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Successfully Leading Change

Throughout the year, I assemble a mass of information about what is trending across multiple industries. I enjoy the opportunity to share in my clients’ diverse business experiences, perspectives, and approaches from their industries. My clients like to say on the cutting edge of information and technology, and it’s my job to make that happen. One of the most significant topics right now is change management. We talk about it and hear about it, yet most fail at it. I recently had the pleasure of attending a conference put on by the California Association of Healthcare Leaders (CAHL) and hearing what a panel of decision makers and trail blazers had to say about the benefits and challenges of change management. The mantra was people, purpose, and progress. I was so excited, I even tweeted about it!

Let’s face it: change is not easy. However, if organizations want to remain on a competitive edge, be an employer of choice, and be customer and people-centric, this is a necessary part of an organization’s evolution. Focusing on soft factors such as culture, leadership, and motivation provide elements crucial to success. However, managing these aspects alone isn’t sufficient to implement transformational or lean projects. Soft factors don’t directly influence the outcomes of many change programs. For example, visionary leadership is often vital for transformational projects, but not always. The same can be said about communication with employees. Moreover, it isn’t easy to change deeply ingrained attitudes or relationships in organizations and people. And although changes in culture or motivation levels can be indirectly gauged through surveys and interviews, it’s tough to get reliable data on soft factors.

What’s missing, I believe, is a focus on the not-so-fashionable aspects of change management: the hard factors. These factors bear three distinct characteristics. First, companies are able to measure them in direct or indirect ways. Second, companies can easily communicate their importance, both within and outside the organization. Third, and perhaps most important, businesses are capable of influencing those elements quickly. Some of the hard factors that affect a transformational initiative are the time necessary to complete it, the number of people required to execute it, and the financial results that intended actions are expected to achieve. Research shows that change/transformational projects fail to get off the ground when companies neglect the hard factors. That doesn’t mean that decision makers can ignore the soft elements - that would be a grave mistake. However, if companies don’t pay attention to the hard factors first, transformational programs will break down before the soft factors come into play.

How Measurement Equals Dialogue

When I am working with companies to incorporate change management, we immediately discuss how they will measure and track the development and the success of the initiative. It is important to have a metric or benchmark to follow progress. This needs to be determined early on. The ability to measure progress and have some type of process mapping tied into the organization’s value stream provides a compass to managing and achieving successful change. Employee involvement is a necessary and integral part of managing change. Managing change is not a one-way street. Feedback from employees is a key element of the process. Analysis, measurement, and corrective action based on the feedback provided creates a robust cycle for encouraging dialogue while implementing change and identifying opposition from employees.

Resistance Management

Resistance from employees and managers is normal. Persistent resistance, however, can threaten a transformational project. The change management team needs to identify, understand, and manage resistance throughout the organization. Resistance management is the processes used by managers and executives with the support of resistance tools and the project team to manage employee resistance.

Understanding the complexity and sensitivity of change management and how it affects the company culture is key to successfully leading change. Key elements in change initiatives companies should consider are looking at current state enterprises, leadership, systematic transitions, workplace safety, quality customer service, and an understanding of company issues. Other elements that need to be incorporated into your discussion are team members to initiate new processes, varying perspectives, and obstacles to innovation in making necessary changes.

Epiphany partners with organization to understand the processes that matter and matching people’s skills to align with the right job, role, and responsibilities. By asking the right questions such as, how do we recruit the best people to help manage this new enterprise? Who are the innovators in our company? Who are the best at taking charge, negotiating and persuading? Depending on the task, length, and intelligence needed, this process provides the perfect foundation to help an organization transform.

Consulting Engagement

As a consultant and strategic partner, I engage with my clients in problem solving by looking at their current state of initiatives, leadership, strategic planning, systematic transitions, human capital, quality of customer service, and embed myself in their company to understand multifarious issues. I work with decision makers to work through a preposterous assortment of demands and help them decide the best approach and solution to manage the workload.

The Paradox

There are organizations that struggle to push through change initiatives, constantly fighting to meet or attain successful modifications, some of which I pointed out earlier. What I have learned over the years as a business strategist is that change management is what organizations across all industries want to engage in but struggle to sift through. Even those that say they want and need to revolutionize the company refuse to climb on-board the ‘change bus’ when it pulls up. As a coach, this is one of the first things I hear from a CEO or President: “things need to change around here.” This is where I pull my seat closer and say “everyone says they want change, but are you and your people willing to do what it takes to make that happen?” This is where I begin asking the tough questions and discern if this is what is really needed, and, without hesitation, war that there will be a lot of pushback and resistance if they don’t get the right players on board to champion the cause.

No matter what industry, we all share a common denominator. Regardless of whether we want to implement change or are forced into it, we can’t do it alone. Change leaders, executives, and managers - learn the why, how, and what of change management.

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