Eight signs a firm needs change management

22 May 2024 Consultancy.uk 7 min. read
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People can make or break the effectiveness of a company’s change campaign. Experts from Project One explain eight warning signs business leaders should look out for to ensure their transformations are not de-railed.

Driven by factors such as digital transformation, market disruption, changing workforce dynamics and evolving customer expectations, the pace of workplace transformations has shifted into hyperdrive. This has also made it increasingly challenging for organisations to predict and navigate change effectively – meaning firms must have an improved understanding of change management to avoid running into trouble. 

According to experts from Project One, change management is “the discipline that guides how we prepare, equip and support people to effectively adopt change, enabling delivery of successful outcomes.” Writing on the firm’s website, they explained that as people play a critical role in the successful implementation of change and transformation, staff cannot be perceived as “passive recipients of change; but as active participants who can drive, shape, and ultimately determine the success of change initiatives.”

Eight signs a firm needs change management

Failing to acknowledge this can hamstring attempted changes – so recognising eight key signs that a firm needs change management improvement is crucial. Project One adds that by noticing them, an organisation can “increase the likelihood of achieving their intended outcomes and sustaining benefits over the long term.”  

Unclear vision

The first red flag Project One’s experts point to is if the vision or objectives of the programme are unclear or constantly changing. This can lead to confusion and frustration among stakeholders. Change management processes facilitate the development of clear, specific, and measurable objectives, defined through engagement with stakeholders.   

Articulating the purpose, benefits and expected outcomes of change, in a compelling manner, is vital to fostering understanding, alignment and engagement with stakeholders,” they add.  

Resistance from stakeholders

Leaders also need to notice resistance or pushback from stakeholders. This is a “clear sign that change management is needed”. And to address it, firms must understand the underlying root causes of resistance.

The consultants note, “Conducting stakeholder focus groups is an effective tool to gather feedback and insights into their concerns and fears. Involving stakeholders in the change process can help mitigate resistance and increase buy-in. Change management encourages co-creation and active participation through every stage of the change process.”

Complexity of the change and anticipated impact
In particular, programmes involving complex changes, such as technology transformation, process reengineering, or organisational restructuring, require robust change management processes. As complexity increases the likelihood of resistance and unforeseen challenges, it is crucial not to underestimate how complicated any transformation is practically. As a result, “conducting a change impact assessment across various aspects of the organisation including people and culture, processes, technology and data, helps identify potential risks, challenges and opportunities associated with the change” can be an important step.

The advisors continue, “Change impact analysis is vital in defining what the changes mean, which areas, and which roles are impacted and how, and is a tool that should be revisited throughout the change process, allowing for ongoing evaluation and reassessment of the impact of change, making adjustments to change intervention plans as needed.”  

Significant impact on the organisational structure

When proposed changes can significantly impact the organisational structure, culture, values, or ways of working, effective change management is essential. Organisational change can have a profound impact on people, influencing their emotions, job satisfaction, skills, relationships, and career opportunities.   

The experts advise, “Effectively managing this type of change requires empathy, clear communication, support, and a focus on building resilience and adaptability among employees. By recognising and addressing the impacts of change on people, organisations can increase the likelihood of successful change implementation and create a culture that embraces innovation, growth, and continuous improvement."

Uncertainty or confusion

Linked to the issues around clarity of vision, uncertainty and confusion are common challenges in change management processes. They can arise due to various factors such as lack of clarity about the reasons for change, ambiguity regarding the desired outcomes, confusion about roles and responsibilities, or uncertainty about how the change will impact individuals and teams.  

“Clarifying roles and responsibilities is crucial, as it ensures that everyone knows their responsibilities during the change process,” warn Project One’s team. “This not only prevents confusion but also fosters accountability and collaboration. Moreover, promoting engagement by involving stakeholders in the change process empowers them and gives them a sense of ownership, making them more likely to embrace the change positively.”

Lack of Communication

One key way which leaders can avoid confusion, is to ensure effective communication. If there is a lack of communication or if information is being withheld, it can lead to rumours, misinformation, and increased resistance.

Project One’s consultants note, “Change management ensures that clear and transparent communication channels are established and maintained throughout the process. Take time to consider a variety of communication channels, that will reach all different types of stakeholders, and ensure your materials are eye-catching, informative and engaging. Effective communication and engagement help to mitigate resistance to change. By involving stakeholders early in the process, addressing their concerns, and keeping them informed about the reasons for the change and its expected benefits, organisations can minimise resistance and increase receptivity to the change.”

Missed deadlines, budget overruns, scope changes and outcomes not achieved

The biggest four challenges, when it comes to causes of failed change, can actually be exacerbated by a lack of change management. Change management processes ensure that stakeholders are aware of the implications of proposed changes on project timelines and mitigates the risk of unanticipated changes which could disrupt project schedules, leading to missed deadlines and costly overruns.   

To that end, “Firms should start with identifying the stakeholders who are impacted by the change, this includes those who have a vested interested in the transformation or who will be impacted by its outcomes. Take time to understand their needs and concerns. Conduct stakeholder analysis to assess their level of influence, their attitudes towards the change and the potential impact it will have on them. Engage your stakeholders early and often, incorporating their ideas into decision making. Finally, cultivate strong relationships with stakeholders based on trust, respect, and open communication.” 

Inefficient adoption of new processes or technology

Finally, if employees are struggling to adopt new processes or technology, it may be a sign that proper training and support are lacking. Change management helps to identify training needs and ensures that employees have the resources and support they need to succeed.   

“Collaborate with your stakeholders to define user adoption metrics, taking into consideration; 1) user engagement and interaction levels; 2) user proficiency; 3) user satisfaction; 4) usage metrics; and 5) time to proficiency. Set out transition plans that exceed your programme go-live date, outlining the vision as adoption continues to increase, and remember to celebrate achievements as you progress through each stage of the transition.”

What now? 

“The ability to lead, manage, and sustain change has never been more crucial,” explain the experts. “Successfully managing change requires experience, expertise, adaptability, empathy and a passion for working with people to make a real difference. Whether you’re implementing technology, process or structural change, at Project One our team is made up of highly skilled change management transformers who can make a significant difference to the effectiveness and success of your next change programme.”