With the pandemic ushering in a new era in the way people and organisations have had to adapt to maintain business continuity, change management has never been more in vogue. But what exactly is it and what are the skills that individuals need to succeed in this fast paced industry?
According to the association of project management, change management is the “overarching approach taken in an organisation to move from the current to a future desirable state using a coordinated and structured approach in collaboration with stakeholder.” Typically it will impact company processes, systems, workflows and jobs, so it’s very much people centric – those who have to implement the change and those affected by it.
Ensuring that a business can survive and thrive through change is the ultimate goal of change management. There are many reasons why a business might have to change, for example technological and digital advancements, difficult trading conditions, M&A or government legislation. Clearly, any change has to be managed carefully and sensitively as emotions can run high and people’s commitment, loyalty and trust can be adversely impacted.
Coordinating a successful change management initiative, such as digital or IT transformation requires careful planning and establishing a roadmap at the outset. Once you’ve identified what it is that needs changing you then have to get buy in from senior management and internal stakeholders. Project sponsors will need to be appointed so that resources and budgets can be allocated with clear implementation phases and timelines.
The other important pillar is to communicate change, so that you can provide a shared vision of the future. You may often encounter resistance along the way, for example specific changes in a technology process, such as the introduction of a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. Where people’s actual jobs and their roles are concerned, communication is key to ensuring that those directly impacted remain motivated and engaged.
A survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK found that less than 60% of change initiatives failed to meet their organisational objectives. They’re not easy to get right. There is a real risk of losing key people if a change management initiative is poorly managed so there is a lot riding on any change process.
Change management specialists will need excellent interpersonal skills, as they’ll have to work with many different stakeholders and teams. Relationship building is key and they need to demonstrate advanced leadership skills. Adept and skilled project managers, they have to be business and of course digital savvy. It’s a role that requires calmness under pressure and strong problem solving and analytical skills. There are a number of certifications and qualifications that change management professionals can pursue.
Change is never far away. To navigate it effectively, this often means changing engrained behaviours and a mindset shift, both at the individual and organisational level. But as evidence shows, that’s a lot easier said than done.
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