“Lead a change they said … “ but what does it mean?

Found yourself in a situation where you need to implement a change? Perhaps you have been put in charge of a change initiative, or maybe a change to business as usual is necessary for your project’s output to be adopted. How hard can it be you might ask, the new thing you are introducing is absolutely brilliant and people will love it – surely it will be enough to introduce it, do some training and success is guaranteed?!

Well… bad news I am afraid. For change to be successful there are a few things that need to be done Before, During and After the introduction of the new thing to make sure the change sticks and you get the intended benefits.  Change is incredibly difficult to implement, and an often-quoted statistic says that as much as 70% of change initiatives fail (PROSCI, 2001).

In our APM accredited Change Management Practitioner training course, we explore the common reasons for change failure, including:

  • Misunderstanding change to be a singular event or “switch” when it should actually be thought of as a process
  • Not bringing people impacted by the change on the change journey so that they ignore or resist the change or revert to their old ways of working

It is not all Doom and Gloom, however. The good news is that you are reading this article now so you will have some idea about what good looks like when you do your change.

Who is a Change Leader?

In different contexts, this “title” can have different meanings. Some (usually larger) organisations have formal roles titled Change Leader, people who full time dedicate their work to implementing and sustaining change. In most cases, it is not a formal job title but more of a responsibility taken on by a person who will plan and implement change activities. Often, a project manager will take on the role of a Change Leader in the context of their project.

What does a change leader do?

In the section above we call it “plan and implement change activities”. What does that actually mean? In essence it means it is one person who takes action to ensure the two common reasons why fail change (see the top of this page) do not happen. They do this by considering the full change process and ensuring that people impacted by change are prepared and ready to do the new thing that is being introduced. In practical terms this should include:

  • Working with the Change Sponsor to ensure the reason for change is explicitly clear
  • Taking steps to understand the people impacted by change, exactly how they are impacted and what needs to happen in order for them to be ready for change
  • Engaging people impacted by the change in appropriate ways (based on the understanding of the people and how they are impacted). This can include:
    • Using the Change Vision as a tool to inspire and motivate people to do the change
    • Creating a burning platform and a sense of urgency to do the change
    • Planning training and upskilling activities, including how senior leadership will be engaged
    • Supporting people during change implementation to reduce stress and disruption to business as usual
    • Monitoring for signs of resistance and helping people through the change journey so they can adopt the change and new ways of working
  • Identifying the best approach to the change (Big Bang or Iterative for example) and scheduling activities at times when people are likely to have the time and capacity to engage with it in a positive way
  • Establishing Change Champions – the people on the ground who will pave the way for the change and model the desired behaviours before anyone else
  • Proactively planning and creating quick wins, i.e little steps along the way to complete success that signal that things are working to keep up the momentum and keep people motivated.
  • Identifying and planning suitable activities to sustain the change. Are there ways to make it fun and easy for people to do the new right thing? What reminders, prompts and rewards can be put in place?
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the change along the way to ensure the course of action can be adjusted if need be

Want to learn more?

Wellingtone’s APM accredited Change Management Practitioner course reviews all of these topics and more, including practical steps that you can take to make your change a success.

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By: Karin Maule

Karin Maule

Published: 20 December 2021

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