Can you do without an experienced Change Specialist?

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Can you do without an experienced Change Specialist?

N Cubed Group
Published by Laurence Nicholson CEO in Change · Friday 30 Oct 2020
Tags: #ncubedgroup#change#transformation
Change, and Change Specialists!

When considering, designing and implementing change in a business, it is never wise to avoid using a Change Management Specialist, because there are various elements of change to be considered and managed, including:

  • Systemic (technology and methodology)
  • Process (optimisation of business process)
  • Organisational (changes to structure and hierarchy)
  • Behavioural (reaction to events)
  • Cultural (understanding reactions and customs in multi-cultural environments)
  • Inherited (change originating from a different programme but having impact)
  • Misplaced (unnecessary or misunderstood changes)
  • Flawed (poorly designed or under-researched)

Understanding the importance of Managing Change
Change needs to be carefully managed, and the skills to do this do not come from being involved in a project or programme which introduces some variation, or alteration, in working practices or business systems & processes. Nor does it come by default from being a project or programme manager.

Change is a powerful emotion which brings about highly charged environments and can be the cause of professional, personal and corporate confrontations.

It doesn’t have to be that way though.

If you understand enough about your own skills and those required to manage and nurture the change in a positive way, and accept when there is a gap between the two, a seasoned Change Interim can provide you with the ability to make a success of the initiative as well as earn yourself kudos for recognising the need for such specialist direction.

A true interim is not a threat to any staff or executive, but an asset to be applied in a focused and timebound way, to the benefit of all.

Quantum Change: both simple and complex
Change can be a bit of a Schrödinger’s Cat, being both simplistic in determining the most powerful source of its effect (behavioural) and highly complex in understanding the most powerful source of its effect (behavioural), simultaneously, until you cast focus on it and determine what you are wanting to change, and how you are going to do it.

When considering the list of elements of change, system process and organisation can all be almost considered as binary in that they are all subject to a set of rules or determinable guidelines. These can be managed fairly easily, comparatively to behaviour.

Behaviour, with its many facets derived from individuals influenced by their cultural, social, educational and familial backgrounds as well as their own personal heuristics and biases due to exposure to past experiences and habits, is by its very nature immensely complex to both understand, and address, on an individual level.

Now multiply that by the number of people affected by the change and apply all the interdependencies between them organisationally, professionally, politically and socially, and you can start to understand why true large scale change is almost a science (with some considering it one).

It is easy to see how someone looking at what they believe the focus of a change programme contains can consider it simple, if they think only of the systemic and process variations.

Even organisational change can be considered somewhat simplistic in nature when compared to facing the daunting challenge of behavioural change. It is no surprise to anyone who has studied behavioural change to see study after study accentuating the finding that the driving force for this must come from the top. The leadership.

We see it in organisations where there is an inherent blame culture, typically noticeable at the top, proliferating down through the management ranks, ultimately to taint the organisation's ability to function effectively, by introducing a damaging concept which discourages open free thinking, and encourages people to avoid accountability for fear of being blamed for mistakes or failures.

To change the behaviour of the Executive and Senior management is often a far harder task than changing people’s views toward a system or a process, or their organisation’s hierarchy structure.

Experience and Instinct: Primary requirements
What is required is a combination of experience of all the elements of change, specifically for the binary types, combined with an instinct or intuition for the unpredictable nature of the reactions of each individual and how to best harness the experience to address it.

People are unpredictable. Nobody will dispute that. Behavioural therapists will tell you this themselves, with numerous horror stories to support their statement.

It is because the very nature of other management skills such as project management are ordered and structured that makes those people with those skills only, do not typically make the best change managers; the psychology is different.

That is not to say they should be written off, as sometimes such a person will have developed the intuitive, empathetic and emotional intelligence required for change, separately. However it gets there is not so important. The fact that it IS there is paramount.

Targeting your most powerful Change Advocate
Often, Change Specialists are viewed with scepticism and even experience vehement disagreement, when they target the most vociferous, argumentative and stubborn individual opposed to the changes being brought in, as their primary change advocate, being told "This is a waste of time and not focusing on all the positive supporters".

The question to ask those sceptics is “what would have the most impact on the minds of everyone, positive and indifferent alike? Wouldn’t it be having the most renowned opponent become the most vocal advocate?”

If you can turn those people around, everyone else will begin to consider there must be something in this whole change thing, and will start to consider the impacts more carefully and in our experience, generally from a positive mind-set rather than a negative one; not what this will do TO me, but what this will do FOR me.

For each individual, this is a journey and if you can make the most obstinate understand, and even contribute to their journey in a positive light, the way is made easier for you with everyone else.

Just remember it is not easy, and requires special skill and understanding to do this, hence a change specialist.

Agility is Key
In the same way a behavioural therapist will alter their approach and techniques, according to how their patient is reacting to their treatment, so a good Change Manager will react to every individual in a different way when it is related to behavioural change.

This is a use of the Agile way of approaching things much utilised in technology spheres, but has been the staple tool used by skilled change managers for years, adapting to each reaction accordingly to make each person’s journey as easy as possible, working within the bounds of practicality.

Of course there is a limit to the amount of individual attention, determined by the size of the resource pool and the number of affected individuals, as well as the timetable and budget, but for the best chance of success, much focus should be placed here.

Leaving the Map when they depart
Just as important is the knowledge that change is continuous and not a one-off.

As an Interim, they are not around forever, so it is imperative that a journey map is prepared for the business to take the success of the initial change impacts and understand how to embed that into the DNA of the company.

If possible, use the interim to help build an in-house capability, however light, that can deal with the bulk of the ongoing change. They can always come back to be used for short coaching programmes to further develop this capability to be a more permanent resource for future initiatives.

Change is complex because it almost invariably includes some alteration to behaviours. This requires a specialist skill if you do not have such a resource in-house, and be honest about whether your in-house resources truly have this.

Understand the role of a true interim is to help with getting you to your destination, making it as painless as possible and to leave you better positioned for the future. They should never be seen as a threat but as an opportunity for you to learn, develop and grow as an individual and a company, and to be recognised as the one with foresight to see the need and benefits of engaging such a resource for the good of the business.

Now, isn’t that worth paying for?

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