Teflon change that doesn’t stick

Posted by Jon Kennard in Leadership on Fri, 11/18/2011 – 08:00

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How well does your company deal with change management? Patrick Mayfield has a few things to say on the subject.

There was a time when change was something that you ‘controlled’ within a business, when only the real core business of delivering projects – the golden triangle of time, cost and quality was considered. The emotional side of change management was completely marginalised.

Fortunately, the advent of transformation programme management, which brings with it a strategic focus, now takes organisations through major change and leaves them in a radically different and improved state at the end of it.

The whole business of changing behaviours is central to change management as well as integrating with other areas, such as leadership and benefits realisation management. This integration is essential if business managers are to fully understand business change needs and to deliver real and sustainable change.

“It’s not enough to think about a project as being a set of tasks or a set of reports; it is as much about relationships and people.”
Twenty years ago, people working in project management used to think there was a sort of wall between what the project people did, IT people for the most part, and what business did. From time to time the project people would lob things over that wall and the business would lob things back if they weren’t satisfactory.

It’s not enough to think about a project as being a set of tasks or a set of reports; it is as much about relationships and people. Yet still today a lot of project management focuses on the theory around tasks, processes, documents and delivery and then stops there, with no consideration given to the benefits to an organisation, despite the huge investment made.

Research from Sigma UK, specialists in benefit realisation management, suggests that we could be wasting something in the region of £50bn per annum just in the realm of information, communication and technology (ICT) projects alone in the UK. Research done by Sheffield University into the levels of investment in project management indicates that currently more than £100bn per annum is spent across all kinds of organisations, large and small in ICT within the UK economy right now. When you look at the statistics of success and the return on investment, its typically very poor.

We need to continue concentrating on what we’re doing during the traditional project lifecycle, as clearly things are still going wrong. But money is being wasted by ignoring the benefits realisation after a project has ended. In other words, we’re getting Teflon change – it doesn’t stick.

There is a tendency in too many organisations to expect change consultants and trainers to come in and just deliver PRINCE2, or another methodology. What they should be doing is looking for best practice from within. The majority of people want to do a good job and there are bound to be pockets of excellence in every organisation from which leaders can be found to deliver change and continue to deliver beyond a project.

I believe that one of the reasons why project managers and business managers are so blindsided to change could be that ‘change management’ is a misnomer. Rather than talk about change management, perhaps we should be saying change leadership. Managers tend to ask “What do we need to do and how do we need to do it efficiently?” whereas a leader would ask much more perturbing questions like “Why are we doing this? Why is this helping us with our strategic purpose?”

There is great power in giving people a clear reason why something needs to be done and if managers adopt a stronger leadership role, then change is more likely to happen smoothly and have a better chance of sustainability.

We need to be careful in defining leadership in this context. Leadership obviously has to come from the top of an organisation, but there is also tactical leadership which business analysts, project managers and operational managers all need to take on board. They all need to step up as leaders, explaining why there is a need for change.

“Leadership obviously has to come from the top of an organisation, but there is also tactical leadership which business analysts, project managers and operational managers all need to take on board.”
It’s important that the picture of the future is communicated from senior management but it also needs to be communicated by the direct line manager into everyday implications for the person concerned. So from both perspectives they can say, “Yes, now I get it and now I see the reason for change.”

It is helpful to accept that every organisation and culture is going to face resistance to change and the best way to deal with this is to treat resistance as normal. In fact in the context of change, resistance can be helpful – if fundamentally all individuals tend to behave the same in the context of change, then we begin to see how we can better influence groups and how we can lead them through change.

Patrick Mayfield is chairman of pearcemayfield a leading international provider of learning solutions and support services in leadership and change management through projects and programmes. Patrick is an original contributor to the project management method PRINCE2® and an author of Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®)

 

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