“Many programmes fail because the change manager lacks the right experience, seniority and interpersonal skills. An effective leadership team should have a change architect: someone who is aware of both the strategic vision and the practical steps necessary to get there. He or she understands exactly how change impacts people and is able to influence employees and top management alike, to overcome resistance and avoid costly delays. Above all, a change architect keeps a constant focus on the planned benefits of the programme, and is not afraid to step in whenever these are threatened.”
Choosing your change leadership team may be one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.
The failure experienced by many large scale change initiatives is all too familiar. Productivity falls due to low morale and absenteeism; staff leave due to lack of career opportunities; delays creep in as unions fight proposed job cuts; and planned efficiency gains falter as employees struggle to master new technology. The real tragedy is that while such problems are well known, they continue to be repeated again and again.
The importance of the human factor in major change programmes was brought home when a large financial services company announced a major restructuring. After a hi-tech, upbeat presentation to staff, the floor was opened to the audience, with the executive team primed to discuss issues such as strategy, marketing and organisational design. The panel was therefore rather surprised when a lone hand went up, followed by the question: “Does this mean I won’t have my own desk anymore?”
Such a simple and unexpected reaction demonstrates the difficulty in translating a broad corporate vision into action. For organisational leaders, the intellectual argument for change is highly rational and compelling, whether it’s to reduce costs, increase productivity or move to a new operating model. Those impacted by the change, on the other hand, are naturally more concerned with how their daily working lives may be affected – and whether they’ll still be in a job in six months’ time.
In the rush to deliver a programme on time, ‘change management’ can become an afterthought, consisting of a hastily conceived communications plan that fails to excite employees. This problem is all too familiar to many organisations, yet seems to get repeated in each new programme. How can senior management stop this negative cycle of events?
Change architecture is the bringing together of skills, knowledge, experience, tools, resources and plans to design and deliver manageable and sustainable change to minimise benefit leakage.
Finding the right person to influence change
A change architect designs and oversees successful change
Traditional change manager
Works with staff to provide tactical support on issues such as communications and training
Gets involved mid-programme
Helps employees adapt to changes
Works with leadership, takes a strategic view of change that considers the impact onpeople
Helps leaders to shape both the content and style of the change programme
Gets involved at the start
Focuses on benefits and helps leaders to take tough decisions
All too often, leaders selected to oversee change do not have the most effectivecombination of attributes. When it comes to leading change, programme directorsmay be very process-oriented, financiallyfocused or results driven, but place a lower value on understanding how people are affected by change and how this in turn impacts benefits. Consequently they often struggle to grasp the complex personal and political issues at stake.
Probably the greatest weakness lies in the skill-set and experience of the typicalchange manager. Without the gravitas and authority of a respected senior position, it can be very tough to influence people at all levels in the organisation and persuade them to accept new approaches or alter direction. Having relatively little experience in pushing through major change, he or she may not have the intuitive judgment to spot the early warning signs of a poorly designed programme and to identify problems as they are. To counter such issues successful organisations are now including a change architect in their change leadership team.
When selecting a change architect, organisations should look for senior, highcalibre candidates that have worked on successful, large programmes in the past.
He or she should have a strategic and commercial outlook and be comfortableworking alongside the executive team. Another essential quality is a good insight into human psychology, in order to understand the concerns of staff. One particularly effective change architect was referred to as ‘part coach, part therapist, part pragmatist.’ Many companies also find that an external individual can provide greater independence and objectivity.
No two programmes are alike, so a successful change architect should be flexible and not rooted in fixed methodologies. He or she should instinctively know when to intervene and have the courage to step in and challenge both junior staff and top management – and the resilience to keep pushing when it’s important.
Given the scale of change in many organisations, and the high cost of failure, the change team members supporting the architect should ideally be selected fromthe brightest and the best of upcoming managers. It’s likely that these peoplewould also need additional training to help them fulfil their roles.
A successful change architect requires a rounded set of skills
Simona Cocos, general manager of drug producer Zentiva, part of the Sanofi group, explains how the clawback tax should be changed to limit its negative effects in the market, and shows her interest in partnerships with local companies that want to produce their medicines in Zentiva's factory in Bucharest