Change management challenges for 2019

The theme of our launch event in Cardiff was latest trends in change management. Alex Aviles gave a summary of the approach that Principality Building Society are taking. Points I noted during his presentation were:

  • You cannot participate in the structuring of transformation teams unless you have a good understanding of Agile terminology and methods. This is because, as is the case with Principality, teams are being established on the basis of Agile practices, and those leading the change management activities can only be successful if they are partnered with those in project delivery who are inevitably working to Agile standards and principles.
  • We are moving towards a need to establish a RACI table for responsibilities because job titles in the world of project management and change management are becoming a mess. Everyone has some responsibility for managing change and helping users to adopt new ways of working, whatever their formal job title. When putting together teams for delivery and implementation we need to debate, clarify and assign responsibilities according to skills and interests rather than define the contribution of team members according to old fashioned notions of who does what based on traditional project roles: Project Manager; Business Analyst; Business Change Manager; Sponsor etc.
  • Alex mentioned the importance of helping to redefine the target operating model for the organisation as a key outcome of transformation, and he was the second speaker I have heard on this subject in a week. In my experience, if you want to claim experience and skills for transformation, you have to be able to evidence how you have contributed to the new target operating model for your organisation.

After Alex had finished speaking, I gave a summary of the key issues that I hear raised by change managers and their sponsors on a regular basis. These included:

  • Portfolio management – you have to define the portfolio of change taking place in the area you are working in. It doesn’t have to be organisation wide, because this isn’t possible if it is outside of your remit. Better to get a grip of the changes taking place in your sphere of influence so at least you can give a comprehensive picture of all the changes and how they knit together.
  • Role of the Sponsor – need to win the argument that the role of Sponsor is wider than sponsoring delivery (project lifecycle) and it should include sponsorship of implementation (change lifecycle) which means encouraging and tracking the progress of behavioural change. This means very different progress metrics. It is not about the progress through tasks on a project plan, but monitoring the level of participation of those impacted by change.
  • Achieving behavioural change takes longer than delivery, so Agile approaches which spit out new features and functions via a fast paced, sprint driven production line cause problems for those who need to work in new ways. Change management professionals have to find answers to enabling the business to keep pace and cope with these high volumes of change.

This leads me onto the results of the discussion we had after my presentation, where I asked everyone to identify their key trends and issues for 2019:

  • A need for emphasis on and techniques to achieve a balance between “business as usual” and innovation/transformation. I know this is of key interest to many organisations and is the subject of our first hackathon of 2019 with our corporate members.
  • Several attendees highlighted the difficulty of the emotional attachment the business has to its current ways of working. Psychologically this is to be expected, as they have skills and experience in how they currently work which means they feel confident and have a sense of status that is threatened by change.
  • This led onto a discussion about the need for change professionals to be more explicit about the activities and timeline needed to achieve behavioural change. We all agreed this is difficult. There are models that set out a step by step list of things that need to happen, and whilst these can provide a starting point, they need to be tailored to the culture, complexity of the change and experience of change that those impacted bring to the new change.
  • Of course, this is just a selection of the factors that need to be considered when selecting the best approach and highlights the difficulty we face. If we create a simple change lifecycle model we are in danger of over-simplifying our work to the point of uselessness. But if we do not set out what we do, we run the risk of limiting who can take part in effective change management courses (when we know that we need the participation of all those impacted by the change to make it work).
  • If we fail to define a standard set of change management activities, then how can we share the responsibilities for change? One of the attendees thought that the criteria for who to lead change are those that have “skin in the game” i.e. they are responsible for either operating or providing on-going maintenance of the new ways of working.

We didn’t come to a conclusion about how to standardise/simplify behavioural change, but I want to end with an answer of sorts. To enable the necessary tailoring of what we do to meet the needs of a specific change, we should look to the elements of a change management maturity model as a starting point for a set of criteria for excellence in change. For example:

  1. Capability as a learning organisation
  2. Defined roles and responsibilities
  3. Environment of personal responsibility and leadership at all levels
  4. Lifecycle/method in existence and staff trained in its use
  5. Method supported by evolving toolkit
  6. Strategic alignment of change
  7. Balance of “business as usual” and innovation
  8. Supportive culture for change including communication skills
  9. Portfolio management and horizon scanning

Whatever the answers to these trends, 2019 promises to be another year of continuous development in our skills, techniques and capability for change. Even more reason for joining the Change Management courses in the UK and keeping up to date with the latest thinking.