Change Management is still in its infancy as a discipline. On the one hand, it is on most executive’s radar. Global CEO’s acknowledge that managing change is a competitive advantage and that many fail to live up to the expectations. On the other, many organisations have not yet established a Change Management Office, set up a change charter/model or have enough dedicated change resources.
But the good news is that it is a growing and maturing discipline. We have come a long way during the last five years. Our body of knowledge about what works well is also growing; universities are conducting research, companies are learning about their best practice and consultants and practitioners are sharing their thoughts and experience. Sharing and learning from each other is vital to growing the field.
I will, therefore, regularly post the articles, podcasts, and videos, which I think are worth knowing about. I don’t obviously see, read or hear all that is out there, so if I am missing either an important source or if you have noticed or written something that you think is valuable, please note it in the comment section.
As such, this collection of my 13 favourite change management articles so far of 2020 should be a useful resource for those interested in this subject. It includes contributions from ‘in-house’ practitioners, consultants, analysts, influencers, and commentators on the change management space. [AND a big thanks to David Green for inspiring me to do this].
So, in no particular order, let’s get started…
1. SCOTT KELLER & BILL SCHANINGER: How do we manage the change journey?
This is the fourth article from two McKinsey authors based on their excellent book called “Beyond Performance 2.0“. The book is worth a read – highly recommendable.
The key focus in this article is on ‘act’; i.e. to ensure that plans stay on track and evolve when necessary. One of their key findings is that change programs with governance structures clearly identifying roles and responsibilities are 6.4 times more likely to succeed. Most successful programs include four such elements: an executive steering committee (ESC), a change-management office (CMO), executive sponsors (ESs), and initiative owners (IOs) and their teams.
A second exciting element in their article is to mobilise influencers. Senior leaders are not the only people who guide employees; influencers deep in organisations can disproportionately affect their colleagues. Their research indicates that engaging influencers in change programs make them 3.8 times more likely to succeed. Scott & Bill show how using social-network analysis can help identify the influencers.
Other key points in the article include; Use high-impact two-way communications, Make change personal for a critical mass of leaders and Monitor progress and adjust the program dynamically
2. GREG SATELL: You Don’t Need a Grand Strategy to Achieve Organizational Change
This article, which was published on the Harvard Business Review blog, is turning the concept of organisational change on its head by suggesting that you do not need a big audacious goal or strategy to make a change. Instead, you will be better off driving it through small – almost mundane and ordinary – initiatives, which become so embedded in the systems and processes that it comes to be considered the standard way of working.
Greg provides an example from Procter & Gamble’s PxG initiative, which is reinventing how digital technologies are deployed to solve problems across the company’s research organisation. In this example, this transformation began with just one small project. Through experimentation and iteration, they got their work noticed, and more people and projects joined.
Generally, Greg believes that changes work best if they are embraced, not forced. Creating excitement around a project and identify those who are already enthusiastic about the change and empower them to drive the transformation themselves will work much better.
I like the examples in the article and the idea that changes do not have to start big to make a difference eventually.
3. LISA KEMPTON: How to start managing change when the change is unclear
Prosci is generally a must-go-to place for sources of information about change management. They have many excellent webinars and how-to’s for free, which I recommend to anyone who wants to know more about Change Management or just change in general.
In this article, Lisa talks about the difficulty of managing change when the change itself is unclear. A typical response to an unclear change is to wait. Waiting to have complete information may feel like the best way to avoid rework, save costs, and keep employees well-informed, according to Lisa. But waiting has consequences and can severely undermind the whole change project. Instead, you should keep your changes moving, no matter how incomplete the project information.
To manage through this dilemma, Lisa’s top suggestions include:
- Create a communications plan to describe the desired results of and need for change
- Analyse the organisational climate and its reaction to change, and document common risks and areas of resistance
- Identify stakeholders and involve them in the solution design
- Develop a flexible, high-level change management plan that includes key deliverables and required resources
- Coordinate change management and project management plans
- Identify and solicit support from sponsors of change
- Designate and educate a change management team
The article has links to concrete tools to manage these issues, which I will recommend you check out.
4. ZENDESK: Measuring change management success
Zendesk is a CRM company that builds software designed to improve customer relationships. But they also understand the importance of change management. They have published eight great articles about change management. Their first article in the series is an excellent article called “What is Change Management”. I will encourage you to read them all. You can find them here.
The article I like the most is the one about measuring change management success. As I am sure you know, this is not an easy task. They have asked two practitioners, Dana Otto from Zendesk and Margaret Kelleher from Vmware to name their favourite seven tips for measuring change management:
- Focus on two main outputs: awareness and preparedness
- Quantify qualitative data—if possible
- Ask managers to hold their teams accountable
- Measure if the business is prepared for the change, before communicating it to employees
- Leverage technology to track if communications are impactful
- Incorporate feedback early on
- Measure if the change stuck
Their mindset around employees is particularly noteworthy. Zendesk is a company focused on customer relationships, and that shows. Dana and Margaret state that “It helps to think of employees as customers. Customer experience teams evaluate the customer journey before, during, and after the experience of a product or service. Similarly, change management teams must assess the employee journey before, during, and after the implementation of a change—and both teams must define outside-in metrics to do so.”.
5. HEATHER STAGL: Change Management for Reopening Offices
One change that all organisations are facing in most countries right now is reopening offices again. This brief article from Heather fhighlights some of the things we should remember as we help the offices back to a new normal. Most of the advice will be familiar to anyone in the change management community and may even be common sense. Still, as you know, common sense is not always common practice and what the article does well is to remind us about why reopening offices also is a change which requires change management.
The article highlights some of the reasons why people may not even want to return to the office (Spending time, gas, and frustration on their commute, Having to dress up for work, Fear of being around people again, Availability of masks sanitising wipes, and other protective equipment as well as Lack of fairness in who is required to come in and who can stay home).
Heather encourages leaders to lead the way and explain how leaders can motivate employees to return to the office.
I am for one not looking forward to ironing shirts again every day.
6. JAMES KEHOE, MATTHEW DAVID HENRICKS, MICHAEL KENNETH YOUNG: Attitudes toward Change and Transformational Leadership: A Longitudinal Study
This is an academic article published in the Journal of Change Management. Therefore, it is less accessible – both to find but also to read – but I find this academic paper to be an interesting source of knowledge about current research on change management.
In this longitudinal study, the authors looked to see if leaders, who use transformational behaviours, will have a short or long-term influence on employee attitudes toward change. In other words, can leaders change the employees’ attitude toward a specific change or towards change in general? My head is spinning a bit when I get to the sections of statistics and correlations, but I did get two conclusions from the article: one good and one bad.
The bad news is that the influence of leaders does not last long, meaning that leaders do not influence employees’ attitude towards change in the long run. The good news is that mistakes in leadership at the start of a change may be correctable throughout implementation.
I think it is so important that academic research is conducted in the Change Management field. Even if the conclusion may sometimes be hard to use in real life, it helps us build up knowledge about what works and what we do not have evidence for.
Mary is the Organizational Change Management Officer at the Los Angeles County Office of Education. This is the winning 2020 ACMP (Association of Change Management Professionals) White Paper and for a good reason – it is excellent.
In her paper, Mary writes that continuous change is the new reality. The end state in change has vanished, leaving only a state of what’s next? The imperative, therefore, is to scale up change capacity.
The proposed conditions for scaling up an organisation’s change capacity are speed, learning, and integration. If those conditions are met, organisations can enable the understanding, engagement, adoption, and endorsement needed for successful change initiatives. They can also simultaneously lay the foundation to achieve the speed, learning and integration needed to evolve.
Mary goes on to show a conceptual transformation triad framework based on three important trends in organisational change management (agile approaches, design flexibility, and narrative storytelling). The triad’s three elements are:
- Mindsets. She reviews the Executive Sponsor roles and proposes an Agile, Executive Transformation Partner mindset.
- Frameworks. She discusses planning and proposes a Change Values Framework.
- Narratives. She explores storytelling in change contexts and proposes Narratives of New.
I think her paper is crucial because it addresses the fact that the agile approach is key to succeed in the future. Project Management understands this, and so should Change Management.
You can unfortunately only read the White Paper if you are a member of ACMP. But if you are serious about being a change management practitioner, I would recommend that you consider such a membership anyway.
This is the runner-up in the 2020 White Paper competition held by ACMP.
Sunny takes a close look at the Change Curve – a classic change management model. The model suggests that when a change has been announced, the performance decline for a period before it returns to its previous level and hopefully above that level.
Sunny examines eight specific sources, which describe the relationship between organisational change and performance and finds that the sources “generally support the presumption of a temporary decline in performance as measured by productivity, quality and innovation/creativity during organisational change”. She also finds support for the idea that the performance declines when the change is announced and that the improvement in performance continue above the baseline after the change has been successfully implemented.
The paper ends with specific recommendations to change practitioners such as the use of performance-focused interviews, and Sunny provides examples of questions practitioners can use.
The paper is relevant because change management is sometimes accused of being soft and not evidence-based enough. This paper goes a long way to show numbers behind the change curve.
The White Paper is also only accessible if you are a member of ACMP
9. TIM CREASEY: The Prosci ADKAR Model. [Length: 4:18]
I have to admit that I love the ADKAR model. It is easy to understand, easy to use, and it makes a big difference in any change.
This video covers an introduction to what the ADKAR model is and how you can use it to support a change. At the end of the video, Tim illustrates the difference between Knowledge and Ability through an example of playing golf. It’s a good example because it is those two building blocks people often struggle to tell apart.
This video is one in a series called Tim Talks, which are short interviews with Tim but Prosci also have other videos such as a six-video introduction to ADKAR. You can find them all here
10. PETER SLAGT: Leading through Covid-19 [Length: 3:11]
Peter is a partner with Bain, and in this video, he goes through some of the advice he gives leaders and people working with change in leading through Covid-19
He provides with three specific advice:
- Focus not just on the ‘what’ but also on the ‘how’.
- Focus on your state of mind – is it protective or a growth mindset (it is the latter which is needed now).
- Use this crisis to solve outstanding issues. His argument here is that your deficiencies are being amplified with Covid-19 – for your organisation, your team and yourself. Now is a good time to solve those issues.
11. ERIC KIMBERLING: Common ERP Organizational Change Management Challenges and Mistakes [Length: 17:24]
Eric is the CEO of Third Stage Consulting Group – an ERP consulting company – and thus comes from an IT installation/ERP background. Eric states that he has seen his fair share of failed projects and the common issue has been lack of focus on change management.
Eric lists seven challenges and common mistakes
- Executive misalignment
- The change impact is not well understood
- Resistance to change is not managed in time
- The software does not fit the needs
- OCM is believed to be = training
- Organisational change = nice to have
- Overlooking organisational design
Eric is a great speaker, and he explains well why these common mistakes happen and why they are a problem.
There are so many great podcasts out there now and more and more also about change-related issues. That’s good news. I listen to quite a few – especially now that The Premier League is on halt – and I am impressed with many of them.
12. CHANGE MANAGEMENT REVIEW PODCAST: Organizational Communications in a Time of High Disruption [Length: 29:06]
I have listened to the Change Management Review Podcast for a while now. There are many excellent episodes on there – so please check it out. In this episode, Brian Gorman interviews Keith Kitani – CEO and co-founder of GuideSpark, a change communications software company. Keith walks us through the various aspects of change in uncertain times, including the challenges of delivering clear and specific messaging; the transition from “bricks and mortar” to “clicks” virtually overnight; the importance of “story” in change management, and much more.
13. THE CHANGE MANAGEMENT INSTITUTE PODCAST: Career Insights from ACM Masters: David Derwin [Length: 36:35]
This podcast is another I listen to regularly. Eleni Jurkschat interviews in this series senior change practitioners about career pathways for change managers. Something we do not address enough. In this episode, Eleni talks with David Derwin, who is a co-founder of the Illume Group which specialises in Program Delivery, Business Agility and Organisational Change advisory services.
During the interview, David talks about his career and reflections on the change practitioners journey. There are other worthwhile interviews with senior change practitioners. You can find them here.