Most things work better with planning, including change. Getting people ready for change is part of planning for change. Doing the people part, and then implementing changes as planned, is all part and parcel of change management (CM). There is nothing new in change management, except the label. The label is useful because as an official corporate buzz word, it generates awareness (and blog entries like this one). Awareness results in more companies doing it right who otherwise might not have done it right.
People get used to what they do, how they do it, and what management expected from them in months and years past. It is not easy to change those routines. CM is needed when a company is taking a new direction, significantly changing how people do things, changing who does what, and changing expectations. CM is hard work for managers, in order to make change less hard on staff, while avoiding disruption of productivity. CM can take a potential morale liability and turn it into an uplifting experience for everyone.
Change management is not: “We’re doing this new way so you’re all signed up for training next month” (end of CM). That approach will hurt morale in most cases. Training is often a component of CM, but it is not the whole CM process.
Companies might adopt the buzz word “change management” without adopting the real meaning of the buzz word. In those cases, CM might be “declared” but not actually done. CM is a varied set of processes by skilled managers who know how to coach, know how to communicate, and have an intimate knowledge of staff as well as management, their needs, and their fears. CM comprises strategic decisions that ensure healthy results for the company and the people.
CM process lets staff know that a change is coming well in advance, why the change is coming, how it will benefit the company and keep viable jobs, when and how it will be implemented, impact on daily work, what each person’s role is, who needs what training, when/how the training will be made available, how people can help make it work better for everyone, what are the specific objectives, and what we hope to achieve in the long run. CM includes ample time and opportunity for people to broach their concerns, questions, and misgivings. The worst skeptics should be brought on board with courtesy and respect and with as much information and encouragement as possible.
When everyone is brought into the process, and all become active participants, from early warning through implementation through post-implementation retrospective, and the change actually works as planned, then CM happened successfully.
If you investigate the real meaning behind the buzz word, and learn what made it so great, you can reap the benefits of a hundred years of common sense that led up to such buzzworthy concepts. That’s my take on Change Management.