Simple Principles of Planned Change
As I think about planned change in organizations, I think of it as a conscientious decision which is made by some entity in the organization with the authority to bring about change. The change may be reactive and triggered by a current problem, situation, or business opportunity—for example, implementing a new MIS system because the old one is not robust enough to meet the current needs of the organization or the change may be proactive and based upon a vision or future desired state—for example, expanding internationally and opening ten company-owned distribution centers in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia.
In most cases, the “mechanical” elements of the change are easily identified and the reason for the change is clear to an organization’s sponsors—the money may be allocated for its funding; a flow chart or critical PAT chart describing what the activities are may be in place as well as a timetable for the implementation of the change; and there may be a list of preferred vendors to provide the technology, expertise, and training to successfully achieve the expected outcomes from the well-thought-out implementation. All these planning strategies should guarantee “smooth sailing,” but in many cases, smooth sailing becomes “tough sailing in stormy waters” and this is due to the lack of a planned “commitment process.” The planners of the change often fail to develop and implement such a planning strategy.
Planners of change must determine “who” in the organization must be committed to the change and the one to carry it out, if the change is actually going to take place. Traditional hierarchical organizations (and most of them still are) engage in the change process under the assumption of controlling the process by involving only those individuals in influential or powerful positions. In such cases, the belief is that they only need to: “Have to get a few people on board,” “Get the head honcho or CEO’s approval,” “Have the senior leadership team approve it,” “Have the majority of the IT people go along with it,” or “Get the blessing of the division’s head.” All of these examples speak to political “positioning” that infer license and inherent power to proceed with the change.
From my experience and what I advocate is—to achieve successful implementation of change, there must be a systematic analysis of the organization to determine those subsystems, individuals, and groups that may be affected in one way or another by the change. Bringing everyone on board from the very beginning, addressing their concerns and fears, and answering their questions will help them to gain clarity regarding the implications of the change in their specific situations. In my consulting practice, I have been surprised as to how much energy and resources are saved and how much resistance is minimized when there is a “commitment process” in place that has integrity—it is straightforward, transparent, and honest even when the outcome may have a negative impact with some people, functions, or departments. I believe it is human nature that “people want to know even if they are afraid of knowing.”