Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Change Centre

I read an article a couple of days ago called The Change Habitat: Why 70% of Change Managers Are Wrong by Jurgen Appelo. I’d need a lot of convincing before accepting much that was written in the article, but it got me thinking about a problem I’ve seen in many organisations struggling to succeed with their change initiatives.

A common denominator in many organisations where there is a history of problematic change is a lack of a change management competence. By that I mean that there are :
  • no corporate change method or common approach to change 
  • no recognised subject matter experts who can assist in change initiatives
  • no change management tools or assets to help change leaders and teams
  • no lessons learned data to help future change programmes
In other words, change is usually performed in an chaotic way and is dependent on the skills and ability of the individuals leading any specific change project.

Most IT organisations involved in project work have a set of project management standards and some form of development/support lifecycle in place, along with supporting governance processes. They usually have a set of standard templates for key deliverables - a project plan (not just a schedule), status reports, budgets and outlooks, and requirements and specification documents. They have mechanisms for raising change requests and recording defects and issues. New projects and new members of staff use the materials already available rather than having to reinvent them every time.

Very few organisations I’ve worked in have a similar set of assets available for managing change initiatives. People who are asked to manage change initiatives either have to try and make do with the existing project management templates or need to build their own. The problem with using standard project management assets is that they are rarely adequate for projects other than technical ones. And as I suggested in my post from August 2014 (Unifying Technical Project Management with Management of Change) there are significant differences between the two types of project, and there are additional things that need to be considered for change projects.

By establishing a Centre of Competance (CoC) for organisational change, with a defined lifecycle, toolkit and group of dedicated change management professionals a company can begin to establish a consistent approach to running change programmes, large or small, thus greatly increasing the potential success of any individual initiative.

There are some caveats with such an approach. Exactly how you set up your CoC will depend on your organisational culture, history of change, and operational structure, but here are some ideas.

The lead of any such group should be a recognised expert in organisational change management, with a reporting line to a C-Level executive. It should be understood that the team as a whole acts in a support capacity, like internal consultants. Individual change initiatives are owned by their executive sponsor who is responsible and accountable. Members of the team may act as change managers for specific initiatives and in that capacity become responsible and accountable to the executive sponsor for that change.

The centre of compentance maintains records of lessons learned and continuously improves its change management assets over time. It is subject to the same quality controls as other parts of the business, including business/quality assurance, internal audit and organisational governance. The group is centrally funded as a shared service across the business as part of the 'change the business’ budget.

There should be a consistent core of team members and other members of staff may be co-opted into the team on specific initiatves to increase the knowledge, understanding and awareness of change management through the wider organisation.

An additional responsibilty for the Centre of Competance is to co-ordinate all change within the organisation. This enables the CoC to manage the big picture of change within the business. The CoC performs basic impact analysis and due diligence against all potential changes before they launch. This is critical to understand where effort is being potentially duplicated (or worse!) and to establish where there may be synergies between apparently independent initiatives. It helps the business establish priorities and most importantly makes sure that the change is adequately thought through before being launched. Recommendations are fed back the steering board who make the final decisions on which initiatives should proceed, be put on hold or cancelled.

The role of the CoC should be communicated to all staff - and they should be encouraged to interact with it. Having an open and transparent change organisation is key to getting people on board. If the CoC is kept behind closed doors its very purpose will be undermined.

Building a  Change Centre will take some time and success certainly won't happen overnight. There may still be issues regarding change projects, but fixing these issues should become easier and your change initiatives should become less painful. More importantly you are setting a foundation for sustainable change in the future - and you can be sure there will be plenty more change to come.

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