Organizational Change Management – Basic Prerequisites

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Published: 13th March 2009
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This article identifies basic prerequisites for stakeholders to understand and fully engage with any organizational change. Without engagement and acceptance by stakeholders, it is unlikely that a change will deliver the potential benefits promised.

Definition of Organizational Change Management

The following practical definition of organizational change management is provided in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

"Organizational change management includes processes and tools for managing the people side of the change at an organizational level. These tools include a structured approach that can be used to effectively transition groups or organizations through change. When combined with an understanding of individual change management, these tools provide a framework for managing the people side of change.

Organizational change management processes include techniques for:

• creating a change management strategy (readiness assessments),

• engaging senior managers as change leaders (sponsorship),

• building awareness of the need for change (communications),

• developing skills and knowledge to support the change(education and training),

• helping employees move through the transition (coaching by managers and supervisors), and

• methods to sustain the change (measurement systems, rewards and reinforcement)."

Understanding a Change

Most changes when they are first viewed can be overwhelming. Consequently each stakeholder needs sufficient exposure to work through the various parts, and to develop an understanding of the whole.

Expecting stakeholders to understand the change and what they need to do, when they have not had the time to work through the parts that are relevant to them, is unreasonable. But unfortunately it is the norm, and very often, the roots of a changes failure.

The usual concern for each stakeholder when they confront a change is "How will it affect me?" The answer to this question will have a significant effect on whether a person supports or resists a change. Yet most changes are presented from a manager's perspective, leaving individuals to sort out where they fit and what they need to do.

Another important issue is that few changes are done in isolation, because the current situation is being changed. Plus there will be many on-going tasks that will compete for each stakeholder's time and effort.

Basic Prerequisites

So the basic prerequisites for each stakeholder to fully engage with a change are an understanding of:

• the overall change goal and broad context (vision)

• where they fit into the overall change (the tasks that affect them),

• what they need to do, when and with who, and

• how other tasks will be affected.

Change information must be presented from the perspective of each stakeholder. Presenting change from each stakeholder's perspective creates and sustains the essential linkage between organizational and individual change management. This linkage underpins all of the organizational change management techniques listed in the Wikipedia definition above.

This leads to the question "How can these basic prerequisites be met?" It is not easy, but managing the required complexity in a changing operating environment can be relatively easy with smart techniques and currently available technology.

Information Customized and Actionable

Critical change information needs to be customized for every stakeholder, because most peoples' contributions are different. Some people may simply need to be aware of the change, while others need to do work that requires the rescheduling of other things they are doing.

Change information needs to be actionable. A person wants to know what they need to do. Most changes are expressed as high level tasks with actions or ToDo's largely left to individuals and action teams to sort out. In other words, individuals are left to create the linkage between the organizational change and themselves. This ad hoc approach is variable and unreliable. Individuals need a simple, largely automated process to establish and sustain reliable links.

Simply identifying the actions required to do a task is relatively easy and done on a daily basis. People do it naturally. For example, when someone is given a task to complete, they usually think, "how am I going to do this?" So they make a list of things that need to be done. Then they decide if they can do each action, or if they need other people to help.

When other people are needed to help, relevant stakeholders usually meet to expand and confirm the list of actions required (usually in date/time order). Finally people are allocated to do various actions. Where people need to work together, an action team is formed (usually informally) to do the action. Finally each stakeholder records the actions they need to contribute to, so they don't forget.

Recording of actions is usually done individually. The major problem is that on-going coordination and the management of change actions is largely ad hoc from this point forward.

Remembering Actions/ToDo's

In 1956, George A. Miller, an eminent US professor of psychology, suggested that seven (plus or minus two) was the magic number that characterized people's memory performance on random lists of letters, words, numbers, or almost any kind of meaningful familiar item. His findings have stood the test of time, but what is the relevance to change management?

For a change to be successful, many stakeholders need to contribute to make it happen effectively. To contribute, stakeholders need to remember to do the work required for the change, as well as the many other things they are probably doing. If the number of actions they need to remember exceeds seven (plus or minus two), the chances of work being forgotten are significantly increased.

In most cases, people are juggling a lot of information about tasks, actions/ToDo's and teams. Some of the information will relate to urgent tasks and some information will relate to important change tasks. In most cases, seven will be quickly reached for urgent tasks and actions. This is likely to lead to change related task, actions and teams to be forgotten and not done.

In organizational change, there is likely to be thousands of small actions required to achieve the desired effect across the organization. Given each stakeholder's limited memory capabilities, a solution that stops tasks and actions being forgotten (falling through the cracks) is urgently required.

Consequently TASKey has developed a web software tool that can concurrently manage millions of tasks, action/ToDo's and the teams doing the work. So keeping track of critical change and on-going work information for thousands of people in many locations doing thousands of tasks and actions is now easy.

Now each stakeholder can fully engage with a change by having the information needed to understand:

• the overall change goal and broad context (vision)

• where they fit into the overall change (the tasks that affect them),

• what they need to do, when and with who, and

• how other tasks will be affected.

Conclusion

Using TASKey's web software means that the basic prerequisites for managing organizational change can be met. Presenting change from each stakeholder's perspective creates and sustains the essential linkage between organizational and individual change management.

With the basic prerequisites covered, stakeholders can focus on doing the work required and applying the organizational change management processes outlined in the definition above.

To get changes and corporate processes done across an enterprise visit www.taskey.com and to get smaller changes done visit www.me2team.com

By,

Neil Miller

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