Change is an unavoidable aspect of business today. Historically, businesses avoided making major changes to their operations, yet with the rise of globalization, companies have needed to evolve in order to compete on a global scale. With this modern emphasis on change, many firms have been leveraging change management consulting to optimize transitions. With change management consulting, firms work with consultants to simplify the redirection of resources, budgets and other aspects of business operations and help make the reshaping of an organization a smooth process for all teams and individuals that are involved.
Components of Change Management Consulting
When companies want to implement significant changes to the operation of their business, they must take steps to make sure the process is productive. Change management consultants can assist companies through this process to ensure that they transition in an effective and efficient manner. The practice of change management consulting relies on several key components that all serve to accomplish this goal. Some of the most important components include outlining a vision, involving senior leadership, developing a change management plan, engaging stakeholders, creating supportive infrastructures and properly measuring progress.
Outline a Vision
Before change can be implemented, a goal outcome must be defined. Yet, far too often, a company faults by establishing a goal that is either too narrow in scope or unorganized in structure. A change management consultant can work with management to develop a goal that is fiscally appropriate, while also being optimistic about potential growth. By outlining the desired result of organized change, the objective can be more easily conveyed to the involved parties so that they are able to understand and connect with the benefits of the goal for themselves and the organization.
Involve Senior Leadership
Change management consultants understand that change must start with the leaders of an organization. Therefore, consultants work directly with senior leaders in the implementation of change initiatives in order to help to improve the likelihood of accomplishing desired results. For example, if staff sense that there is not a clear level of commitment from senior leadership, they may lose confidence in the changes being proposed. In this fashion, change management consultants can act as a mediator between opposing senior leaders, or even between senior leaders and staff.
Develop a Change Management Plan
To reach goals and objectives, companies should work with change management consultants to establish a clear change management plan. The first step is evaluating an organization’s current ability to change by performing a change readiness assessment. This is then followed by a risk analysis that determines any potential obstacles which may interfere with implementing change. The resulting plan should cover all aspects of the effort, including implementation, post-implementation, and institutionalization. Consultants and senior leaders can then use this change management plan to inform and decide whether to implement changes all at once or in phases.
At the center of any meaningful change are the people involved. Change management consultants can help firms by getting all stakeholders on board and keeping them informed. Even in times of resistance, if consultants effectively engage and communicate with individuals who are not sold on change, they can develop feedback on how to fine-tune change management plans. Engaging stakeholders can also help improve the effectiveness of sharing information about changes, helping increase stakeholder participation and support. By staying consistent and properly leveraging consultants, key messages for change are solidified and senior leaders can make quicker progress toward higher-level objectives.
Create Infrastructure to Support Adoption
When an organization operates in the same manner for an extended period of time, a culture is formed. To implement wide-scale change, consultants work with organizations to help modify or even completely deconstruct their organizational norms. By implementing training programs, effective strategies, and the provision of all necessary equipment, consultants help organizations create an infrastructure for adopting change.
The job of a change management consultant doesn’t end after implementation. After changes have been deployed, consultants should continually monitor progress. Identifying and tracking the best metrics to evaluate progress allows consultants and leaders to make adaptations when and where necessary. Measuring data can also provide firms with new ideas for potential changes, whether they be on a micro or macro level.
Model for Implementing Change Initiatives
Social psychologist Kurt Lewin designed a three-step approach that utilizes the components of the change management process and which change management consultants can leverage for assisting organizations with change. This process involves unfreezing, changing, and freezing. By effectively implementing Lewin’s approach, consultants can help ensure a smooth transition as they scale towards achieving higher business objectives and growth.
The unfreezing stage is predicated on preparing to implement change. With this step, consultants and senior leaders should understand the necessity of change and prepare to make efforts to move away from current operations. Ideally, this step involves motivating stakeholders to want change and begin moving the organization towards change. One of the key factors for motivating stakeholders is highlighting potential benefits and growth as a result of the change, because without this information, stakeholders may be hesitant to evolve.
Change management consultants know that change doesn’t occur all at once. Rather, it is a process that may have reactions along the way. The second stage of Lewin’s model focuses on the movement that occurs within an organization as a reaction to change. As many people are unsure about change at first, the initial changing stage tends to be a difficult one. Without adequate time and support for understanding change, there is a risk of stakeholders losing sight of the overall vision. This is where change management consultants can help by ensuring that the key objectives of change are constantly communicated and proper training is offered.
Once changes have occurred, consultants should monitor data to ensure the desired results are being achieved. The freezing step is intended to produce stability after the implementation of changes because through this stability, businesses are better able to expand and grow. As people accept changes they eventually find comfortable new routines. The objective in this stage is to cement changes to the overall culture while preventing regression to past behavior.
Real Life Examples of Change Management in Action
The frontrunner of airlines in the U.K., British Airways, needed to improve performance after a merger in the 1970′s. After hiring a change management consultant, British Airways was able to emerge from a state of crisis to become the multi-million-pound company it is today, illustrating the benefits that can be obtained by properly leveraging change management consulting. At the time, the organization was facing a lack of competent leadership as managers lacked project management and organization skills, resulting in constant problems and a consistent waste of valuable resources. This resulted in the company losing approximately 200 pounds (approximately $251.54 US) per minute in 1980. By 1981, British Airways had experienced eight-figure losses, pushing the company to take massive action toward managing the process of change. These actions ranged from investigating inefficiencies to using consultants to identify weak points in company culture and customer service. Problems were rooted out and consultants worked with senior leaders to ensure that changes were strategically implemented.
Another strong example of leveraging consultants for change management can be found when reviewing the history of Yahoo, particularly following Marissa Mayer being appointed as CEO. In 2012, Yahoo hired Mayer with hopes that she could steer business back on course towards profit. After being designated, Mayer was tasked with revitalizing the slowly failing company by changing Yahoo’s business culture. To do so, Mayer hired the consultant company McKinsey & Co. to help her replace Yahoo’s current bureaucratic system with a more democratic structure. The strategy that Mayer and consultants developed was the Process, Bureaucracy & Jams (PB&J) program. This program was designed to increase engagement by allowing people to provide input on what they think would be meaningful improvements to working at Yahoo. Within the first year, over 1,000 changes were made at Yahoo, resulting in an improved company culture that even those outside the company found attractive. This is evident from the 17, 000 applications Yahoo received one year after implementing the PB&J program, an increase in 2,000 applications from the prior year.
Change management consultants offer companies the chance to safely accomplish large-scale growth by means of planning, organizing, monitoring and acting as a mediator between leadership and staff. With the progression of globalization, companies will need to continue leveraging change management consultants to assist with their change management process to help ensure that their firms are effectively implementing initiatives for their long-term growth and success.
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Change Management Best Practices Guide, United States Agency for International Development
Changing the Culture at Yahoo!: Marissa Mayer's Challenge, IBS Center for Management Research