Thoughts on HBR Change Management

The need to manage change in a corporate environment is a routine occurrence. Unfortunately, it is not effectively (by which I mean successfully) done most of the time.

The topic of Organizational Change routinely catches my eye. It’s a mix of general curiosity driven by a personal desire to learn and always do better next time.

A bit of a long read, this HBR article () reveals the 4 common change approaches revealed in their studies:

  • Directive Change:
    Tightly controlled recipe solely dictated by exec. mgt.
  • Self-assembly Change:
    Defined by senior management, delegated to local mgt.
  • Emergent Change:
    Leadership provides guiding intent, loose direction, minimal hard rules, self-organized.
  • Masterful Change:
    Led by top mgt, providing consistent leadership, trusts the people to solve things collaboratively (with top mgt).

What stuck out to me were 3 items:

➤ “…investment into dedicated change skill-building initiatives… conversations that got beneath the surface to detect and work with systemic issues… as they arose rather than after the event.

Having been through numerous ‘major changes’ in my career, either as a participant or as a change agent, I would have appreciated effective training. It’s generally learned on-the-job. That aside, I like the encouragement to have discussions getting ‘beneath the surface…’ to learn/evolve real-time. Rarely done.

A loose intention uniting the whole system…an aligning “ripe issue,” where the priority/need is required, but the how-to is not pre-determined.

Very important in my view. Too often programs are rolled out without anything to rally the organization behind. What’s in it for me, is often neglected. If the team does not know why they should care, they won’t.

➤ Communication – Unstated and assumed, I’m surprised the importance of communication was not specifically addressed. The single biggest failure in change management processes, in my experience, is insufficient communication. All too often a new program is announced, training occurs (sometimes), policy guides are sent out…and that’s it.

Even when the need for formal change management processes are recognized, more often than not senior management may not support it. Common reasons are budgetary, not viewed as important, or seen as too time consuming… all of which roll into ‘not a priority,’ just do it.

When it comes to successfully managing change, it is hard to overcommunicate. People need to understand, what’s in it for them. There needs to be communication for Introduction, Preparedness, Current Status, Execution, Support, and Follow-through (post-rollout). Multiple outreaches for each of these stages.

And, almost always overlooked: Closure – mission success, it’s done, be happy, continue. I remember the first time I sent out a closure email. A senior exec responded to me. He was surprised to get the email and appreciated it. He said, ‘normally these things just quietly go away and you never know what happened.’

Image Credit(s):
You Are The Change – Kalei de Leon
Change – Nick Fewings