Change management consultant Mike Lehr is a change manager and President of Omega Z Advisors.
In this article we explore those events where businesses can prevent costly errors when facing change within their organization.
If it weren’t for crises, most change would not occur. ~Mike Lehr
When it comes to making sense of change management, there are many change management models. That means there are many ways of managing change in the workplace. It also means that there is no one-size-fits-all change management template. A key task of a change management consultant then is to assess what type of change management plan will work best.
This begins with understanding:
- What change is?
- What problems does it create?
- What does a change management consultant do?
- Why do we need change management consultants?
What is Change?
A good, basic definition of change is when we think, feel or do anything new. Change might involve one person, two people, a family, a team, a group, a department, an entire firm or even a whole nation.
The self-help and coaching arenas often focus on individual people and families. A change management consultant often focuses on teams, groups, departments and companies. This is organizational change.
What Problems Does Change Create?
Change creates many problems. People often lump them together though. They call it resistance to change. When they are not successful, they point to too much resistance as the problem. The problem with change is that it creates resistance.
While funny it simplifies the problem too much. It makes faulty emotional links too. Change is even more difficult then. When something bothers us, our first reaction is to get rid of it. Our first reaction with change then is to get rid of it.
The problems change creates will vary in type and degree. That means the management tools and other tools we use will vary too. For example, these aspects of change can cause problems to vary:
- Number of people
- Types of people
- Work culture
- Company history
- Preferred decision-making style
- Planned or unplanned
- Timeframe (Urgency)
These problems can tax management, human resources, project management, risk management and management and business consulting resources. This is because when we strip away all the theory, models, processes, strategies and types of change management, we come down to one thing. It is about people. The only question is how much we believe that.
Changing how a computer works or an entire network requires far less effort than changing what a person does or an entire organization. In fact, change management is not even part of a technological change until it involves people. Change can stress:
- Company cultures
- Established habits, traditions and precedents
- Organizational structures
- Reputation, public image and good will
- Training capabilities
- Management skills
- Decision making
- Power structures
- Office politics
- Company self-identities
What Does A Change Management Consultant Do?
A change management consultant helps others in leading and managing change in their organizations. Change managers are change management consultants except they play a more direct role. It is similar to that seen in project management by project managers and program managers.
A change management consultant looks at change comprehensively. It is not just about changing networks, reporting structures, processes or management styles.
That means internal cultures, office politics and individual relationships are bigger keys to effective change management than vision, strategy, mission and processes. They are the soil upon which we plant the others.
The seeds of great ideas will not grow in poor soil. That is often the frustration people run into when they try the latest, greatest idea. It fails them and they wonder why.
Change management consultants assess the soil and the business demands. They determine what the soil can support. They add what it needs to support the change at hand. They then get the seeds, tools, processes and talent that will yield the planned change.
Why a Change Management Consultant?
Implementing change in the workplace will not meet full success without assessing internal cultures, office politics and key relationships. It is why most reorgs and change initiatives fail.
Managing organizational change without doing this is like leading an army into battle without knowing what the terrain is. It is like staging a play without knowing what the stage is like. It is going to market with a new product without any market research.
This link to people makes leadership and change management go hand in hand. The base word of leadership is “lead.” Lead means moving from one place to another. Leading is changing. That is why the true test of leadership is change.
It is this focus on people that makes change management consultants different from traditional business, management and organizational development ones. It is the difference between a home and a house. A change management consultancy assesses culture, relationships and personalities.
Another key difference is movement from one state to another rather than a focus on optimizing the current state. This is change versus incremental change. As the problems created by the change grow, the more likely a change management consultant or change manager is needed.
Too often though, we hear, “Change is constant.” This is often the rationale others say that they must have a change process worked into their models. For them change is always there. It is nothing out of the normal.
This does not work though. It makes successful change management less likely. People need time to adapt to change. They can take on more then. Even our bodies need this. They need time to adapt before taking on more.
We can take on more change quicker and better, if we view it as steps not constant. We can change heights faster and better with steps than with a ramp. The steps not only serve as rest stops but as strong launch pads for the next step, the next phase.
That is why change management planning often has a series of steps or phases. This is very true if the change is complex.
For more on what to look for from this type of plan, please request our change management planning checklist. It is a great tool for anyone who see a strategic change in their future. A change management consultant and change manager will find it helpful too.