Driving Change: Drive Safely (My Checklist)

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I ran into an executive manager who sighed about failing to implement change. He had everybody lined up for, and agreed to, an important and major business process change. However, almost nobody had implemented the agreed change. And he asked himself the question whether it would help to fire them all and start again. Or send them to reformatory center. My opinion: Maybe that does the trick, but I don't think so.


What probably happened is that all agreed on the 'what', but not on the 'how'. And change management is a difficult and complex issue, especially breaking the trend with the old behavior and to start with making time for new activities. Once people start changing their behavior, and getting used to the new 'way of living' it becomes more easy. But the change will never be self managing.

My checklist helps business management, and gives them a head start for managing change.

Why Is Change Management Difficult?

The problem is not really unique. Changes are of all times: Changes in the world, politics and otherwise. Business changes like competitors, technology, business goals, and approach, organization, processes and (IT) systems. Everything changes, and all the time. Nothing new here.

It becomes more interesting if you want to drive change, and perhaps even drive radical change. And wanting to do that, and more often, the need to do that, is also of all times: beautiful dreams of a new future, a burning ambition, or forced by circumstances. Nothing new here either.

It becomes even more interesting is you want the result of the change within upfront predefined limits: You want to design the steps knowing if you follow this path you are sure that the result will be somewhere within the agreed range. Driving this kind of change is not for the faint of heart.

Is There Literature Available?

Ironically there is a lot of literature around this subject. From many perspectives the subject change is discussed and interpreted.

In the early days of Information Engineering (IE), around 1990, change management, or implementation management as it then was called, was even one of the most famous parts: Managing the change of IT. An interesting fact if you take into account that IE was all about planning the IT architecture and systems.

In 2000, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton published at the Harvard University Press the book: The knowing-Doing Gap. All you always wanted to know about why organizations do not learn form their failures, and never will. Complete with checklists&hellips;

And a couple of years ago the McKinsey Quarterly paid a lot of attention to this subject: Driving radical change. Among others the authors incorporated scientific work on releasing organizational energy. Here also a lot of practical advice you can follow.

A Best Practices Checklist

In this paragraph, as a head start, I will present you my personal guidance rules, which incorporate suggestions from literature, and many more references than I cited earlier, as well as from my personal experience. Successful transformations from an existing situation to a new 'way of living' have several points in common:

  1. Personal involvement.
    You are the leader. Without personal involvement nobody will follow. Without emotion no change. A program like this has principally a chaotic nature. You must guard boundaries: What to tolerate, and what not. You must have the willingness to lead the transformation program, as well as to bear with the long term duration of it. If you get bored, or perhaps even worse, you are lost. Nothing will change the way you originally wanted it, nor in its direction.
  2. Well articulated aspirations.
    Clearly stated ambitions and desires, expressed in SMART (specific, measurable, articulated, realistic, and timeliness) KBR's (key business requirements) and KPI's (key performance indicators). If you don't know how the future would look like, who will? Many 'adventures' fail because it is easy to start it, but people discover too late that they got lost somewhere. And that there is no way back.
  3. Organization readiness check.
    You are ready. But is the organization ready for it? And does it have the required capabilities? An assessment can help: You know where you stand, what to expect, and what to correct. Don't forget to include time zero measurement of the Ist-situation for your earlier identified KPI's.
  4. Program architecture.
    Think about what the minimal required goal is, what can wait, what activities and infrastructure is required before we start the actual transformation. Also, you need a delicate combination of short term and long term activities to make sure that you keep the attention of everybody focused. Short term for celebrations to keep interest and enthusiasm to a good level, and long term to make sure you keep on track, and make progress. Definition of intermediate goals can help you assess that you are still on track and making progress over time. And implement something on a small scale first, before rolling it out corporate-wide.
    All this work leads to a program plan: Milestones, phases and streams, and activities.
  5. Releasing organizational energy.
    You cannot do it alone. You need help from everybody in the organization. Rewarding successes with adequate celebrations help. And usually you are required to remove one or more sources of negative energy to make sure that everybody gets the message: You are serious and you do not tolerate resistance after plans are discussed and you are moving forward.
    A recognizable story helps. You must make sure that everybody up and down food chain knows direction, what the required change looks like, how to recognize it, and how to handle in their personal situation.

And last but not least: What gets measured, gets done!

What are your organizational change experiences? What did work for you, and what did not? And why? Share your thoughts on this with us. Thank you!

This blog is part of a series on strategic planning:

  1. The Everlasting Rise and Downfall of Strategic Planning: Lessons Learned in More than 40 Years!
  2. Driving Change: Drive Safely (My Checklist) (this blog)
  3. "Live Fast, Die Young!"
  4. The Benefits of an Aligned Supply Chain (and How to Realize That...)
  5. How Many Customers Did You (re)Win This Year?

This blog is also part of series on project management. Other issues:

  1. My Project Checklist
  2. Driving change: On how to drive safely!
  3. How to beat the Master Data implementation challenge
  4. The Dutch General Accounting Agency reports project execution factors
  5. The ROI on a project assessment, or if you know more, you need less
  6. Where did I do wrong, and mess up my project
  7. 8 (Eight!) Ways To Reduce Your ICT Management Costs, But Where Is the Low Hanging Fruit

Results2Match has a strong vision on successful business strategies and result driven implementations.

This blog is written by Hans Lodder. Hans is a very experienced change management consultant and interim manager. You can contact Hans through his Results2Match email address.

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