Changeability is a strategic advantage

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Changeability is a strategic advantage – one of several takeaways from a Change Management Institute virtual round table session on the challenges presented by Enterprise Change.

What is so different about supporting change for a whole organisation, or enterprise, compared to helping smaller change initiatives? How would you recommend making a start with larger change programmes? What would you prioritise first?

Only some of the questions debated by a panel of four experienced change managers from all corners of the globe who hooked up live this month facilitated by Connie Henson in Washington.

Chantäl Patruno in Sydney helpfully prescribed a “three C approach” in the important discovery phase. First, remember to assess the CAPABILITY of the organisation to change, or its change readiness. Second, analyse the working CULTURE that is present. Is it a start-up fully open to new ways of working or a more conservative or traditional organisation, where new ideas will struggle to get adopted? Third, in assessing the CAPACITY to change, discover the enterprise’s previous change history, remembering to record and later refer to both prior success stories as well as failures. Lastly, you should also consider the capacity that middle managers and team leaders have to simultaneously run and change the business at the same time and find ways to make this possible.

Sky Dow in London also endorsed a three steps approach. On where to start? Her advice was not to go in with preconceived ideas, rather, and simply: (1) go in to support the business, (2) provide the tools to support the change required and (3) grow the capability at all levels in the business, to support the change, senior down to junior.

Another good tip from Chantäl Patruno was “the bigger the enterprise, the more critical it is to get alignment across the full leadership group.” Ask them all to say, individually or in a group setting, why it is that we are doing this change? One can imagine how powerful this would be in an open forum, workshop or even Board Room setting. Seek alignment and try and get a “leadership multiplier effect” going in support of the enterprise change.

Gordon Brockway in Perth, Australia targets resistance management techniques at enterprise level. He stressed the need for change managers to facilitate the tricky conversations that really matter but do not tend to happen. Take away the fears that people have by addressing them. Nobody else will do so.

Gordon also reminds people they are capable of change by asking what successful changes in their lives they have managed well previously: “There is resilience out there and people are capable of adaption.”

“Don’t let your sponsor off the hook” when working at implementation level was a key learning from Mike Mactavish in London. Mike also stressed the need for change management today to become a core business activity and not just another strategic change initiative that takes place every 5 years. More and more organisations are starting to recognise that having an internal change management function is an effective way to fully embed business change.

This prompted my favourite takeaway, coming from Chantäl Patruno, namely, the need for the modern enterprise to no longer adopt the term Business As Usual (BAU) but rather learn to operate with Change As Usual (CAU). If you like acronyms on change, and there are lots, this one is hard to beat.

My thanks to all of the panel and Dr. Connie Henson for hosting such an interesting Change Management Institute Learning Circle event, and for agreeing to its takeaways being shared by FUSE.