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Why Leaders Need Enterprise Change Management to Become Agile

Blog: Changefirst Blog

By David Miller, CEO, Changefirst

We have been helping organizations increase their change management capabilities for 20 years this year. A lot of our work has been focused on workshops and coaching for executives and change agents. Gradually, over the years, we introduced workshops for managers and employees as well. We felt that you needed all employees in an organization to have appropriate skills and access to helpful tools. This is beginning to evolve into a real interest in something that is being branded as, Enterprise Change Management (or ECM for short).

The support for this idea can be found in a number of surveys and reports, including a 2002 McKinsey Quarterly article [Helping employees embrace change, LaClair and Rao, Nov 2002] which demonstrated a direct linear relationship between an organization’s change management capabilities and the value it captures from projects. They found that organizations with high change management capabilities had collected, on average, 143% of the value they originally expected from their projects.

So what is ECM?
It’s a belief that if an organization is to become agile and responsive to fast moving competitive, often disruptive, markets then it needs more than a small number of project or OD specialists trained in change management. Rather it needs the whole organization to possess the appropriate skills and tools to help deliver change at the volume, speed and accuracy required.

In reality, ECM can operate at a number of levels. See below.

Change Management Maturity Model

Level Stage Description
4 Institutional Executive sponsors manage the overall change capacity of the organization.
3 Organizational Change management has been tailored to align to other organizational processes. It is applied consistently on all major projects.
2 Tactical Change management is applied inconsistently across projects.
1 Rudimentary Project implementation contains little change management other than basic communications and training support.
0 Technical Change is seen as a technical process where people will comply with the requirements of the change.

I want to return to this topic in future blogs but I thought it might be helpful to highlight the magnitude of shift when organizations move to level 3 and above.

Moving from Tactical to Organizational Maturity
The level of change here is considerable and in our experience can be accelerated by the existing culture. For example, if the organization already has a strong belief in using processes then it’s easier than if it has a more transactional way of working. The key shift is the adoption of a common methodology (change process, skills and tools) needs to be used on all projects throughout the organization. This of course means not only the ‘big beasts’ which have executive level sponsorship but also the smaller projects which take time, energy to deliver and use up people’s resilience. Face-to-face workshops and coaching support can only be part of the answer and organizations now need ways to scale their OCM processes quickly and cost effectively. If you want an idea of what this might look like then take a look at the 3 minute video that can be found on our website – www.changefirst.com/e-change. Executives need to show visible commitment to this approach. They need to lead by example and get involved in sponsoring change well and tracking progress.

Moving from Organizational to Institutional Maturity
This is the biggest step change of all. It’s a substantial cultural shift for most organizations. The reality is we have only seen it achieved in a small number of companies and frankly it tends to be short-lived. It rarely survives a change of leadership. But we have seen elements of this achieved and sustained. Here the key shift is that the capacity for change becomes the key metric when the executive team decide to implement an initiative or not. The back plot is that even the best change management processes will struggle to get traction if your people are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of change. Their resilience rapidly gets used up, they can’t focus on any one change and something called ‘change fatigue’ suddenly becomes part of the organizational lexicon. Change delivery is hit badly.

The Bedrock of Agility
If organizations want to become truly agile the language needs to shift from “we must change” to “can we change?” In other words does your organization have sufficient bandwidth to deliver everything it wants to? I understand that there is more to organizational agility than ECM but it seems to me to be impossible to become agile without this key foundation – the bedrock. So, we will continue to explore the processes and issues around Enterprise Change Management in future blogs.

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