What makes a change programme successful?

Posted: 30th June 2021 Julie Leo, HR Consultancy Director

What’s that saying? “There is nothing permanent except change” Heraclitus.

Dealing with change, adapting to change, learning from change, it is all we seem to hear. So, if we are all so used to change, why is it that many transformation and change programmes seem to take longer than expected or just don’t quite deliver what was expected? It’s certainly not because organisations fail to include employees in the change programme, most programmes include lots of employee communication that tells employees about the changes, keeps them regularly updated and lets them know how the change will impact them. Lots also have end user groups and user testing. Which is all great, isn’t it? 

Of course, having strong communications around change is critical but don’t confuse communication with understanding. 

1. Everyone needs to understand the reasons for the change 

Many people associate the need to change with failure, why would there be a need for change if everything were working well? The fact is many organisations undertake change programmes because they are successful but recognise that, to maintain that success they need to continually change and evolve. So be clear from the start about the reason for the change. This isn’t simply about communicating and telling people about the changes. This is about ensuring everyone understands why change is important and more than that, what are the consequences of not changing.

2. What is in it for me? 

We are all human; we all want to know how something will make things better for us. A crucial part of any change programme is to clearly set out how things work now “as is” and how things will work in the future “to be”. This needs to be in done in detail for each role involved in the change. Work with employees to identify what will change most about their role and let them know what you are putting in place to help them make that change.

3. Staff Involvement in a change programme

We all involve employees, right? This can be a real challenge because it is almost impossible to involve everyone, but you can make everyone feel involved. Start at the beginning, how do you ensure employees are part of the process for identifying the need for change. Employees are the best people to tell you what is and isn’t working and change that starts there is far more likely to be successful. The way you select your end user group is very important. They need to be representative of the employees involved in the change. They need to be seen driving the change, and they also need to be high profile. Allowing that group to provide the updates on progress, sharing things that have been tried and failed, sharing things that have gone well, will all help to ensure that employees can feel confident that things are being seen from their perspective. 

4. Don’t make it a “project”. 

Making it a “project” can feel disjointed from the day to day. Of course, putting in place good project management is important both in terms of measuring progress and for good governance, but that doesn’t mean it has to feel like something that is separate from the day to day.

And finally… 

5. People deliver change, not systems and processes. 

Change is personal, people will choose to change or not – you want to create an environment where your employees drive that change because they want to, they care; because they are proud of the organisation they work for and because they always want to deliver great services and products to their customers.

So, if Heraclitus is right and the only thing that is permanent is change, getting these points right will not only support successful change but actually create an environment where change is understood as an important part of the ongoing success of organisations.

By Julie Leo, HR Consultancy Director, julie.leo@altairltd.co.uk

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