Managing complex change. RiverRhee Newsletter, September – October 2017

By Elisabeth Goodman, 11th October 2017

Why choose the topic of complex change for this newsletter?

In August, the APM Enabling Change SIG proudly released its first publication “Introduction to Managing Change”.  It was the culmination of the SIG’s first 2 years of work, and a publication I am pleased to be a co-author of.

APM Introduction to Managing Change

APM Introduction to Managing Change

As described in the opening chapter, the purpose of this book is to “introduce the importance of managing change effectively”.  It describes key principles and practices and provides guidance on applying different methodologies and on the resources available.

Autumn’s issue of the APM’s Project magazine appropriately features an interview with Dr John Kotter, one of the gurus on managing change, whose eight-step methodology was outlined in his 1996 publication “Leading Change”.

Kotter’s methodology is one of those referenced in “Introduction to Managing Change”, and is expanded upon in the Project interview, in the context of complex change.

Last but not least, the concept of “complex change” is one that many of our clients will be familiar with, as exemplified by a couple of other recent publications:

  1. An article in Labiotech, with the CEO of the Babraham Bioscience Technologies, the organisation responsible for the Babraham Research Campus in Cambridge, UK.  This describes some of the complexities that small Life Science organisations experience as they seek the resources and opportunities to translate new ideas into tangible revenue and growth.
  2. A House of Lords Library briefing on Globalisation, Technology and Demographic Change and the Future of Work reflects some of the underlying complexities affecting all sectors of work.

So how can complex change be managed for a successful outcome?

As Kotter explains in his interview for Project magazine, his eight-step process still applies, even to complex change programmes.

The challenges brought by scale and complexity are two-fold.

Firstly, leadership teams need to maintain operational excellence whilst steering strategic change – something that they are not always best-equipped to do. My recent blog outlines why and how senior management could pay more attention to operational excellence (The blog is based on a Sept-Oct 2017 Harvard Business Review article by Sadun et al on this topic, describing insights from 15 years’ of research with more than 12,000 organisations in 34 countries.)

Top of the list for maintaining operational excellence is commitment from the top: ensuring that there is a clear vision, visibility and role modelling by senior leaders – themes that also feature at the top of the APM Enabling Change SIG’s, and RiverRhee’s key factors for successful change.

The second challenge of more complex change is how to ensure that all those affected by the change are optimally engaged in helping to make the change a success.

We know that what people find most difficult about change is the associated uncertainty, and the lack of control, as referenced in a previous RiverRhee newsletter on dealing with change  Providing information as early as possible, and finding ways to involve people are key ways to counteract these difficulties.

enabling-navigators-of-change

Kotter’ three strategies for ensuring success, referenced in the Project article are to:

  1. Involve lots of people
  2. Win over their hearts as well as their minds
  3. Give them freedom to act

This type of involvement will need some careful and coordinated steering and management!

So, as Kotter also says, complex change will require involvement from experienced change management specialists, above and beyond skilful steering by a programme or project management team.

If you would like to know more

RiverRhee’s training courses, workshops for teams and one-to-one coaching are designed to create exceptional managers and teams.  How you manage any type of change will contribute to that excellence.

Managing Change is one of RiverRhee’s training courses for managers and teams coming up in November and December.  Other courses in the next few weeks include: Introduction to Lean and Six Sigma, Introduction to Project Management, First Steps in Selling, Coaching Skills for Managers, and Transition to Leadership.

All of these topics and more are also available as in-house workshops and can be covered in our one-to-one coaching.

Do get in touch if you would like to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, our range of off-site and in-house workshops and one-to-one coaching, and how we can help you to create exceptional managers and teams.

See the RiverRhee Consulting website or e-mail the author at elisabeth@riverrhee.com.

Other notes

John Kotter’s eight-step process, as summarised  on page 21 of the APM’s “Introduction to Change” are: 1. Create a sense of urgency; 2. Build a guiding coalition; 3. Form a strategic vision and initiatives; 4. Enlist a volunteer army; 5. Enable action by removing barriers; 6. Generate short-term wins; 7. Sustain acceleration; 8. Institutionalise change.

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