Episode 6: "Starting to Change" - Lyam-Richard Crosdale
For as many years as I can remember, change management has been on the outside looking in when it comes to business projects. Whether its the apparent obviousness of our offer deeming it not necessary to employ specialist or perhaps the often superfluous and emotional side of project actions that deemed it too soft for the the hardened veterans of projects and programmes to consider - one thing is sure, we are rarely there at the start and often called in to the smooth the go-live backlash or the post release failure to adopt.
Our latest guest on the change chair know this tail only too well. Lyam Crosdale is a Business Change Consultant for Fujitsu Consulting and my Co-Lead at the Change Management Institute.
Lyam joins us in the chair as we begin to take the steps out of lock down and promisingly see a significant surge in the number of change management job roles appearing in the market. But are we still being invited late to the game or has covid made the penny drop that organisational change requires deep support of employees and treating that with the respect it deserves ensures you'll attract the brightest talent and begin making organisational change a enterprise wide capability? Read on to hear some of our key talking points.
In my experience, Change Managers are sought out when a project looks to be in trouble. Perhaps the resistance seen in those impacted is finally raging or the dual running of systems is failing to enable the realisation of benefits.
Whatever the reason, still the common place for change management to be brought in is when the project is off and running. That leaves on a back foot when it comes to gaining trust with those driving the project let alone those impacted. Having spent sometime away from the UK and returning during the pandemic he was surprised to still see this as our main place of engagement. When he left he was fortunate to be working at an organisation where change management was an organisational wide capability and the benefits the exec felt was largely a happier workforce coupled with projects running more smoothly - or perhaps less upset when delays did occur. That is probably one of the biggest wins of considering change activities at the very start of a project - you can leverage time to deliberately and purposefully set and manage expectations which helps to smooth the path to benefits being realised. Now who doesn't want that really?
One more blocker
Coming late to the table leaves you with lots of questions. What are we trying to achieve, what do people think is coming, what is causing us problems, how ready the business is, what else is competing for their time......the list is quite literally endless.
Of course when people are busy, asking them an endless list of questions about what's gone before and why things are the way they are doesn't always win you any friends. Coupled with that coming in late can often come with some preconceived ideas about why you are there and what your "dastardly" plans might be. You can see it often isn't an easy one to land.
Having been in this situation a number of times myself and listening to Lyam talk about his own experiences it really underlines why first and foremost, gaining trust and respect from the project team has to be your number one objective. That thankfully doesn't mean you have to avoid asking questions but it does mean that questions and your investigation need to be focused, time bound and most of all in pursuit of concrete supportive action to get the role of the change manager off to a solid start and credibility of the profession back on its feet.
Knowing when to push
So you have landed in the midst of chaos. You have done some necessary but sensitive questioning and you can see what you would do next, and perhaps what should have been done a long time ago. But here's the thing - how much do you give them?
There is an important assessment to make when you present back your plans to the sponsor. How ready are they for change?
Go in guns blazing with Key Message Frameworks, Change Impact Assessments, Stakeholder Analysis, Force Field Analysis etc etc and you risk baffling people and then shutting down to listen to any of your suggestions. But equally go in with too little and they confirm in their head perhaps Change Management wasn't what was needed at all sidelining you and ploughing on.
One of the critical behaviours is knowing how far to push. By this I mean being about to gauge the level of readiness for change management approaches. Applying just the right amount of change management required to satisfy the sponsor, address key challenges and build curiosity and interest to perhaps start activities sooner next time is a very tricky balance to find. Be under no illusion this requires enormous self discipline because you have to in effect give way to putting your needs to be recognised for all you can do and focus on showing value from what the clients needs. If you can do this, the upside of course is the one thing you can't learn or buy - trust. When you put others' needs first and use just enough of what you know to make the learning easier - well you build trust as a consequence. And this goes a long way to forging a prosperous career in change as well as maturing an organisation's capability and consideration of change. A worthy goal to aim for.
Whether we like it or not, Change Management is likely still a long way from being a standard capability across organisations. But with all the change that took place throughout the pandemic, we have a momentary window in which we can perhaps mature the wider world of business as to the value of bringing change management in at the start and as a result have more organisations treating change management as an organisational wide consideration and capability.