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How to mitigate the negative impact of change in your business
A PwC survey of 1,150 CEOs talks about the ability to adapt to change becoming a key source of competitive advantage. A McKinsey report tells us that 9 out of 10 executives look at organizational agility as a source of business importance. It's only evident that all the c-suite clients they were interacting with discussed the need to make their organizations more agile. Still, the "how" behind that process is sometimes unclear to the organization.
Strategic agendas, by definition, drive a lot of organizational change. If you look at any business strategy geared towards growth, none of them intend to repeat the same processes they had previously executed. We're also witnessing the tenure of senior leaders shrinking in organizations, and when you bring in new senior leadership, they're bringing an aggressive change agenda almost every time. They want to shake things up in the organization. Their "growth strategy" acts as a backdrop that will always provide us room for many change opportunities.
Organizations are no longer running individual changes in sequence. We often see multiple changes running simultaneously, which have an overlapping impact on different groups in the organization. This leads to change saturation. Poorly managed change also leads to change fatigue, where the organizations wear thin on their resilience and their ability to adapt dynamically.
The org-wide saturation and fatigue can have serious consequences. It starts at the individual level (which can be measured through employee engagement). The impact also spreads across projects where we see delays, scheduling errors, and budget overruns. Poor change management also has soft impacts that leave scar tissue in the organization. There's a degree of cynicism we get what we call the corporate ostrich effect where people get used to having changed managed poorly where they think if I took my head in the sand this too shall pass.
All of this collectively have a strong impact on organizations and the reality is it's probably not going to slow down. If you look at the strategic imperative coming out of business strategy or organizational strategy that's a feeding ground for new change coming to the table. The search for new sources of competitive advantage and in a lot of ways competitors can copy the technologies and processes you use. What they can't copy is the elements of culture - the way you get things done, the way you manage the people side of change often but we do know that the better we do this and we do it individually on one project and it works the cumulative benefits of doing it effectively on more parts of our change portfolio multiply the benefits we're after, and ultimately, if we're able to create a common approach, a common language around change we're going to make change easier both today and well into the future
All change management implementations require creating a change management policy, which involves setting the rules and framework for how change management will operate in the organization. The policy should include all change management definitions, rules, templates, and guidance.
Defining change authorities
There should be several different change authorities defined in the change management policy. Examples of change authorities in change management are a Change Advisory Board (CAB), the change manager, and an IT support technician. Using different change authorities will avoid delays in implementing changes and will help in managing overloads in the change management process.
Every change that is not defined as a standard change should be requested. Standard methods such as using a Request for Change document should be used, as free form requests can be challenging to interpret and assess.
Every change should be categorized to assist the appropriate reviewers and the approval process. As a minimum, the categorization should include the type of change (normal, standard, emergency), urgency, and the type of assets being changed (e.g. application, network, infrastructure).
Everything other than standard changes should have some level of review. The reviewers must have appropriate skills and experience, and sufficient time to be able to do the review. The aim must be to apply the minimum amount of review necessary to reduce the risk of a failed change to an acceptable level.
All changes should be approved by the change authority defined in the change management policy for the specific category and type of change. An approach where all changes go to one place, such as the change manager or the CAB, for approval is not the right way to go.
Approved changes are then implemented using release & deployment management, keeping the change record updated as the status changes.
There are two approaches to implementing change management: The phased approach, or the big bang approach.
A phased approach is where a small start is made, lessons are learned, then the scope is expanded incrementally.
A big bang approach is where you implement change management all in one go for all services, types of change, and service providers. This is higher risk, and can require a lot of effort to make it work in the early days.
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