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Change Management - Book Review

1 July 2008
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

While casual and not glamorous, the book's unassuming title accurately mirrors its content. This simplicity characterizes the book itself—direct, accessible, and a source of valuable insights. Authored by Jeffrey M. Hiatt and Timothy J. Creasy of “The Change Management Learning Center”, the book delves into the critical aspect of caring for people during the change process. Drawing on their extensive field experience and a survey involving 288 organizations, the authors provide a guidebook with clear instructions for managing organizational changes. However, it is not a mere recipe book with one-size-fits-all instructions. Instead, the book offers guiding tools with rationale descriptions, allowing adaptability to any organization for optimal results.

The book covers the following topics:

  • Why manage changes?

  • Rationale: Guiding principles

  • Individual change management

  • Organizational Change Management

  • Change management as a competitive advantage

I highly recommend this book. It is written in plain English, concise, and exceptionally instructive. It is a must-read for anyone involved in knowledge management (KM), business intelligence (BI), or general management.

Wishing you an enjoyable read.

Note: A separate review will summarize the best practices for change management found in the book's appendix.

Why manage changes?

The rationale for managing change is straightforward: organizations undergo changes driven by business and organizational needs. These changes are essential for adaptation to a dynamic reality and, in more favorable instances, for propelling forward. When a manager initiates a change, their focus is predominantly on the content aspect: the necessary financial investment, the speed of implementation, anticipated outcomes, and the potential return on investment.

In contrast, an employee's perspective varies. They may not always grasp the necessity for change and may be preoccupied with concerns about the implications for their job, workplace security, and whether they possess the tools to succeed post-change. This substantial gap in perception often leads to the failure or partial success of many business and organizational changes. Numerous surveyed managers admit that, given a chance to redo the process, they would handle the human aspects differently.

Change management involves navigating the challenges of managing people in a dynamic environment to ensure business changes' success and achieving desired results. It encompasses two crucial aspects:

  1. Organizational perspective (top-down): Business leadership is pivotal in fostering understanding, acceptance, and support for the necessary changes. Key elements include effective channeling, guidance, and cultivating a supportive overall cultural and moral perspective.

  2. Bottom-up perspective: This involves managing change from the standpoint of the employees, those tasked with implementing the change in practice. Essential components include providing tools and methods to assist employees in the transition process.

Ultimately, change management is fundamentally about aiding people through change.

Rationale: Guiding principles

Understanding the guiding principles during change is crucial. As previously mentioned, there's no one-size-fits-all recipe for success. It is essential to comprehend these principles to tailor change management to the specific realities of an organization. Seven fundamental principles govern the change process:

  1. Delivered and received (of the message):

    a. When conveying a message, the sender operates on a separate channel from the receiver. Be mindful of the recipient's concerns about the expected change.

    b. A Prosci survey reveals that employees prefer to hear about personal/team aspects of the change from their direct manager and business issues from the management.

    c. Effective communication entails listening to employees and addressing gaps in message implementation.

  2. Resistance and comfort:

    a. Convenience in the current situation is often underestimated by change management practitioners.

    b. Resistance is a natural response to change, influenced by personal history, current life events, ongoing work changes, and additional simultaneous changes.

    c. Persistent resistance threatens the business and customers. Proactive objection-handling plans are vital, considering objections based on human nature and the volume of concurrent changes.

    d. Prolonged and consistent resistance by middle managers requires attention with the assistance of a sponsor from management.

  3. Authority for change:

    a. Active and visible management support is the main factor in the success of change management.

    b. Common errors include leaving the project too early or lacking visibility/activity of the sponsor during the project.

    c. Sponsors must navigate challenges with colleagues, middle managers, and employees, each requiring different approaches.

  4. Value systems:

    a. Traditional hierarchical organizations prioritize control, consistency, and predictability. Changing organizational value systems necessitate more comprehensive change management.

    b. Shifting towards values of empowerment, accountability, and continuous improvement requires integrated organizational and individual change management.

  5. Gradual vs. radical change:

    a. Gradual change focuses on slow improvements to existing business processes, while radical change involves immediate and dramatic shifts, often triggered by financial crises.

    b. The criticality of change management increases with radical changes, influencing the scope of the change management plan.

  6. The correct answer is not enough:

    a. Managers must refrain from assuming that having the correct answer to a business problem is sufficient to overcome objections.

    b. Imposing ideas without investing time in persuasion increases employee resistance. Employee understanding of the "why" is crucial for agreement on the "how."

  7. Change is a process:

    a. Avoid a one-time notification of change. Change is a continuous process involving five stages at the individual level (ADKAR) and varying durations for different employees.

    a. The pace of change and the running time of stages will not be uniform across all employees.

Individual change management

Individual change management focuses on working with employees at a personal level and serves four essential purposes:

  1. Evaluating the individual's place in the change process and identifying personal obstacles to change.

  2. Focusing communication and dialogue with employees about their stage in the change process (streamlining change management).

  3. Diagnosing gaps to understand why the change management process is less successful or ineffective than planned.

  4. Defining a framework for corrective actions during change.

Individual change management involves five steps (ADKARs) that each employee must complete for the successful internalization of the change:

  1. Awareness (A): Understanding the need for the change.

  2. Desire (D): Employee's willingness to participate and support the change.

  3. Knowledge (K): Understanding how to implement the change.

  4. Ability (A): Capability to exercise new skills and behaviors required by the change.

  5. Reinforcement (R): Providing tools for internalizing change and ensuring its success.

Conducting a survey, using guiding questions, to assess individuals' positions about these five stages is recommended. This survey may reveal existing stages, allowing resources to be focused on the missing stages. While it's advisable to progress in order, flexibility is possible. Individuals typically vary in their stage of readiness, and this information helps tailor change plans to different departments or groups based on their specific needs.

After the survey, cases may arise where a root cause analysis is necessary to understand various barriers before constructing a comprehensive change management plan. The ADKAR model provides a program framework (=content) for effective channeling. As elaborated in the next chapter, survey results and subsequent analysis guide the investment of effort into specific messages during channeling.

Organizational Change Management

Organizational change management addresses the macro-level change management process for the overseeing managers. As highlighted in the extensive literature on change management and the Prosci survey, effective organizational change management comprises three integral stages:

  1. Change Planning:

    a. Preparation of the change management team, activity manager, and business/organizational manager.

    b. Inclusive actions involve estimating the magnitude of the change and the affected population, assessing organizational readiness for the battle of change, acquiring necessary resources, and evaluating team strength.

    c. Initial steps are taken to prepare sponsors within the organization to lead the change.

  2. Change Management:

    a. Detailed planning and execution of the change, incorporating:

    i. Channeling program.

    ii. Coaching program.

    iii. Active involvement of sponsors in critical milestones (acknowledging sponsors as a key factor for success).

    iv. A plan for addressing objections.

  3. Ensuring Internalization of the Change:

    a. Concurrently with managing the change, this stage assesses the success and effectiveness of the process.

    b. Activities are implemented to internalize the change, including:

    i. Collect and analyze employee feedback to enhance the overall process.

    ii. Celebrating initial successes.

    iii. Conducting debriefing After Action Reviews (AARs).

During this stage, if the change management team is activated only after the change management process has begun and encounters challenges, it is advisable to clarify corrective steps using, for example, the ADKAR model. This ensures a systematic approach to address issues and enhance the effectiveness of the ongoing change management initiative.

Change management as a competitive advantage

Change management has traditionally been viewed as a time-consuming but one-time process. However, change has evolved into a daily norm in the current business landscape. Organizations are constantly undergoing change, and successful adaptation to these changes can foster valuable skills among managers and employees, enhancing organizational flexibility. When an organization excels in managing numerous changes, it develops a capability that can be leveraged as a competitive advantage.

Why is this considered a competitive advantage?

  1. Adaptability to Market Changes: Organizations adept at change can respond faster and more effectively to market shifts.

  2. Seizing New Opportunities: Such organizations are better positioned to capitalize on emerging opportunities.

  3. Effective Response to Threats: The ability to manage change successfully enables organizations to navigate and overcome emerging threats.

Treating change as a competitive advantage involves integrating the capacity to change into organizational culture's values. This means that the organization not only expects changes but responds to them with understanding, perspective, and tools, making the change process smooth and effortless.

Organizations aiming to transform change management into a competitive advantage should invest in employees, not just managers. Neglecting employee development hampers the creation of a genuine competitive advantage. Successful organizations in this regard exhibit the following characteristics:

  1. Management:

    a. Systematically seeks ways to improve profitability and growth by responding effectively to market changes.

    b. Ensures changes are implemented and utilized through effective leadership and sponsorship.

  2. Change Management Team:

    a. Supports sponsors, managers, and employees through the change process, utilizing tools, methods, and processes that facilitate change management.

  3. Managers:

    a. Support employees in change processes.

    b. Guide professional development and encourage performance in the post-change environment.

  4. Field Workers:

    a. Successfully operate in existing, changing, and post-change environments.

The ADKAR model is a valuable tool to assess the extent to which an organization has integrated change management into its cultural values and whether change management constitutes a competitive advantage.

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