Leaders in many organizations today recognize that change management is an important strategy and enabler of success.
As that recognition becomes more widespread, the question becomes, how can organizations use change management as a competitive differentiator? Most organizations are not introducing changes or innovations that are different from changes their competitors are making. They all talk to the same customers, or potential customers, or even each other’s customers. They read many of the same books, often attend the same conferences and see the same software demonstrations. So, if they are all making similar changes in a similar way, what gives any company an edge?
Making change management a core competency is one key way to gain a competitive advantage. With change such an everyday part of any company’s world, having the ability to devote the appropriate attention and resources to how it is implemented and managed allows sustainable change to happen faster, cheaper and with less pain. And all of that leads to more robust business results.
But making change management a core competency takes more than a leadership decree and budget. To make it part of an organization’s DNA – to institutionalize change management – requires sponsorship, commitment and perseverance.
If a successful Result is a factor of the Quality of the Solution multiplied by the Acceptance of that Solution (R = Qs x A) and the Solution is not that different from any competitor, then Acceptance becomes even more critical.
We have seen companies evolve their change management philosophy over many years, while some have accelerated the cycle. But, at its core, the path to institutionalization looks like this in most organizations:
- Local Introduction of Change Management: Specific mission-critical projects trigger the introduction of change management into the organization. These project-specific applications begin the process of building the change management capability through workshops and consulting support at a tactical level. At the same time, related to those projects or on a separate track, the Human Resources or IT departments seek help to build this capability in their own people, recognizing that they can play a key role in the changes happening.
- Advocacy for Change Management: Then, somewhere in the organization, a person or a group of people realize that this is not just something done for specific projects. Change management is core to the future success of the business. They are advocates of this idea: they believe the way the organization manages change needs to evolve, but they have no sponsorship for their idea. They treat this desired change as a change project and apply change tactics, including those in the Managed Change™ methodology, until they get leadership to say, “Yes, we recognize that change management is a core competency and we will sponsor the efforts required to make it so.”
- Institutionalization of Change Management: Having evolved from being advocates to change agents, those who gained sponsorship now have a new change project on their hands and must apply the discipline of both project management and change management to achieving the final desired state: a place where change management is an integral part of every change, big and small, site-specific and global, at the top of the organization, in the middle, and at the worker level.