Organisational change can often be a dramatic process. Regardless of the size of the change, businesses and more particularly those that are impacted, find themselves in challenging positions traversing through the complexities that unfold.
Whilst I have a deep appreciation for the research and findings in neuroscience and human psychology which is incredibly useful in informing specific change strategies, What I would like to focus on here is the overarching model which I have termed, for simplicity sake, the 3C's.
Simply put, the 3 C's of Change provides me with the basic tenants from which to build out a deeper set of strategies. In effect, it defines the different stages of the change that needs to be addressed, these being - the motivation to change, the capability to change and the sustainability of the change.
Now, in no way do I wish to oversimplify the complexities of organisational change with this concept. The sole intention is to provide a high level model that to date continues to influence my thinking and delivery approach:
The 3C's of Change are:
1. Building commitment
First and foremost, any change requires the explicit support and commitment of the staff impacted. Undoubtedly, this can be the hardest part of any change program, however, is often rushed or overlooked due to tight time frames and deadlines. In my experience, spending considerable effort and time to build commitment upfront will often expedite the rest of the change program through the strong coalition of support backing the change. I have written previously on the notions of priming and anchoring that can help build that commitment early.
Importantly, commitment for the change requires leaders making themselves available to actively and visibly sponsor the change. The age old saying of 'if it interests my boss, it interests me' is very relevant here. It must be said that senior leadership support is the single most important pre-requisite for success with this tenant.
Secondly, a clear articulation of the 'why are we changing' and 'what is changing' is fundamental. 'The burning platform' will help staff with important context as to the need for change. In particular, customer facing roles require clear articulation of the customer benefits.
During this phase, staff involvement with the change can only be of benefit. Empowering staff to help with decision making will remove the stigma that the change is being forced. Additionally, the identification of early adopters and change advocates to help promote the change will provide crucial support.
2. Increasing capability
Staff capability to operate/behave effectively in the new environment is critical to the success of the change program. In my experience, one of the biggest sources of resistance occurs when staff feel they will be unable to perform the activities or have the skills required to be successful in the 'future state'.
To this respect, providing early visibility to staff that they will be set up with the knowledge and skills for success is important in alleviating these fears. Furthermore, the capability uplifts should be directly related to the change and provide direct correlation to their new responsibilities, accountabilities., behaviours, skills, etc. Any distractions will further add to the resistance.
During the capability phase, devote enough leadership time towards attending and corralling staff to participate in the training/briefing/coaching sessions. Leaders should also ensure staff are able to absorb the content during these sessions by removing external distractions and tasks as much as possible.
Equally import is the timing of the capability sessions to ensure transferability of the learned skills/knowledge into practice. For long lasting neural connections to be formed requires a period of sustained practice to embed the learned skills. As such, a lag between learning sessions and practice will often amount to ineffective transfer of skills, knowledge, etc.
3. Restructuring controls
Due consideration must be given to the existing controls and governance mechanisms that drive behaviours and performance. Revisiting existing staff incentive programs, reward and recognition programs, KPI's etc. will identify whether they still align to the new world requirements. Where there is in-congruence, every effort should be made to make the necessary alterations prior to the change going live.
I have found it important to have a balance of individual and team based rewards and incentives to drive a balanced approach to work culture. For instance, a heavier focus on individual rewards will drive individualistic behaviours and dampen team collaboration and sharing for example.
Lastly, ensure that management reporting and relevant metrics are available to ensure the change can be tracked over the medium to longer term. The availability of such crucial lead and lag metrics, insights and information will empower leaders to take appropriate interventions where there is inertia.
Clearly the Three C's of change is in no way a comprehensive approach to lead a change program. With that being said, I hope it is a thought provoker for your change journey!