Strategic focus and effective communication
Corporate business consultants are discovering that effective management requires a continuous focus on the strategic objectives of the organisation. Click here to find out what this means for change
Change advocates both promote change in a business and help protect staff from poor change implementation. They do this by advocating the change on behalf of the business and being a channel between affected staff and senior managers. The role demands trust and respect from both staff and managers; here is how it works.
The problem the Change Advocate role tries to solve is how to get buy in to major changes where the change is managed by a central Change Team. We have worked with Cheshire West and Chester Council to help implement this concept. The project is now on the shortlist for an Award at the Training Journal Awards.
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWCC) realised that centralised project management was efficient for doing change but tended to cause resistance from the front line staff so it was not as effective as it should be. The Change Advocate is a member of front line staff (manager or worker) who is trained and supported in delivering change. They have two aspects to the role which each advocate needs to balance.
The Change advocate promotes the proposed change to front line staff. They communicate directly with affected staff about the change, using communications skills they have learned on training. Advocates expect to be involved in planning change; stakeholder engagement is key to successfully designing an effective and acceptable change. With prior engagement, selling a change to staff is much easier. Advocates will be involved in rolling out the change, continuing the communication. They will lead in solving problems in a way that both reduces risks to the benefits and increases the confidence of staff in the changes.
Change advocates are themselves affected by the change they are promoting so they have a vested interest in a successful and acceptable change. They have the ability to put the staff side of an argument (with the central change team) to senior managers and advocate on behalf of staff. Very often this role leads to more creative solutions to change problems which are based on reality.
An advocate needs to be self motivated (and is usually self selecting as a volunteer). They need the trust and support of the staff they are working with. Often the basis of this trust is both a transparent approach to work and knowledge of the front line based on experience. They also need to be able to talk directly to senior managers as peers in problem solving change issues. In many organisations this can be challenging. CWCC are working hard to create a culture of support and challenge to make these conversations easier all round.
In creating the first cohort of Change Advocates, CWCC worked with us to support the role with three specific components:
It is very important for an individual advocate to realise they are not alone and that others are having similar difficulties. Regular networking events with the opportunity to share experience and problems are essential. CWCC held networking events every month for the whole cohort. These were carefully timetabled with time to chat and share, as well as more focused discussions and learning sound-bites to reinforce training associated with identified problems.
The cohort were randomly allocated to small Action Learning Sets. The purpose of these was threefold:
The Action Learning Sets were initially facilitated to establish the format and procedures. After a few meetings they became self facilitating.
A short training course on some soft skills for change was used to introduce the concepts of people change and effective communication recognising individual preferences. Change Advocates then took a vocational Level 4 assessment to achieve a qualification in Managing Change from C4CM.
How is change organised in your organisation to make effective and efficient use of resources to deliver beneficial change? Comment in twitter and let us know. @C4ChangeMgt
Which do you think should come first: the definition of the task to be carried out or the team to do the task? So what happens when an organisation needs to change: the top manager re-organises his senior team to prepare for the change. This seems to be putting the cart before the horse. Especially as the ‘new’ team have a new operational role to get to grips with before they can address the changes.
I propose that the key decisions needed to set up a change initiative are identified and then the appropriate leadership team are appointed to make those decisions.
In a recent blog posting on HBR Nick Tassler wrote about three myths he has found in strategic thinking. I thought these ideas have just as much relevance for Managing Change. These three myths help to focus on doing the right things to make a difference with the resources available — sound familiar? Yet look around you, are you really focussed on making a difference or is there some ‘make work’ in there as well? My recent experience at meetings and consulting with a local authority have again awoken my awareness of the pervasive Parkinson’s Law.
I teach a course on strategy in a local management centre so I am keen on the link between strategy, change and operational excellence. I have just read a review in the Economist of a new book on strategy by A. G. Lafley and Roger Martin in which they describe how they turned Proctor & Gamble around and delivered significant shareholder value. In the book they describe six common strategic errors and it occurred to me that these also described six failed approaches to change.