Everyone knows that change happens, but how can you manage all of that change at an enterprise level?
Most companies drive change through a variety of projects, programs or enterprise initiatives. To keep these initiatives on time, on budget, and tracking toward their objectives, organizations employ project managers, create project management teams or stand-up program management offices. These same practices of managing projects can and should be applied to supporting people through change at the project, program and enterprise levels.
Without a coordinated change management approach, experiences vary from one project to the next, and teams and organizations don’t benefit from lessons learned or build their change management “muscle memory.”
By elevating project-level change management to a core competency across your enterprise, you can align operations to maximize ROI and create a competitive advantage. However, enterprise-wide change management is not a one-size-fits-all solution — and it takes more than just change management practitioners to make it successful.
Start with understanding your change maturity
To design the right change management for your enterprise, start by identifying how quickly and to what degree you need to evolve change management capabilities. The model below outlines four levels of maturity for change management, indicating the resources, capabilities, and structure that characterize each level.
“Having some change management is better than having none, but you won’t achieve the best organizational strategic and financial objectives without consistent, successful change implementation.”
Most organizations fall within Level 1 (Ad hoc) or Level 2 (Coordinated). Selecting the right level of maturity for your organization depends largely on the size and complexity of the transformation portfolio that you expect to implement in the next three to five years.
“Having some change management is better than having none, but you won’t achieve the best organizational strategic and financial objectives without consistent, successful change implementation,” said Grant Thornton Transformation Advisory Business Change Enablement Principal Jen Morelli. That type of consistency requires leadership, engagement and education.
“We’ve seen that organizations with the most mature change management capabilities are those where change management competency is evident at all levels of the organization and coordinated with the other functions initiating change,” Morelli said. “It goes beyond training and certification. It is lived through the actions of ‘leaders of people’ on a regular basis. It is the rule, rather than the exception, and caring for the people side of change is embedded into the organizational culture, each project and strategic planning.”
Establish an enterprise change management (ECM) function
The change function is the manifestation of peak change management competency, active change leaders, and the deliberate attention and understanding of stakeholders. The benefits of centralized and standardized change management strategy, delivery and governance include:
- Optimum efficiency and alignment across projects
- A committed culture of change and organizational nimbleness
- Focused management and alleviation of change fatigue
- Increased adoption and minimized resistance
- Greater realization of benefits on investments
A change function is more than a strategy or toolkit. It requires organization-wide mobilization and ownership to drive sustainment and effective usage. That’s not easy, but there’s a proven path and the benefits make it worthwhile.
“The most successful way to build an internal function is often to start with one project as a pilot and work with a change management specialist to build the tools, team and structure of the internal ECM function in parallel.”
“The most successful way to build an internal function is often to start with one project as a pilot and work with a change management specialist to build the tools, team and structure of the internal ECM function in parallel,” said Grant Thornton Business Change Enablement Director Lisa Cooney. “That allows internal change leaders to hone their techniques and capabilities, get coaching in real time and show immediate value.”
Appoint key roles
Every enterprise-wide and centralized change management function needs the right people to elevate and actively support change management capabilities.
Most enterprise change relies on changing the attitudes and behaviors of people. To be successful, this requires influential and trusted champions and leaders who will build commitment and visibly support the change through action. Consider appointing these roles:
- Change sponsor, to own the need for an internal competency, provide resources and address barriers
- Change champions, to elevate the project-by-project application of change management to an organizational core competency
- Change leaders, to promote organization-wide involvement actively and visibly by “walking the walk”
- Change practitioners, to provide expertise and share guidance and tools to navigate the change process
Foster a culture of change
Your change function should not be limited to a specific department, but rather embedded into the organizational culture. Seeing change management elevated within the enterprise inspires leaders to engage, communicate and educate others routinely.
When employees feel a part of the change or transformation journey — when they know they are being thought of as a key enabler and not an afterthought — change is typically easier to adopt.
Organizations that are successful with enterprise-level change management invest in a positive stakeholder experience. They do that by creating mechanisms to collect ongoing feedback, preparing leaders to be change agents or building a centralized repository that makes tools, resources, training material and other assets easily accessible.
Organizations with the most mature enterprise change management capabilities take change management inclusivity one step further. They designate a change lead in each internal functional area to participate in and influence strategy and initiative roadmaps, promote a culture of change, and focus on the employee experience as an input to decision making.
Get it right
Your enterprise change function, key roles and culture of change can help your initiatives realize their full value and avoid change fatigue.
Leverage the best practices that will help your ECM function drive lasting change. Here are a few:
- Align: Take the time to build strategic alignment for your ECM organization
- Continuously improve: Refine the ECM team’s tools and practices over time rather than aiming for perfection
- Spread the good news: Educate and inspire others to adopt the culture of change
- Build bridges: Collaborate with internal teams for a successful "one team" approach to transformation
- Celebrate success: Measure and share the benefits that the internal ECM function realizes for an “outside-in” lens
Many employees have felt overwhelmed by the volume and frequency of recent changes in and around their organizations, putting them at risk of change saturation. “People are living in a state of constant change. Now, effective change management is more important than ever — it’s essential to get this right,” Morelli said.
Jennifer is a leader of Grant Thornton's Business Change Enablement practice. She advises clients across a broad range of industries on how to handle the ‘people side of change’ through organizational, process and technology transformation.
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