Chief Change Officer

Chief Change Officer Article

We believe that change in an organisation is a core competence; at least as much as finance, HR, marketing, sales, operations, or IT. So we advocate a senior manager who is accountable for successful change as a member of every senior management board ?? a Chief Change Officer or Director for Change. This person will be primarily an expert in Change; not an expert in something else and then given Change to look after.

What should the Chief Change Officer be accountable for?

  • They will be accountable for the expenditure of resources (change capacity and investment) to deliver agreed change outcomes. That means if the outcomes are not delivered, or they cost an unacceptable amount of resources, or take an unacceptable time to deliver, then there should be consequences. Conversely, if the outcomes are delivered and result in greater benefits than expected then there should be consequences. Consequences mean accountability.
  • They will allocate resources to change activities (usually projects and programmes) through prioritisation against achieving strategic objectives for the organisation. This means some change activities will not be started if they are not of sufficient priority; and some may be stopped if their priority changes as a result of changes to the strategic objectives.
  • They will increase the capability of the organisation to do change (and thus increase the amount of change the organisation can do with its change capacity) through training, coaching, and developing all staff. In particular they will create and nurture a change competent core team of managers who will lead change across the organisation.
  • They will lead, promote, and support change and change teams across the organisation to ensure change is competently delivered, sticks, and benefits are realised. They will encourage and support their fellow Directors (or ??C-suite colleagues?? in the jargon) to also lead and support change all the way through to benefits realisation; especially where those colleagues have taken on the role of a change sponsor.
  • They will deliver the changes in the organisation necessary to implement the chosen strategy of the organisation. For this they will need to ensure that the strategic objectives derived from the strategy are achievable.

We define success in change as delivering the benefits identified in the Business Case, for the cost identified in the Business Case and in the timescales identified in the Business Case. So a good business is essential to successful change; as is good decision making about Business Cases. There are plenty of schemes, tools, and critical advice to help the Chief Change Officer in their role. Notably:

  • Focusing on Benefits.  Benefits management is critical to successful change according to our definition. See our course and award on Benefits Management.
  • Use Portfolio Management. The concept and practice of change portfolio management has recently emerged and is gaining a momentum in organisations that are moving up the change maturity ladder. Business Case management is at the heart of this concept.
  • Use structured methods. Most change is delivered through the organisation by change programmes and projects. These need to be structured and the Chief Change Officer should be the senior practitioner. These are the methods that manage costs and timescales. See our overview courses and awards on Projects and Programmes.
  • Effectively train staff. Managers and front line staff are not born with the ability to do change, any more than they do projects. In fact project management is a response to the natural approach to doing things which is known to be ineffective. Similarly for change. Training needs to be much more than a 5-day theory course and tick box exam. It has to be driven by real needs and embedded in the practice of the organisation. Vocational training is known to be much more effective. See our Certificate in Managing Change .
  • Build a change Team. Maintain a core competence and resource for change which will operate alongside line managers to consistently implement change. See our course and award on the Change Manager role.

Whilst a lot can be done to increase the success rate for change in an organisation, working bottom up; driving success top down with a senior manager personally accountable for successful change is probably the most effective way for any organisation to up its game.

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