In a world where change is inevitable, the capability to adapt is a necessity. Today we meet Alexander Suykens, Practice Lead Transformation & Change at Wemanity. He has one goal and passion: making change your second nature. Besides him is Joséphine Botermans, a change consultant, who is driven by effective change communication and uniting people for successful implementation. With this article, you will not only understand what is change management, but how to implement it successfully in your organization!
1. What is Change Management in Simple Terms?
Just like any individual or life form, companies must adapt to change in order to move forward, or should we say… Survive! However, adaptation is never a straightforward process. It involves getting out of your comfort zone to always stay in tune with a forever changing world and its VUCA market (acronym that stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity).
In the managerial field, Organizational Change Management is defined as the application of a structured process and set of tools for leading the people’s side of change in order to achieve a desired business outcome. It focuses on how you think about the change, how you will feel about the change, and how you will do things differently.
“In simple terms, its purpose is to change mindset and behaviour to facilitate the adoption of the new business model without losing efficiency and effectiveness. A metaphor can help in this case: If you see the new business model as the waterslide where your people reach success at the end, Organizational Change Management is the water that runs into the slide, making the ride more comfortable and effective.” Alexander Suykens
We at Wemanity see four kinds of changes;
- Culture changes, like going towards a feedback & psychological safety culture in a financial institution or a move from a public instance mindset to a private company mindset.
- Digital changes, like an ERP or CRM emeia-wide implementation at an industrial player.
- Systemic changes, like the implementation of an agile way of working and increased customer centricity enterprise wide.
- Mighty Change, the cocktail where all the previous 3 changes happen at the at the same time like a post merger integration.
“When understanding what is Change Management, you always have to separate the technical side of the change and the human side. Because you need to work on both equally. You can have amazing (technical) solutions to offer but with no clarity regarding the human factor, you will end up with nothing.” Alexander Suykens.
2. Why is Managing Change so Important?
According to a study conducted by the firm McKinsey with 40 companies, only 42% of them succeeded in fully achieving the objectives targeted by their change. The least successful companies are, unsurprisingly, those with weak change management skills, as opposed to those with substantial results. The main reason for the failure of a change resides in problems at the human level. Change management is therefore essential.
“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel. A quote by Maya Angelou that embodies perfectly what we want to secure with organizational change management. Set everything in place that makes your people and organization feel comfortable and ready for success about the upcoming changes.” Joséphine Botermans.
And it’s not just about feeling comfortable. Organizational Change Management enables tangible end results on all desired business outcomes.
“You need to manipu-help people. Well-strategized help for all involved that is intended to contribute for the better. It leads to an accelerated change where your employees feel prepared, equipped and supported. You will be 6 times more likely to meet objectives, 5 times more likely to stay on schedule and 2 times more likely to stay on budget. And that’s not us saying this, it’s PROSCI research backed-up by experiences of our clients” Alexander Suykens.
It does so by:
- Increased information and communication cycles within each layer of the organization via a communication hub, connects and a virtual cockpit
- Accelerated participation and involvement via co-creation and engagement initiatives
- The right level of upskilling at the right time via training, coaching and enabling sufficient practice time in a safe environment
- Sufficient visible (leadership) support by clarifying the (primary) sponsor role and other contact points visualized
“I have seen a company on one continent being 1 month out of business, to only closing shop for 2 days on the other side of the planet. The only difference? The latter had adopted proper change management solutions in their transformation approach” Alexander Suykens.
3. How Can a Company Identify What has to be Improved?
Of course, when you undergo a change process. You need to identify what needs to be changed. But how to identify your needs?
First, you need to understand the context.
“It can be a digital change: you are changing your tooling. Or a cultural change: you are moving from a public government company mindset to a more private one. Or a systemic change. Tailoring to the context and the change at hand is key. You always start with understanding the context via assessments and connections.” Alexander Suykens.
Assessments offer a way for companies to plan their next move before but also while navigating change. They can reveal the risks associated with change and bring a new perspective on what will constitute the change management strategy. They are backed-up by interviews (or as we call them connections) where we go more in detail.
It’s also a way to express that your change managers and the people involved or impacted are fully part of the journey ahead, so they don’t feel alienated or disengaged.
Then you identify the risks.
To anticipate the threats likely to disrupt the deployment of the project, it is necessary to answer questions such as: what are the brakes and the resistance likely to be shown by the employees? Is the company culturally ready to change? If not, why? What is the relationship of employees to work? What do actors impacted have to lose? What do they have to gain? What are their powers? What are the areas of uncertainty?
“It is not something you do once, it’s continuously done during the whole process. And this is why companies shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. Companies such as Wemanity create insightful dashboards that provide access not only to the needs but the effectiveness of the solutions deployed.” Joséphine Botermans.
4. How to Successfully Implement Change?
You need to unroot the cowboy stories as fast as possible
“Lack of clarity definitely happens and can have a very bad impact on change. Going as far as creating fear and anxiety from the teams who will feel overwhelmed or left aside. We’ve seen companies failing in their change management because they didn’t take in consideration the human factors and the disastrous impact of miscommunication.” Alexander Suykens.
The upheaval of habits and the disruption of the usual living environment of employees is never very appreciated. It is therefore necessary to seek to create a real individual motivation to change by using a systemic approach to communication. Interaction is the essential condition for the circulation of information. In order to capture not only the formal communication, but also the informal communication. The coffee machine chitchat as it were.
For this, internal communication management is essential. Change management essentially consists of listening to employees, and working for everyone’s well-being. Wemanity ensures that the communication extends beyond mere information sharing; it’s a call for inclusion. Otherwise, many negative consequences could slow down your project, or even cause it to fail.
“Internal communication is essential to support change in a company. It makes it possible to streamline transformations and win the support of your employees.” Joséphine Botermans.
Communication is only one part of the puzzle
While communication plays a vital role, it’s not the only key to successful change. Your overall strategy needs to entail more to become crucial. Imagine your company as a traveller, needing a clear map to navigate from point A to point B.
A journey map that includes planned activities like communication, leadership alignment, engagement activities, pulse checks, change agent connects but also holds enough room for ad hoc activities where you seize the momentum.
To achieve this, the company must outline and reveal the steps that make the shift possible. This way, they can include activities that will secure results today, but also results tomorrow. Additionally, we need to envision different scenarios, like imagining different paths to take on that trip. By doing this, we can predict how the change might affect things like information sharing, making decisions, getting everyone involved, and even how people are rewarded.
“The embedding plan for the new agile operating model emerged as the primary source for stakeholder alignment. It consistently guided us in prioritizing our next steps and progressing toward a unified objective” Joséphine Botermans
Strong and implicated leadership is your strongest asset
The transformation of companies leads to profound changes in the style of leadership. Indeed, managers must change their decision-making method to have the project accepted by all employees. The methods are thus increasingly inclusive and involve listening to employees, discussing ideas and regularly monitoring feedback. A manifestation of Wemanity’s approach, leadership becomes the bridge that unites vision and execution, echoing Alexander Suykens insight below.
“I have seen highly regarded leadership walking on stage and saying in their microphone “what change are we talking about again today…?” An excellent example on how not to reassure a room of five hundred employees about their future. You need leaders involved and visible in the change process and capable of explaining it’s a win-win for everybody.” Alexander Suykens.
5. How to Make Sure your Change is Sustainable and Ready to Evolve for Future Changes?
But even with all these pillars, the road is long and forever tricky. Change is an ongoing process that is as difficult to build up and as easily destroyed as trust. Change management strategies are continuously adjusted throughout. Like communication, planning and leadership you have to constantly track and manage resistance risks.
This approach must be integrated at all stages in order to identify and remove obstacles. And, like the need for resources and data, this process is only as good as the commitment to measure and analyse. Regular spot checks enabled by partner tools we use at Wemanity.
“To finish I would add: don’t forget to celebrate! Recognition of milestones achieved is an essential part of any project. In managing a change throughout its life cycle, it is important to recognize the success of the teams and individuals involved. This will help drive adoption of your change management process, as well as adoption of the change itself.” Josephine Botermans.
Moreover, Wemanity goes beyond the here and now, supporting sustainable change and future success. Wemanity provides reusable assets, design onboarding journeys for new team members and offer extra tools. This investment in the future ensures that your organization can confidently navigate forthcoming changes while maximising the potential of its resources.
In a context of constant change, Wemanity is a unique consulting group specialised in organizational transformation that helps companies build and sustain their organizations at the service of their customers, in an agile, efficient and responsible way. Discover our key expertise to lead your transformation from start to finish. To make change truly your second nature.
What is Change Management in simple terms?
Change management refers to a set of processes supporting companies, departments and individuals in the process of modifying their operating methods in order to adapt to the new realities with which they are confronted.
Why is managing change so important?
Proper change management can have a positive impact on financial performances in the long term and can act as a new lever for your business.
How to successfully Implement change?
Don’t lack clarity, plan ahead but most importantly: involve a strong leadership aware of the changes to come and inspiring enough to reassure all those involved.
How to make sure change is permanent?
Change management strategies are commonly adjusted throughout a project. Like communication, planning and leadership you have to constantly track and manage resistance risks and celebrate your milestones.