Three Keys to Managing the People Aspect of Change

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change_sign1-300x186In today’s business environment organizations are constantly launching new strategic initiatives aimed at driving some sort of value proposition. These range from company-wide reorganizations to the implementation of a major technology such as an ERP or a Human Capital Management software suite. They say that somewhere between 37% and 68% of large corporate projects fail. There are loads of reasons – lack of sponsorship, poorly defined requirements, unrealistic timelines, and the list goes on.

But from my experience the one thing companies tend to overlook is the people side of the equation. It’s easy to change strategy, change process, and change technology, but really hard to change people, especially the people who are responsible for failure or success.

So how do we manage the people aspect of change? Is there some magical framework that I can just copy?

Well … Google might help you find a few frameworks, but ultimately there is no silver bullet. Here are three keys to making sure you get the people part right:

  • Establish the Right Team: In order to manage any change effort, the organization must empower the right team to deliver the desired results. The team must consist of people who understand, embrace, and actually “live” the vision. Additionally, the team must be capable of removing barriers so that they can truly ignite and spread the change initiative. Finally they must have credibility with their audience. The right team with a vision or core message that is clear, demonstrable, and yields a distinct value proposition—the change initiative will be off to a good start.
  • Carry Out the Change: Once the team is in place with the appropriate vision, you need to look at executing the change via an effective communication and change management plan. Becoming aware of the change is just the beginning. People need the opportunity to question, understand, become involved in, begin to support, and finally show positive acceptance for a change. People need to understand the vision from idea to operationalization and know “what’s in it for me.” Communication alone does not engage the organization. It must be complemented by a change management plan. This includes targets (with tracking and rewards), the change teams’ roles/responsibilities, sponsor roadmap, resistance management, charting quick wins, and spreading the good news of these achievements to win-over new advocates. People need to understand that they have skin in the game. Combining a good communications plan with a real operating blueprint will go a long way in realizing the value of the change.
  • Keep it Going: Sustaining change can be the most difficult hurdle. The change doesn’t end when the project ends. It is important that the core team and leadership maintain urgency and reinforce change via people, process, and ongoing communication. Don’t confuse technical success with project success. Think about it this way: If the project being executed impacts people and the people impacted do not embrace the change in their work environment, then the change is not realized. If the change is not realized then the goals of the project are not met. If the goals of the project are not met, ultimately the project fails. This is where ongoing training, gamification, incentives, policies, and promotions become the living process tools for reinforcing and sustaining the change initiative throughout the organization.

Change is not simply another gantt chart in a power point, but something that should become an institutional feature of an organization.

Kelly Keating

Kelly brings over 18 years experience to Black Box Consulting in helping clients improve the effectiveness of their HR systems and processes. She has served as senior consultant and project manager for complex HR projects with over 50 companies spanning 40 countries.

Topics: Change Management