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Preparation and Management

A fundamental point in this change management Playbook is that effective change management is the result of extensive, specific preparation and vigilant management. A change’s success—or not—is largely set well before it actually happens. Understanding and knowledge of the environment, the people, and the history of change are essential to success. Success comes when change support is designed and executed according to plan in harmony with those insights.

Management of change management

Management activity is needed throughout the project, but the early period is particularly important and busy in this respect. Because effective change management is specific communication of specific messages for and in support of several elements of change persuasion, it is critical to be fully, broadly prepared. Because effective change management is about specific behaviour changes required of clearly identifiable people, those people have to be identified and the behaviours to change isolated. Their experience with prior change and personal interests affect their persuadability. Each person or group of impacted people is different, expanding the workload. All this may not be easy and may be time consuming, but it will nearly guarantee success. Remember: an organization doesn’t actually make change; groups don’t actually make change; individuals change.

In this Playbook, preparation has two equally important but distinct flavours. The first is simple. Preparation is all the actions needed to secure the resources, skills, and materiel to execute on the change management. That could be having the experts and/or hands needed both available and ready. It could mean ensuring printing, audio, video production capabilities are available. It could mean making sure facilities are adequate. It could mean having the necessary mandate and authority.

Preparing a team

Nuance to this simple understanding might include less measurable qualities like the team you will rely on being sufficiently capable—in change management or their necessary expertise/skill—to effectively execute their work. Gelling as a team is another qualitative preparation. If the task at hand is complex or requires speed, it will go better if the team working it has trust/social capital among themselves. Communication will be faster and stronger with many fewer (though still probably plenty), “That’s not what I meant…”

The more important type of preparation is the second kind. Preparation is all the research and information gathering done to understand the environment, the culture, the people, and the change. This is its infinitely harder aspect, which is why it is so often given short shrift if not outright ignored. It is, however, the far more valuable form of preparation.

Knowing the environment is just plain common sense to anyone with any experience whatsoever. From the personalities and inclinations of the individuals to be changed through to the culture of the organization and the incentive structures in place, acting in conflict with any one of these because of mistaken or misguided assumptions—or, worse yet, out of ignorance—will fail except by dumb luck or divine (CEO) intervention.

Considerations for preparation

It should be obvious that preparation is paramount. Nothing is too small. That said, here are things to consider, any one of which can or should trigger more areas for research:

  • What is the general, specific, and individual “mood” toward change in the organization?
  • Are those affected by change(s) risk-takers or risk averse? What about the organization generally?
  • How does the organization reward or penalize risk-taking?
  • How do people and the organization in general communicate (e.g., email, phone, text)?
  • How formal, hierarchical, and/or structured in any other way is the organization?
  • What examples of prior change in the organization were successful? failures? How heavily do their legacies weigh on the people?

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