change management: the hard factors. These factors bear three distinct characteristics. First, companies are able to measure them in direct or indirect ways. Second, companies can easily communicate their importance, both within and outside organizations. Third, and perhaps most important, businesses are capable of influencing those elements quickly.Harvard Business Review, The Hard Side of Change Management
Like many creative people, I find the greatest satisfaction in seeing anything I do from beginning to end. It turns out I was spot-on when I sensed there was more to helping people change than user guides and training. I have been following this quickly expanding field of OCM for years. Doing so has provided me with a new level of self-fulfillment as I launch Agility to help people navigate change.