Structured ‘change management’ is playing an increasingly important role in the world of business. Even putting the high-velocity of the Digital Age to one side, it is easy to see that, over the last few decades, impetuses for change have appeared far more frequently in the form of competitors, technology, customer expectations, new markets, and so on. This has created an environment where being able to adapt and change has become fundamental for continued prosperity.
Whereas change or transformation initiatives previously have focused on benefits and technical requirements, modern approaches focus far more on the people that support, resist, and endure the effects of changes. Whatever a proposed initiative might say on paper, the only way for any change to hit the ground running is to have sufficient support and insight from those who keep the organization running. They can offer insight on implementation, the impact of the change itself, and even how change managers can win over other potential detractors. Indeed, dealing with people is one of the most important aspects of frameworks like AgileSHIFT and APMG Change Management.
However, the increasing prominence of these frameworks goes beyond the human element of change. The need to guarantee enterprise agility, prepare for roadblocks in advance, and other factors are also included, with the frameworks offering a level of insight that helps organizations to optimize the value of change management alongside efficiency and direction.
So, why has this comprehensive approach to change management become so necessary, and how can businesses benefit from investing in change management training?
Change management helps companies stay competitive
As we said, the environment most businesses now find themselves in can be highly competitive. We are seeing an unprecedented rate of evolution in the spheres of digital and IT management, with constant movement from hungry competitors and ever-changing client expectations making static businesses highly vulnerable. In short, businesses must remain prepared to take advantage of opportunities to improve their offerings and operations when they appear.
Adopting a set framework or methodology for change management is an excellent way to establish a clear process for reacting to an impetus for change. Certified and experienced change managers have practices prepared for drawing roadmaps, creating change teams, identifying where resistance is likely to come from, engaging with stakeholders, and so on. Rather than simply managing the fallout of change, they can take control of it in every regard.
In a world where change is becoming more of a requirement for survival and competitiveness, having a proactive approach is essential.
Change has a cross-functional impact
With the way modern organizations are structured, it is extremely rare for transformation initiatives to have a limited impact. Changes within a single project may go unnoticed elsewhere, but anything done to alter a team, department, or established way of working has the potential to cause ripples not just immediately but also in the long term.
Without taking this into account, change managers can end up causing unforeseen consequences, such as the disruption of vital customer-facing services or significant delays to projects. Because of this, it is crucial that, when change management is employed, it must be handled cautiously.
APMG Change Management and AgileSHIFT both recognize this fact. Practitioners will always take the time to ask:
- Who will be affected by the change?
- Is anyone likely to create resistance?
- Do our interests and priorities conflict with anyone else’s?
- Who established the current way of doing things?
- What questions are managers and stakeholders most likely to ask?
While change management frameworks do allow practitioners to predict ripples with 100% accuracy, they do guide them in preparing for the effects proposed changes will have. This allows them to limit any disruption to day-to-day processes, projects, and so on while also helping to optimize the scope of the initiatives in question so that more staff can enjoy the benefits.
Change initiatives can be expensive
Adopting new technology, software, practices, structures, or anything else does not happen for free, whether in terms of effort or expenditure. Just like any other genre of corporate project or program management, change initiatives require budgets that need to be controlled.
At the same time, poorly managed changes run the risk of interfering with daily value-generating processes. For example, trying to introduce new features to a service without proper planning could end up causing bugs, increasing downtime, or putting the company in danger of failing to achieve compliance standards (to say nothing of chipping away at its reputation with customers).
A hallmark of change management frameworks is controlling costs. This is done by cutting out wasteful processes, avoiding heavy-handed tactics, and prioritizing productivity, risk management, and communication. This is all about ensuring that changes not only proceed as efficiently as possible but also that any resulting disruption is minimized, allowing the business in question to keep reliably creating value even as it transforms.
Change encourages innovation
Change management frameworks help to make employees more responsive to change in general. AgileSHIFT, for example, recognizes that staff at all levels and in all departments of an organization can contribute to change and even highlight potential opportunities that those with other backgrounds or skillsets might miss. Gradually, employing such a comprehensive approach can create more innovative workplace cultures where staff are not afraid to voice their own ideas.
Remember, employees are far more likely to support changes when they have witnessed or taken part in successful initiatives. Fostering this kind of environment also enables businesses to demonstrate their values in practice, showing employees that they have room to offer their own expertise and make a valued contribution.
Change management makes change easier
Obviously, the reason why change and transformation managers are even appointed in the first place is that the complexity of change requires oversight. Managers who have studied the proven best practices and tools of an established framework can take a proactive and controlled approach, mastering complex elements such as engagement and risk management and transferring them into tangible and simplified planning elements. In other words, there is far less guesswork involved, with change teams having set processes for controlling the impact of change rather than simply reacting to it.
That is not to say that following a framework means following the same roadmap for every single change initiative. Rather, a ‘framework’ can be continually reused and refined. Managers will assess the successes and failures of change initiatives to improve their approach for next time, gradually creating bespoke frameworks that perfectly suit their organizations. In other words, proven change management practices have beneficial impacts in both the short and long term.
Positive change requires engagement
As we mentioned earlier, engaging with people is a crucial part of change management. Human factors decide how changes will be interpreted, how their benefits need to be sold, and where most problems in an initiative are likely to come from.
Change management frameworks encourage practitioners to engage with different teams, departments, and stakeholders not just early on in a project but throughout. Teams communicate the benefits of proposed changes based on the interests of each separate audience. They will also solicit advice from different parties on how the changes could proceed more smoothly or what unforeseen consequences they might create. This enables managers to better-understand problems and adjust their plans accordingly.
As part of this, frameworks will often encourage change teams to establish schedules for announcing progress updates and inviting feedback, as well as communication channels. From this kind of foundation, transformation initiatives can evolve with far less uncertainty.
Studying change management
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