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Change will succeed when turned into a shared process involving everyone concerned as soon as possible. The sooner grand vistas and abstract change objectives are turned into compact and concrete steps in daily work, the more likely change will be successful. All very logical on paper, but not yet regular practice in real life.
Planned change is often managed in programs and projects – including ‘change managers’ and ‘people who have to change’. Real working life demonstrates time and again that implementing change as much as possible as part of daily work and involving the people carrying it out yields better results. So, what is needed for that route? In our view, successful change processes center around the interlinkage and interaction between four factors: direction, room, the day-to-day and enablers.
Everyone involved sticks to a shared image/story of the targeted change (direction) during the entire process: what are our objectives and how are we going to meet them? The image/story should be sufficiently focused and directional to serve as a filter in decision-taking and has to be concretized further as the change process proceeds.
Everyone involved in the change takes on an active role in the change process, can influence the process and wherever possible come up with initiatives as well as can experiment. The room to maneuver can differ depending on the nature of the change: a large restructuring will have limited room only compared to a targeted change in organisational culture.
Change is embedded in employees’ everyday work as much as possible, related to the daily run of their team or department, and staff’s concerns and ideas are taken into account.
Every change process has to be adequately supported for success. For instance, by dedicating resources, adapting processes and systems, developing skills or adjusting the physical environment people work in. Support includes communicating effectively with the relevant people and inspiring them in relation to the change. Another support element is aligning the formal management control process with the targeted change.
In our view, change results from the continuous dynamics between the concepts of direction and room. Their dynamics set organisations in motion. It’s in day-to-day reality, in the day-to-day run of organisations that changing transpires. The daily run serves as a pulse check too, alerting the organisation to any need to adjust change processes. The concept of enablers is targeted at ensuring the necessary conditions for change change are met at all times.
All together. the four factors of change impact the organisation continuously. Direction without room is top-down change, enforced on people. Room without direction results in a disorientated and endless change process going nowhere. Not linking to people’s day-to-day work devaluates change to a paper tiger. No enablers allow people to come up with endless excuses not to change.