Too Much Change
Many people in organisations are reporting that they are doing “too much change”. Which usually means they feel they are not able to cope with the changes they are being asked to carry out. To understand what this means we need to look at three forces going on in an organisation:
- The amount of change the senior managers are asking for (the demand side)
- The capacity and capability of the organisation to do change (the supply side)
- The motivation of people in the organisation to do change (the people side)
This note will look at the balance of these forces and see why and how they might be directed.
Demand for change
The demand for change within an organisation is largely driven by external forces. In a famous quote, Jack Welch at GE said:
“When the rate of change outside an organisation is greater than the rate of change inside then the end is in sight”
What senior managers can do is make sure that all change is aligned to the strategic direction of the organisation. Any change that is not making a significant contribution to the strategy should be stopped so that resources are focused on those changes that drive the strategy; and hence the survival of the organisation.
A lot of organisations are doing far too much unnecessary change because there is no change control. An important function of the executive board is to manage the change portfolio across the organisation; preferably under the control of a senior accountable manager such as the Chief Executive or Chief Change Officer. The portfolio is managed to maintain alignment of all change with strategy and allocate resources according to corporate priorities. The portfolio board manages the demand for change against the capacity and capability to deliver change — including improvement of both capacity and capability.
Change Capacity and Capability
The change capacity of an organisation is having sufficient resources to do a good job of the change. The capability is about making sure the organisation uses a method and trained people to do effective and efficient change . Both increase the probability of success
The senior managers in too many organisations expect their staff to deliver complex change on top of their exacting day job. No one can concentrate and prioritise both. Line managers should focus on the day to day operations whilst a separate group (usually drawn from the line managers) focus on the change. Only when people have time to do change will change happen.
Adopting and training a change method is key to efficient change. Just like project management, it is essential to draw up plans, prepare staff, coordinate activities, check progress, replan, and manage risks. Effective change requires competent staff.
The link between change demand and change delivery is people. An organisation has not changed unless some people have changed their behaviour. We all know that behaviour change requires motivation. Most of us also know what needs to be done to motivate people. Yet the irony of organisation change is that people motivation is rarely mentioned, yet alone practiced.
The basic rule is engagement. Its not enough to communicate at people. To be motivated people need to be involved and engaged in the change. That takes planning and time. I find most change projects start off with good intentions about communication and engagement. But when things start going wrong with the techie bits the people engagement work drops out of the plan. People engagement is fundamental to success in change so it is very important but it is never urgent — until the end when the desired behaviour change doesn’t happen.
If you use a good method for your change and provide sufficient resources to carry out the change then people engagement should have the space to happen.
There is a lot you can do to manage an overload of change to make it seem less pressing. It doesn’t mean you wont be doing a lot of change. Successful change leads to a better business which can afford resources to be more successful at change; a positive spiral. Poor change wastes resources and leaves a business struggling to find the resources to do change; a downward spiral.
Which spiral is your organisation on?