Should businesses spend money on people “change management” especially on large-scale projects that are already expensive?
Is change management often “a lot of fluff” and “airy-fairy stuff” that is common sense — and often run by people who appear to speak another language and enjoy “lording” it over others that they have a “secret” knowledge that others don’t have?
I have to admit my biases starting out — I have been very skeptical of change management.
However, some people have described it as “interesting” that my past training (i.e. two Masters degrees) has been in Computer Science and in Psychology.
Indeed I started out as a Marriage and Family Counselor, and then evolved into a Project Manager, a Management Consultant, Entrepreneur and holistic Business Transformation Programme Director for large and complex programmes and projects — often across countries.
So I admit that there is a part of me that is very logical and fact-orientated and there is another side of me that addresses the “soft” human feeling side.
In fact, as part of my journey in becoming a Partner at one of the biggest management consultancies, I recognised early that a “holistic” business solution involving people, processes and technology is required for a “sustainable” solution.
Large-scale projects that focus just on the technology will often find that the intended users don’t take advantage of the system — or in certain cases actively avoid using the systems. This was shown at a major rail/transport company in Queensland, Australia.
Similarly, if businesses don’t focus on the opportunity of “streamlining” and of optimising business processes, then often there is a large missed opportunity — which later they regret and try to un-do. This was shown at a major FMCG company in Japan.
Successful projects are those that
- clearly communicate the benefits of the proposed changes (and the alignment to strategic objectives),
- understand, engage and communicate consistently with the right stakeholders,
- take the opportunities to revise processes and reporting to improve efficiencies, to improve accountabilities, and to provide more complete and timely information for decision-making,
- use technology to make this information easier to use in day-to-day operations and management, and
- ensure that the focus remains on actual realised and quantified benefits.
So change management (I must admit after all) has a very relevant role to play in helping to understand stakeholders, to effectively communicate with stakeholders, to continually link to the proposed benefits to be realised, to “keep everyone on the journey” and to embed these changes into “business-as-usual”. I still believe though that businesses still must get pragmatic and down-to-earth accountable change management support; there are “airy-fairy” types who spend more time on positioning themselves unfortunately than adding business value.
Effective people “change management” can indeed help ensure that the changes will endure — and not just leave it to chance.