3 Aha’s to Sustainable Change

Are you contemplating or embarking on organizational, operational or technology changes at your organization? While change is inevitable, not all change is intentional and creates value for the organization.

Defining Why?

In a recent client engagement, a team comprising of some of us who are professionals in the field of change management were brought on to create a business case. This was done to secure additional funding for a multi-million and multi-year technology infrastructure project.  Now that I have had the benefit of hindsight, the benefit of answering the ‘Why?’ at multiple levels helped us in serving the client at a deeper level.

As with most others in the financial services industry, our client was looking to reduce its operations costs.  However, only when we started to ask questions as well as dig for and examine the data, did we understand deeper. Specifically, our client was making an investment in technology so that it could offer comparable capabilities as its peers.  Given the uncertain business environment both in the US and abroad, this investment became a red flag that was looked at as a high expense with little return.  While our short-term objective was to identify synergies and savings in the technology investments, the “real” reason for our project was to help our client communicate the position of badly needed investments. These were the investments that had been postponed for many years, which now, were essential for its long-term health. I am proud to say that I had the privilege of working with some very smart people and seeing how the real reason was communicated.

Skipping Steps Does Not Save Money or Time in the Long Run

With over 25 years in consulting and corporate, I had developed a 3-phase approach to change management or process improvement.  The 1st phase is the assessment of current state versus future state.  The 2nd phase is implementation of process improvements that require less than 3 months to accomplish.  And, the 3rd phase is the project management of activities that are longer in duration.  Recently, however, this is not what played out and I am guessing if you are reading this you have had a variation of the below happen to you.

In my effort to serve my client and provide specifically what I understood the client wanted, I veered off my 3-Phase approach. I heard and confirmed with the client when he said ‘We don’t need an assessment; we already know what’s missing. We just need to put in the right processes.  At the time, I thought “That’s smart. We can go right to trying out some of the tools I already have and since I already have them, this will take no time.” So, I happily opted out of the essential first phase of assessment and focused on delivering 2nd phase deliverables such as new processes and tools. This approach turned out to cause much frustration.  We learned that defining current state versus future state was exactly what was needed to validate or confirm why we wanted to put in place the processes and tools in the first place.  So, it was essential to do this step before diving into implementing processes and tools.

Using RACI in Roles and Responsibilities

In a small organization, it is critical to define roles and responsibilities during normal operations.  But it’s even more important to have this down before change in management occurs.  From my recent experience with a small team of five, we had developed a long list of change in management activities. This ranged from updating procedures, to training, to implementing tools and much more.  It was becoming overwhelming for my client to the point that I felt that the result of our project would be a pile of shelf-ware, sitting and collecting dust. However, on the suggestion of one of the client team members, we used the RACI model to ensure that each task had only one person responsible for the task and one accountable. In addition, it was very helpful to identify those who would be consulted on the task and those that should be informed of progress or of the result. This exercise elegantly helped us clarify roles and responsibilities.

This reminded me of an important lesson for consultants like myself. While we are right in focusing on delivering the ‘what’ – regarding the changes required, we should not overlook the very important conversation of roles and responsibilities with the client and their team.

Not sure you can do your next change management project on your own? You don’t have to. Let’s set up a time to talk. I’d love to hear about your situation and see if I can help. Call me at 917-689-9829 or email me at lshen@alliaconsulting.com and we’ll set up a time to chat.

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