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Thoughts on Change Management

No Pain, no Change Change Management is mainly about Changing Yourself

Introduction Whereas 10 years ago Change Management was a science not well known and ingrained in European business, this has dramatically changed in previous years. It has become one of the standards of every middle and senior manager curriculum (ideally in INSEAD in Fontainebleau or at HSG in St. Gallen to name just the most exclusive providers). The market for trainers, consultants and also business books has dramatically increased, and no longer does anyone ask what Change Management stands for. Well, hasn’t everybody already gone through changes, due to the actual global crisis or other internal restructuring?

mistakes are still being blamed on the employees. The requests are therefore similar to the ones made to Supernannies around the world: how can we make our naughty employees become mature and responsible employees? I’m not sure if you have seen the show, but usually the Supernannies work with the parents and very seldom directly with the children. Following freely the System X theorem, the parents learn to become mature and responsible parents, as the core assumption is: every child wants to please its parents and be praised for what she or he does. What do we learn from this? And how does it relate to our topic? Well the majority of the managers have understood the principles behind Change Management, but still have major issues internalizing one of the key phrases in change management: if you want to change a situation, you have to start with yourself.

Interestingly enough the requests are still similar to what they were 10 years ago. Managers complain: “our employees don’t follow our recommendations and processes, they need to change”. This means that implementation issues and 1

Thoughts on Change Management

Communication is Good, but not Sufficient Internal communication or HR departments are very often the drivers for change management initiatives. The employees being their key stakeholders they understand that it is important to get them informed and are very emotional about change projects. However very often they lack the external perspective, the understanding on why the business needs to change (be it to make more money or reduce the costs). Here managers have a critical part to play. Companies don’t go through major change projects (and spend millions of Euros on them) just because it is hip, but because it will improve their economical position and this is too often not stressed enough. Employees see that money is being spent and they want to understand how the effort is going to make the business more successful or sustainable. You would be surprised on how much even blue-collar workers are interested in understanding how your newest change initiative is linked to the business strategy and how it is going to impact the business effectiveness (and secure the work place).

nod when good points are being made, or if you are more critical you would tell your boss to bugger off (excuse my wording)! In both cases the final result will be the same: you will continue to smoke! Certainly not all changes requested from the workforce are as drastic as to quit smoking, but the point remains: a concise communication plan helps disseminate information and key points, but it will not get the hoped for change in mind set. And as mentioned earlier, to implement change it will require dedication from management. This means time and reflection on own behaviors, and this will require a willingness to change … one self. Show Personal Commitment Then Change Management means changing and rethinking assumptions about how to lead employees. If they haven’t taken on board the required changes then most likely the actual chosen approach is not working. And its most likely not working because, you the boss, have not shown sufficient commitment. Changing employees’ behavior (because that is generally what the board expects), starts with changing managers. It means changing their behavior, changing their skills and changing their working priorities. And sometimes it also means replacing inadequate managers. It is not a onetime activity (or will your children become better behaved because you once went to Eurodisney or spent time with them one evening?) and it requires adequate interventions (and going to Eurodisney can be very contra productive if your kids have been “misbehaving” …).

Too many change management projects still focus on improving the official internal communication without giving management more personal responsibility to lead the change. Honestly, this is also easier: internal communication lays out some key communication through the use of more or less creative media and subsequently business will continue as usual. There are no time consuming activities, no personal involvements and no critical decisions to be made. No surprise then that the results of such programs are so poor! Would you, for example, stop smoking simply because your boss told you to stop smoking? If you are a “nice” person you will probably listen to her and


Thoughts on Change Management

How does this work? Extended help can be found in 600-page long books, but to use your time more effectively, here are my four key points: be clear on what you expect from your employees and why, link it to business objectives, give clear guidelines on the expected new behaviors by being a role model and rethink the actual structure and the individuals within.

1. One point is the compliance to new guiding principles; Act as you expect others to act. Walk the talk! 2. The other point is to translate buzz words. As you can’t have guidelines describing all expected behaviors, you need to translate them with day-to-day examples, in personal discussions and presentations. E.g., if your definition of an entrepreneur means to proactively call former clients on a regular basis, then say so, otherwise you won’t get the expected results.

Doesn’t sound too difficult? Well let’s drill down to understand the impact. A clear goal is the key. Your employees need to understand what needs to change, why they need to change and what is in it for them. And it’s not done through a short email. This needs to be done personally, regularly and in a meaningful way, by giving day-to-day examples on what the organization needs to do differently in the future. One client of mine wanted its employees to become entrepreneurs. After different discussions with the management board, it became obvious that each board member put different meanings behind the same word. How could the employees understand what was expected from them? You need to be clear about what you want to achieve so that your employees get more clarity in what they need to do.

When talking to managers I very often hear complaints about the quality of the employee workforce available to them. I have often heard that if they could, they would get rid of at least half of their employees. I think this does not shade a good light on managers (yes, not the employees). Next to being a very arrogant approach, I would question the managers’ ability to use the resources they are responsible for. To be clear: I have known employees that boycotted their workplace and that had a very bad influence on the rest of their team, but they are a minority. The majority has good skill sets, a willingness to put energy into an interesting challenge and wants to be recognized for what they do. When you restructure your organization, this is exactly what you need to consider: separate the wheat from the chaff, and reassign employees to activities suited to their skill sets and if required have some employees go through different trainings. European working law does not always make this an easy task, but the impact is drastic and makes all other change intervention really stick.

You are a Role Model to Your Employees Being a role model is probably the most challenging part for managers, but one of the most effective ones. It represents the open door policy or the tight expense guidelines— if you want to have them implemented you have to live them! If you’re not ready to do so, then you have to ask yourself why you expect your employees to follow them.


Thoughts on Change Management

Conclusion: Team Up with Your Change Agents A final thought: if the fact to involve yourself drastically worries you, there is one good bit of news: you don’t need to do everything yourself! Throughout the organization you will find early adopters, employees that have bought into the change. Use them as Change Agents and they will become a strong support. You will still need to do much talking and walking, but they will be multiplicators and also creative minds ready to give new impulses to the program (and yourself). Listen and be ready to learn and adapt to their ideas. As I said at the beginning, change management has a lot to do with changing yourself, but it’s a journey worth the effort. Acrasio and Change Management With over 15 years of Change Management experience we have conducted a multitude of change projects in several industries. Some examples are: conception and delivery of Change Management programmes, planning and delivery of organisational development, review & monitoring of employee satisfaction, design of internal team building events, definition of new roles and organisations.

About Acrasio

Dr. Karin Stumpf

Acrasio is a strategy consultancy with extensive international experience with major blue chip companies.

Karin Stumpf focuses on the management of organisational changes to improve business efficiency and effectiveness. She holds an MBA and a Master in Organisational Psychology. Previously she worked for two of the world’s biggest strategy consulting firms (McKinsey & Deloitte) and was lecturer at the Swiss Institute of Technology in Zurich. She is French-German and is fluent in French, German and English.

The consulting approach incorporates two different aspects: • Analysis of the business surrounding (market, competition, regulations) and identification of adequate strategy and approach • Understanding of the human pool and employee basis and structure for a better alignment with the company’s objectives

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No Pain - No Change  

Thought Paper on Change Management