Change Management: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

“Begin with the end in mind.” — Stephen Covey

As I look through the results of Brandon Hall Group’s 2014 Talent Management Systems Study, one slice of the data is very telling from a “lessons learned” perspective.

According to the data, 23% of respondents did not create any type of change management plan to assist with implementing a new talent management system. That may not sound like much until you really think about the chaos that those organizations must have gone through and the inefficiencies and lack of productivity that probably caused, along with unnecessary conflict between colleagues and departments.

There is a better way, my friends, a much better way.

Last year I read Change- Friendly Leadership, an excellent resource on managing and leading change, and I pulled three great tips from the book that apply to the concepts we’re discussing today:

  • Paper vs. people. Change implementations are easy on paper. Move some numbers. Make some calls. Then the hard part comes when you insert people into the mix. It’s critical to consider the “people impact” before you start planning a change initiative.
  • Compliance or commitment? Would you rather have compliance or commitment from your people? Compliant staff will do what you tell them, but only when you tell them to do it. Committed staff will do what needs to be done even when you’re not there to tell them to do it.
  • Heat and light. People will react a certain way when they feel the heat/pressure of a decision weighing on them. Often times that is purely reactionary, leading to further problems. The preferred way to get support for your change initiative is not to turn up the heat, but to help people see the light. Help them to see the vision/goal and how they play a part in making it a reality.

When it comes to change, most of us aren’t as proficient at handling it as we think we are. The routine is easy. Change is hard. So when it is time to make a change, it’s important to think through the full scenario before beginning. Here are a few keys to pulling off a successful change initiative:

  • Communicate early and often
  • Utilize informal leaders internally to champion the effort
  • Build demand for the solution before the change begins
  • Integrate the change into existing processes

What are your thoughts on developing an actual change management plan? Is it a nice-to-have or a must-have? What lessons have you learned over the years on how to do change management well?

Ben Eubanks, Associate HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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