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Enhance buy-in by decentralizing change management practices

The proliferation of change is causing organisations to rethink how they do things. Some are opting to decentralize their change management practices.

What do we mean by decentralized change management?

Our transformations are effected through a series of projects and changes. We know that if we want such projects to succeed, the people side of the changes must be well managed: employee buy-in to the changes proposed will make the difference between the success or failure of a transformation.

Many organizations cannot afford the luxury of offering expert change management support for every projects. Decentralizing thus involves getting other key stakeholders in the organization to take on that role and responsibility instead of having a single team plus a few employees deal with it.

In a previous blog, I suggested 5 simple ways to integrate change management into your projects. Today, let’s take a closer look at how you can decentralize change management and support the people side of your transformation.

Determine the impact each project will have on the organization

First, you will need to determine the impact of your projects/initiatives on the organization and assign responsible for them.

  • First, using a few indicators, define whether the impact on the organization will be low, medium or high.
  • Based on the level of impact, determine which employees are best able to assume the responsibility of the impact and apply measures to mitigate it. For simpler projects, you could likely assign the responsibility to the project manager or leader responsible for delivering the project, assuming they have the right tools, training and coaching. Save your expert employees for medium and high impact projects.

Simplify your toolbox

Change management teams often have a methodology and a large toolbox for managing more complex projects. To ensure ownership of the tools by employees who may not be experts, it’s advisable to cut back on the number of tools. Four or five tools grouped in a single Excel spreadsheet will be much less intimidating, while still enabling the employees to manage their change well. With some of our clients, we’ve limited ourselves to four tools:

  • A change narrative (to clearly identify the why)
  • Stakeholder analysis (the who)
  • Impact analysis (the what)
  • Business plan (the how and when) 

Provide change management training

Now that you’ve identified who should manage the change and how they should manage it (with the simplified methodology and tools), you will need to ensure that they have the skills to do what is expected of them. The training you provide should focus on ownership of the tools they are going to use, as well as on good change leadership practices and behaviour.

Experience has shown that timing and casting are key to maximizing training success. A winning formula is to train an entire project team (or at least those who have a role or influence in managing change) at the outset of the project. This will enable them to quickly make the link between the concepts they learn and the reality of their project.

Provide support for employees

The training lays the foundation, but the project team will still need support on a daily basis as they continue to learn the methodology, tools and best practices. They will face challenges, and will need experienced people to turn to for advice. There are three types of support you can provide: 

1. Change management community of practice

Create a forum for all employees involved in change management to get together and share their experiences. This type of forum provides a platform for people to learn from each other and develop together in the heat of the action.

2. Change champions

Identify change champions within the units that will be directly affected by the changes. They will be best placed to understand the impact of the changes on their teams and can act as ambassadors to prepare their units properly.    

3. Post-training coaching

Use your experts and champions to provide individual coaching for the employees who need it most.

Get senior management involved

For decentralization to be successful, leaders and managers need to support these efforts, stress the importance of change management, and recognize and celebrate successes. The last few years have shown that we need to become more adept at managing change. These tips can help you do just that.

What about you? What are the success stories about how your business has developed its organizational skills for more agile change management?

Joel Martimbeault

Director and senior consultant
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