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Best practice change management starts with people

By Andy West, Consultant at ILX Group | 8 July 2015

The only thing that is constant in business is change. In the US merger and acquisition activity leaped to 5,051 deals worth $1.5tn in 2014, up from 3,995 transactions worth $937bn in 2013. Organisations that are not buying other businesses or being bought themselves are busy bringing new products and services to market to survive in a competitive world. Change management is a hot topic and businesses have invested heavily in tools from PRINCE2® and Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®). But too many are still struggling to manage change successfully.

Why? Businesses are failing to factor in the human element. Programme and project management tools are all very well but they are just tools and will work best in the hands of effective practitioners who take a wider view about the impact of the change on real people. These tools are intended to be adapted to the needs of each individual business so it is entirely reasonable to ask the question, “Does this tool or process fit my business and, more importantly, our people?”

Best practice change management starts with people. People learn new things and adapt to change in different ways. Sometimes it might be possible to identify groups of people who may respond to different approaches. Sales people may prefer an active approach to learning a new process on the job, whereas engineers often like to understand the theory before trying something. If people understand what the business is trying to do and can see the goal in measurable terms, they can work towards it.

In business, people generally work in teams. Most managers have heard of the Tuckman model for group development, which identifies Forming, Storming, ‘Norm’ing and Performing phases. Where is your team at? If they are at the performing stage, there is more likely to be team support for any changes. If they are still forming, perhaps following an M&A, more significant change may be hard to take.

Only after you have planned how to handle change with people is it possible to handle change at organisation level. The key is to find a model for change that fits – for example, does your organisations work more like an organism or a machine? The answer to that question will also shed some light on how best to lead change – through evolution or revolution, top-down mandate or sowing the seeds for change. Any organisation can use change management tools but successful change management is all about taking a step back and making sure that the right tools are used in the right way

for your organisation.

To find out more about Best Practice to support change management click here.

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