Change Management: A Key Player in Your Starter Team
Throughout my work at different organizations in the change management field, I often wondered why change management is not brought in at the very early stages during strategy development! In most cases, change management is not considered until the organization strategy is finalized, all the initiatives have been mapped out, the sponsors are identified, and the teams to implement each of the initiatives are already in place. But is that really the right time to engage change management? I would argue at that point, it may already be too late!
In mature organizations, change management is not only considered when major changes are being introduced – it is more of a “lifestyle” for the senior executives and managers of that organization. It is part of the core values and the competencies of every manager. It is built into their everyday work and it is definitely built into their strategy development process.
So why should you bring in change management in the early stages of strategy development as opposed to after? Here’s some food for thought:
- To ensure full engagement by all stakeholders – When defining your strategy, you need the involvement of all levels of the organization. If people are involved in the definition and setting the direction for the organization, they have a bigger stake in the game and are more committed. What better way to engage your employees than to have them involved in the development of their own strategy. You’ll find that employees are passionate about the organization and have lots of creative ideas that can be considered while developing your strategy and your value proposition. This does not only apply to your employees but also to your customers, partners, and suppliers. Ultimately, you’ll have a better targeted strategy and all your stakeholders are ready to execute.
- To ensure proper alignment of your sponsors – In most cases, sponsors of key strategies and initiatives are identified purely based on their function. By doing some initial interviews and assessments for your full executive team, you can align the sponsors to the areas that they are most interested and enthusiastic about. A passionate executive can do wonders to your strategy and to the engagement of his or her employees.
- To jump start the execution of your strategy – change management and resistance management plans can be developed as the strategy is being defined. As soon as the strategy is finalized, all sponsorship and communication activities can be already in place and ready to go. You won’t have a lag time until you involve the change team to figure out how to cascade down the strategy and how to gain buy-in at all levels to support the successful execution of your strategy.
You can argue that you do not need change managers for this. Strategist and strategy architects can be the ones doing this role as part of their strategy development work. My answer is sure! As long as it is being done, it does not matter who does it. The discipline of change management should be in place regardless of who is doing the work. Every single manager should have the change management competency and should practice it in all his/her initiatives and interactions. However, you will find that strategists and strategy architects are so focused on figuring out the strategy that they do not have time to address the employee engagement and the change management aspects.
To lock in an early win and ensure a team game, change management should be part of the starter team during strategy development and not only in the second half of the game as part of your defense team.
Do you see your organization benefiting from bringing in change management in the early stages of strategy development as opposed to later? How?