Among the corporate truisms doing the rounds, perhaps, there is no more common truism than, ‘the only thing that is permanent is change.’ Ugh…Heard that ad nauseum! But, behind its unquestioned ubiquity lies a grim truth. With the onrush of globalisation and rapid obsolescence of technology, organisations are forced to be nimble in changing with the times. Only the fittest are able to stay ahead of the change curve. But, change has organisational, social and individual consequences. It is not always welcome, nor is its apparent benefit clear to all stakeholders. In such a situation, the mortality rate of change initiatives is very high, and, the extreme focus and commitment required to turn the corner are missing.
Reducing change to a process
One wise, not so well known, Management Guru, once told me, ‘if there is something unpleasant, but needs to be done, reduce it to a process.’ Once it is a process, it acquires its own sanctity and power. Sound logic, no doubt. Hence, however, tricky Change Management (CM) may be, some of the processes which work as catalysts can be leveraged to manage change initiatives.
The best known method is of course that of Uber Guru John Kotter’s 8 Step process for leading change:
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. Institute Change
This may appear simple and common sensical, however, it is not as simple as it appears. Execution is a tough nut to crack and is challenging. However, of late, there are more incisive tools available. One of the better-known tools is DICE. With the aid of the DICE tool, companies can assess the probability of success of change initiatives early in their lives. By evaluating projects with a standard scoring mechanism and monitoring those scores over time, the assessment helps managers continue to retain focus.
The tool gives the Manager a scoring mechanism to get a numerical sense of the initiative, and, allows him to monitor the project better. It also enables executives to gauge what is likely to happen if they shift attention and resources between efforts, which helps them make better-informed mid-course corrections. In addition, the scoring system helps turn challenges into conversations; everyone from the CEO to the junior team members will gain a standard basis for discussing change initiatives.
The DICE assessment
The DICE assessment measures four elements that determine the fate of every change initiative:
Duration. The overall project time of the change initiative, or, the time between learning milestones. The shorter, the better.
Integrity of team performance. An indicator of the team’s ability to complete the initiative on time on the basis of members’ skills, traits, and experience as well as the leaders’ competencies.
Commitment. The support for, and belief in, the initiative at two levels- the senior management level, and, among the directly affected employees.
Effort. The additional workload that affected employees must bear because of the change initiative.
The project team must score each of those elements on a scale from one to four and combine the weighted scores; performance integrity and senior executive commitment have a larger weight than the other parameters. The result will be a score that will range from seven to 28; lower scores are good signs, while higher scores indicate trouble.
1. If the score is lower than 14, it indicates that the initiative has a high likelihood of success; welcome to the Win Zone.
2. A score in the middle (between 14 and 17) shows that there is concern over the outcome’s likelihood; the initiative is in the Worry Zone.
3. Scores above 17 indicate that it is unlikely that the initiative will be successful; that is the Woe Zone. Once the DICE score moves into the 21-28 range, companies must accept that the change project will most likely fail.
By using the DICE tool to score change efforts that are under way, leaders can prioritize efforts, identify trouble spots, and, modify resource deployments to improve the odds of success.
Using the DICE tool over time changes the way companies manage transformation efforts. Indeed, it will help executives get better at the process, which will ensure that they no longer have to gamble with change.
The need for CM Tools
These are two of the prominent tools, and, there are a handful of tools out there which help us manage changes, including Deming’s famous PDCA tool (Plan, Do, Check, Act). However, the need to discuss CM tools in Learning and Development (L&D) is because in tandem with the tools, L&D can play the role of a catalyst in such initiatives.
We have already discussed the high failure rate of CM initiatives. One of the biggest reason why they face entrenched opposition is poor buy-in and suspicions, which remain unaddressed. Often, there is a thought that the communication department has a role to play here. However, apart from information and communication, it is more pertinent that L&D sensitise the work force over the long‑term implications for the organisation. During initiatives involving radical changes such as acquisitions and mergers, it is not merely sufficient to inform stakeholders, and, it is required that active support is generated. The Learning and Development department is in the best position to make this possible. Targeting learning exercises, particularly for middle Managers helps disseminate key messages across the organisation.
Next, remembering the Hawthorne experiments, it would be good to recall that employees appreciate investments made in them, particularly, in developing their competency. This allows L&D to engage with employees as few other departments can. Leveraging this credibility helps better acceptance of the message of change. And, particularly so, when the message is woven in with the mission, vision, values and strategies of the organisation. A stand-alone message never has the power which a contextualized message has. And, no better department than the OD or L&D teams to play the role of a catalyst in this situation.
The point that really needs to be driven is that fears and negativity are unavoidable in any change situation. But, there is always a choice before the Leadership. It can let those sentiments run riot in the organisation, fuelling the rumour mills, and, undesirable attrition, or, the L&D Teams can address their fears and anxieties with in time disbursal of information, and, if need be, providing the much-needed support in trying times of change.
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