Who’s afraid of Change?
Answer: People are
OK, so when there’s a leadership discussion on changes in a company, they consider the impact on people, right, it’s obvious? Errm…maybe.
It was Woodrow Wilson (US President 1913-1921) who said, “if you want to make enemies, try to change something”. And it was Mary Anne Radmacher (author & artist) who said, “change of any sort requires courage”. Perhaps then, we are fearful of informing people about changes because it would take courage and make enemies…. bit of a dilemma really.
But if you Google (or Bing) “why change fails”, then 27,500,000 results will tell you of many reasons: ineffective communication, resistance, can’t change the culture, lack of training, losing employees, ignoring key stakeholders… the list goes on. And if the “only constant in life is change” (Heraclitus), then we really do need to plan for it, prepare people for it and promote the change, to ensure that the envisaged benefits are realised.
And that’s, basically, the essence of this white paper: plan for change and start the planning early. We need to be pro-active, not re-active when it comes to planning.
Let’s look at two scenarios. Business Changes and Mergers & Acquisitions.
- 1. BUSINESS CHANGES
From 1989 to 2019, the message is the same. Success is hard to find when implementing changes to systems, processes and ways of working. Questions:
- What is Success? Success is ultimately realising the business benefit that was anticipated when embarking on the changes.
- Why is Success so hard to find? Because the changes are not adopted nor utilised as well as they should be.
- Why is that? Because people are afraid of and do not accept change and people are the key to successful business change.
- How can we ever make a change successful then? Well:
- make the change essential for everyone
- make the new ways of working feel inspiring
- answer everyone’s concerns/questions about the impact on them
- explain the implementation journey and guide people through it
- enable everyone to use the new methods/systems
- benchmark, then continually measure & communicate the improvements
Success can be found by having a People Change Plan, that focuses on Stakeholder Management, Communication, Training and Benefits Realisation.
- 2. MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS
In the pre-m&a phase, the focus is on financial assessment and analysis. But concentration should also be given to organisational differences (and similarities) and employee concerns, because this is also the time for employee resistance, rumour and resignation, as they become anxious and concerned over their futures.
Two tasks should be included in the pre-m&a phase plan:
- Carry out an EDEM Scorecard® review of the two organisations. This will provide information on where there are differences and similarities in their non-financial dealings. This will then be a solid foundation of knowledge on which to produce the second task.
- Develop a People Change plan. This will initially focus on Awareness and Communication, ensuring that everyone knows what will happen and what changes there will be, developing the shared vision and creating a harmony between the organisations. People will have concerns and questions about their jobs, roles, IT, data, Clients…indeed about everything. So, address their concerns and answer their questions. Then continue the plan into the next phase.
In the post-m&a phase, the integration could take time. Day 1 may be a big celebration, but the integration itself may take some months. The People Change Plan should continue to be developed and include the necessary training and “preparation for integration” communication.
That’s it then, isn’t it? We’ve retained the talent through the merger/acqusition, we’ve celebrated the change, integrated the teams and trained people on the new systems…but there’s one other task that should also be in the post-m&a plan:
- Develop an Employee Engagement plan. Use the information gathered from the EDEM Scorecard® review and see if there are things that can be developed, incorporated or enhanced. Is there a proper on-boarding programme, is there a good recognition scheme in place, are the promotions still ad-hoc and so on? Now that the new organisation is integrated it’s time to make it the place to join, the place to shine, the place to grow and the place to be and create a unified organisational identity.
This article was written by Trevor Pullen, a veteran of hp and M&A business change management specialist
Trevor is also an Associate of TRUEDIL and a member of the IBD network