In my experience of working in technology led change projects, it is often the case that the business (and sometimes the rest of the project team) see the Change Management as either the 'fluffy stuff' or as the "Department of Dark Arts".
In either case, this has the effect of positioning change management as semi-detached from the technical or process-led mainstream of the change with separate and perhaps less rigorous planning and reporting expectations. The prevailing mind-set being that change management is something that does not need to be understood - after all, it's done by change managers. The consequence is that the change management work-stream receives scant leadership attention and is at risk of being undervalued and under resourced.
Perhaps I exaggerate for effect – but the reality is that all too often we find ourselves spending as much time fighting for airtime and attention within the project as we as we do engaging the business leaders and users in the changes that will affect them.
It is not all doom and gloom though. There are a few powerful and simple things that we can do as change managers to create the conditions for success:
• Leverage the data that compares the widely differing outcomes for projects that invest in change management vs those that do not (on time, in full, on budget, benefits delivered)
• Clearly define the criteria for successful change management in terms of deliverables during transition and outcomes for end users as well as the business. Be equally clear how these will be tracked.
• Engage with the project team, sponsors and stakeholders to forge the links between success for the project, success for end users and key change management interventions
• Position change management as the catalyst of change actions across the project and business rather than the 'knight in shining armour' who is the sole architect and deliverer of change management action.
The last point is worth a bit more consideration. Whether in a permanent role or contracting, it takes a lot of confidence (and the security of an enlightened and supportive sponsor) to define the change management role as the orchestrator rather than 'doer' of change.
The role and benefits of change management are extended far beyond the domain of 'communicate it, train it' and demands a more mature outlook and skill set. The change manager is cast as 'custodian of the intent'; creating the conditions for success by clarifying the vision, constantly challenging whether the mechanistic aspects of the project are going to come together to deliver the desired outcome as well as triggering and clearing the path for the change agents in the business to deliver their change.
That said, for those willing to take the risk, the rewards are great. The biggest complement that can be made by the sponsor of the change or, even better, the team or group who have changed their behaviour is recognition that they made this change happen for themselves because change from within is far more likely to be embedded and sustained.
With thanks to Julian Earl, Group Leader, Global Resourcing and Change Lead at GSK and Phil Read, Principle Consultant at Oliver Wyman for their thoughtful contributions to this article.