6 fundamental lessons in organisational change

Organisational transformation is very much on the agenda at the moment and in our change practice we are often asked to share insights and learning to help leaders develop their change programmes and ensure that they are successfully delivered.

This article explores 6 fundamental lessons we have gained, and which clients find invaluable when managing transformation.

1. Plan for what you want, not for what you have got

Many change programmes start with the need to ‘fix’ a problem within the organisation and then inevitably become an organisational problem-solving exercise rather than a transformation programme.

The two can look remarkably similar but the problem-solving tends to be constrained by today’s reality whilst transformative change prepares the organisation for a future operating environment and therefore drives sustainable success.

2. Engage stakeholders as early and as consistently as you can

It is important that change is seen, understood and embraced across the organisation and that stakeholders have a voice and feel that they have an influence.  There is a fundamental difference between designing a change programme and being the subject of a change programme and the designers ignore the voice and feelings of stakeholders at their peril!

Remember that engagement is a process not a tick-box exercise – do it regularly not just at the kick-off.

3. Create a clear and coherent programme structure

Change is often complex which can make it hard to understand and difficult to manage. A clear programme architecture with defined project and tasks will help all parties to understand what is happening when and how the various streams of activity inter-link.

Sharing this information helps with engagement and enables the project owners to focus on managing deliverables, interfaces and relationships.

4. Establish a drumbeat

Maintaining pace and purpose through a change programme is hard work and the ‘day-job’ will inevitably get in the way and slow down progress, even with those who have the best intentions.

A rhythm and cadence to the change is an essential way of maintaining pace.  Setting a clear timetable for meetings, reporting, engagement and actions will help to ensure that the drumbeat is heard and felt throughout the organisation.

5. Focus on quick wins that mean something to the stakeholder groups

The gravitational pull of the past is immense, and we need to recognise that it is hard to change habits and behaviours.  This requires good role model leadership and also letting people see that success is happening on an ongoing basis.

Quick wins that mean something to the stakeholder groups are critically important and need to be seen and celebrated if our stakeholders are to feel engaged and excited by the programme.

6. Listen and learn

In transformation programmes there is no place for the expert with all the answers  – change is too complex and too dynamic for the answers to all be known.  We set the plan and we then focus on delivering against it but need to do so whilst listening openly and fully to our stakeholders’ experiences through the process.

Much of what we need for success will emerge through the change rather than being known at the outset and for change to be successful this learning needs to be heard, acknowledged, and incorporated en route.

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