What IBM’s Latest ‘Making Change Work’ Study tells Change Management Leaders

IBMs advice for change leaders

Rescued from bankruptcy itself by an aggressive organizational change instigated and overseen by Lou Gerstner in the early 1990s, IBM is now the world’s largest business IT consultancy business.

It seems natural then, given its history and its business focus, that IBM should be interested in the effects, failures, and successes of organizational change globally. Its second Making Change Work study published a few weeks ago, surveyed just short of 1400 professionals across 48 countries. Having had the time to reads and digest, I can certainly say it’s a report which makes interesting reading and provides compelling evidence for all change leaders.

The failure of organizational change

According to IBM’s study, almost half of all organizational change efforts deliver less than half of their expectations. Only one in five change management leaders reported real success: three-quarters of their efforts rewarded with expected or better outcomes. Unsurprisingly, the report discusses many of the factors required for successful organizational change projects.

Examining the organizational change process

The IBM report places great emphasis on the process of change management. Leaders of change have a responsibility to understand this process, and also to customize for their own requirements. In larger organizations, a process team will have the responsibility for ensuring the change project transitions successfully. A large part of its work will be in the examination of employee behaviors and attitudes, and their consequences. It will be this team which helps to determine organizational change policies, which may include coaching and training regimes; dissemination of organizational change information; putting the ‘message’ out, and even reward and incentive programs.

Problems experienced and reported to change management leaders are often caused by mismanagement errors, which include:

  • Employees lacking in the understanding of job responsibilities
  • Lack of training and coaching
  • Poor system of feedback in place
  • Failure to communicate the reason for organizational change
  • A lack of understanding of the benefits and expected outcomes of the change project

How change management leaders can help the change process team

Whether a small or large organization and a small, focussed change project or wholescale organizational change, the change process employed will be the determinant of success. The change project will need to be fully considered. It will need planning, costing, and investment. Then, for any chance of success, the change program must have the blessing and support of all those stakeholders affected by the change.

Even when the organization has identified the need to change, change management leaders should ask the question: “What would happen if nobody adopted this organizational change?”

Without effective change management leaders, and a change process to control the transformation, organisations change efforts will fail. Nothing will change, but the time, effort, and money spent on the change program will have been wasted.

Change management leaders are ultimately responsible for the success of their organization.

This responsibility starts with the setting of parameters around which the change process will be built.

5 Steps to create a change process plan

Before rushing headfirst into organizational change, it will be important to define the change process required. And before that can happen, change management leaders need a process to define the change process. Though each change project will be different, there are five steps change management leaders should employ in defining the parameters of the change process.

1. Define Success

The goals of organizational change should be defined from the outset. SMART goals will be:

Specific, Measurable, Assigned, Realistic, Time defined

2. Assess organizational change and its impacts

Who will the change project impact and what will the scope of that impact be? Assess any time constraints, possible resistance, and the type of change (systems, processes, procedures, organizational, etc). This will help to identify support needed, and to establish coaching, training, and reinforcement processes.

3. Identify risks

There will be risks to a change project. Change management leaders must identify these risks and plan for them. Plan for the worst and expect the best. By assessing these potential areas of failure, change management leaders can mitigate against them, possibly employing outside expertise. An unbiased organizational change expert will be focused on the job but not blinded by closeness to the subject.

4. Identify and appoint organizational change sponsors

People expect to see business leaders as living the change they expect. Change managers and influencers should also be identified, coached, and on-boarded to the change process. This change management team should be built with all affected stakeholders represented.

5. Communicate the change

The change management team will run the change process, so it is of paramount importance that change management leaders are able to communicate the stages of the change process. This, in effect, will form the outline model of the change process itself:

  1. Create awareness of the need for organizational change
  2. Create the desire to be a part of the change process and support the change project
  3. Impart knowledge of how to change
  4. Increase the ability to change, influencing behaviours and dealing with resistance
  5. Reinforce new behaviors, cultures, systems, and processes

Proper planning prevents poor change management performance

Studies like the IBM one have consistently shown that it is poorly planned and poorly managed organizational change projects that fail. By preparing the change process in advance, change management leaders will be able to align all elements of successful organizational change. Further gaps in change process effectiveness will be identified before they occur, providing a more positive experience for all stakeholders as the desired outcomes move into focus.

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