Wednesday, 2 February 2011

7 Steps on Riding the Beast of Change

You are an Agent of Change

Project managers, like magic practitioners, are agents of change.

A project is a temporary endeavour in order to achieve a product or service. Projects are often understood as means by which buildings, software, advertising campaigns and other things of substance are created.

However, a project can also be run to change the tools or processes (ways of working) used by an organization (or person). For example, switching over an office from using Windows on PCs to Mac Books would be a change project, it would likely affect both the tools used (computers) and the processes (format of reports, etc).

So what are the key points to managing a change project?

The book that I would recommend on this topic is called: “The Essentials Of Managing Change And Transition” from the Harvard Business School.

In chapter 3 of this book it outlines the 7 steps to change that I have successfully used on a change project in a large multinational organization.

Step 1: Mobilize Energy and Commitment through joint Identification of Business Problems and Their Solutions
Step 2: Develop a Shared Vision of How to Organize and Manage for Competitiveness
Step 3: Identify the Leadership
Step 4: Focus on Results, Not on Activities
Step 5: Start Change at the Periphery, Then Let It Spread to Other Units without Pushing It from the Top
Step 6: Institutionalize Success through Formal Policies, Systems and Structures
Step 7: Monitor ad Adjust Strategies in Response to Problems in the Change Process

How to use this information

OK, so let’s say that you’re not a project manager in a large organization undergoing change – why is the above information useful? Well, hopefully you’re following a path of self-development that is either professional focused, magical or mystical, or a combination of all of the above.

The steps mentioned in the “The Essentials Of Managing Change And Transition” outline a strategy for implementing changes in your life and/or circle of influence.

Here is my commentary on how to use the 7-steps to make change happen:

Step 0: decide what needs to change as an unfocused change project is unlikely to succeed. If you only know what you want to change "from" and not what you want to change "to" – then you leave the "to" part to the Universe to fill in this blank. This in my opinion is not a winning strategy.

Step 1: Create a sense of urgency about needing the change
Step 2: Create a compelling, realistic vision of what the change will achieve
Step 3: Find the Will to drive the change, if you’re changing an organization get a capable sponsor.
Step 4: Track progress according to results. Activities can be a smoke screen for resistance to change – hence you need to call their bluff by drilling down until you can see results.
Step 5: Success speaks for itself. Once you see results in one area, it’s easier to transport that success to another area.
Step 6: Once resistance to change is overcome, make it a continuous process to break down resistance in other areas and create continuous improvements.
Step 7: Learn as you go and use those lessons right away. Make time to check progress and reflect. Small course corrections done frequently are much easier to handle than larger course corrections done once in awhile.

There’s much more that can be said on change management, for example how to overcome resistance in others and yourself. However, those topics will have to wait for a post at a later date.