Organisational Change Management – What does the future hold?

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Welcome to week 4 of OCtober 16, a month dedicated to talking about Organisational Change Management (OCM). We’ve covered a lot of ground so far – talking about what OCM is and why it’s important, how to apply OCM using a framework for success, and how to be clear on who owns OCM to ensure accountability. Now it’s only fitting to look at what the future holds.

While Able and How can’t predict the future of OCM, we are seeing some interesting trends that can help us prepare for it.

Top five Organisational Change Management trends

OCM has come a long way over the years, evolving from a foundational understanding into a recognised discipline – and it’s created a huge buzz in businesses and organisations along the way. According to Prosci’s 2016 benchmarking report, 53% of organisations have change management job roles. While that is a 10% leap from 2011, it also means we are still only halfway there.

The good news is there are a lot of positive indications that OCM awareness and adoption is moving in the right direction. Here are some of the top trends we are seeing at Able and How:

1. The way organisations ‘change’ is changing

The world we live in today is increasingly fast paced, volatile and disruptive – just to name a few. Gone are the days when organisations could focus all their time and resources on planning and preparing for ‘a change’. Now they must juggle ‘constant change’, both internally and externally. This requires agility, speed and adaptiveness – three things that often clash with the way traditional organisations and their cultures operate. This means organisations must adapt to the new evolution of change.

Because of this, and in line with opinions that large-scale top-down plan-driven change programmes are failing, we are seeing a rise in innovative practitioners applying Lean and Agile principles to the field of OCM.

Able and How believes that by adopting agile thinking and more iterative, experimental and feedback driven approaches to development and execution of change plans, organisations will be better able to deal with the modern day complexity of change.

2. Organisational Change Management (as a discipline) is maturing, but not at the same rate across the globe

OCM has been a recognised discipline for over half a century, with thousands of books published on the subject. From this perspective, change management seems to be well established. So why is it that many are still reporting 60-70% of change initiatives fail – the same statistic we have been hearing for the past 20 years? While many OCM practitioners do not agree with this statistic, we have yet to prove it is not true.

One suggestion is that the rate of OCM maturity across the globe is not consistent, meaning that we are not all understanding, applying and measuring OCM in the same way.

Some countries such as Australia and the United States are far ahead of the curve in recognising OCM as a critical component of successful projects. In Australia, OCM is recognised as a formal vocation thanks to the likes of Christina Dean who worked with the Australian government to establish national competency standards and academic programmes from diploma to master’s level. In doing so, Australian practitioners and organisations are now better aligned on what OCM is and how it should be applied to businesses.

The United States has recently moved in the same direction as The Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) adopted guidelines established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop a credible global certification program called the Certified Change Management Professional. While OCM is becoming more recognised and valued in this part of the world, a lot of American practitioners and organisations still consider it to be part of project management (see here why we think PM ≠ OCM). Europe, on the other hand, is still at an early stage in the process. There are a lot of inconsistencies across the European region on what OCM is and who does it – and many only consider it to be a set of skills that are applied to leaders and project managers.

This is impacting the way OCM is delivered in maturing countries – where organisations and practitioners are not only focusing on how to apply it, but how to do it in a more educational and collaborative way. Able and How has seen this with our clients – who are asking not only for OCM support, but for coaching and mentoring of leaders and teams as part of the process. We believe this is a great way to build OCM capabilities from the inside out. By building OCM maturity within organisations, and sharing best practices from across the world, we can begin to talk about and apply OCM in a more aligned and consistent way.

3. Organisations are recognising the value of effective change management

We know that in order to remain relevant and competitive in today’s economy, organisations need to change constantly. When such a change is managed well, an organisation will thrive. Able and How believes the full value of transformation and change programmes can only be achieved by helping people adopt change. Executing a successful technical transformation/change alone will not deliver the intended value. People need to be brought on the journey to ensure value is not lost. Getting the people side of change right is a true competitive advantage. If you want to hear more about this, check out our quick video on people.value.results.

It’s taken a while, but organisations are starting to understand this point, shifting their view of OCM from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’.

As more and more organisations understand the value of ‘getting the people side right’, we are seeing more application of design-led thinking to OCM approaches. This means putting the ‘customer’ – either internal or external (and sometimes both) – at the heart of delivery, using personas and user experience techniques to design plans. We believe that doing so will allow organisations to remain focused on the people directly affected or impacted by change. This in turn will help them achieve the full value of each change effort.

4. Change Management is permeating all levels of organisations

As we say above, organisational change needs to be effectively managed on both the technical side and the people side. That requires OCM to be integrated into the process from the very beginning. Able and How believes that as businesses move from managing ‘a change’ to ‘constant change’ they need to ensure decentralised change capabilities across the organisation. This would allow all team members – whether their job title is software engineer, project manager, HR, communications – to understand and begin applying basic organisational change management principles to their projects or programmes. A recent McKinsey Global Survey found that when frontline employees take the initiative to drive change it elevates the success of transformations to a whopping 71%. If that’s not proof that we need to better integrate change management capabilities into teams, then we are not sure what is.

We are beginning to see innovative organisations and practitioners invest in developing change capabilities and collaboration across the business.

In some instances, that means co-locating change teams with the project to build capabilities or utilisation of scrum methods to drive more regular conversations. But it can also be as simple as offering dedicated resources or training opportunities for larger teams to understand the basic principles of OCM so that they can be incorporated earlier into projects and applications. In doing so, organisations can begin to build capabilities and understanding across the business to ensure more value is reached from their change projects both now and in the future.

5. Organisations are focused on building change capabilities of next-gen leaders

As many of the current leaders are reaching the age of retirement, organisations are preparing for what the next generation of leaders will bring. In many cases, the people taking on leadership roles are being groomed for the position today – and that includes the task of implementing major change within their organisations. In the process, they are learning a lot about what it means to be a good change agent and sponsor.

Able and How believes that if done correctly, next-gen leaders will come into their roles with a better understanding, ability and commitment to successfully lead organisational change management.

However, this new generation of leaders work and learn in new and different ways to their baby boomer counterparts. Because of this, we are seeing an increase in more digital change management support and delivery. For example, innovative organisations and practitioners are using digital platforms and tools such as Slack or Yammer to support the delivery of change. These tools allow employees to better collaborate and learn from each other – and they are easy to implement across organisations, borders and time zones. To ensure they are prepared for the next generation workforce, organisations will need to start focusing on building the capabilities of change teams and ensure they have access to the right tools and support.

The future is ours

OCM has grown, it continues to mature and needs to keep doing so in order for organisations to keep delivering value in an ever-changing world. But the rate of growth and maturity is partly up to us as OCM practitioners. So what can we do to ensure OCM continues to evolve in the right direction? We can keep learning more about it, keep championing it, keep sharing insights across teams and borders, keep talking to our peers about it and asking questions of our leaders. We can work together to drive sustainable change both within our organisations and within the field of OCM.

What are your thoughts? Does this article resonate with your own experiences around where the future of OCM is headed, or have you come across different views? Share your comments below, share this article, get involved and help us spread the word of OCM through organisations like yours.






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