The 5Ms of leading change

28 May 2019 -

Change managementHere’s how to manage the change process effectively

It’s a sad fact that many, if not most, change efforts fail to achieve their objectives, at least to some extent. Change management can be slow, painful and expensive. Many people find change difficult and may resist or try to hinder the process.

Many different models are used for leading change and CMI members will be aware of the ideas of writers such as John Kotter, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Kurt Lewin and Bernard Burnes.

But if you’re looking for some instant tips and quick wins, try these five Ms of leading change:

1. Make change actually happen

The most difficult part of a change project is turning ambition and creativity into something that actually happens, says former CMI president Mike Clasper CBE, previously chief executive of BAA plc, chairman of HM Revenue and Customs and senior executive at Procter & Gamble.

Trying to do something that hasn't been done before means taking some level of risk. But to help mitigate that risk, Clasper recommends a process he learned early on in his career. “In my early days at Procter & Gamble, I learned a model that I saw work repeatedly, which was to experiment, adapt, then scale. By running an experiment or trial you control the risk by not trying to roll it out it everywhere. But by running the experiment, you are also learning, analysing the results and then adapting it to make it better. Then you’re ready to scale it and do it at speed… before someone else beats you to it.”

2. Motivate your employees

Sustained change requires very high levels of motivation – you can’t do that without strong relationships of trust and respect across the organisation. So recognise that employees need to feel valued, to have their efforts and achievements recognised, and to be developed and challenged. Remember too that different people are motivated by different types of reward. For more on this, check out CMI’s “Implementing an Effective Change Programme” checklist.

3. Maintain momentum

The importance of sustaining a transformation sounds obvious, but organisations often neglect this long-term imperative because, understandably, they’re more concerned by the short-term gains. They underestimate the difficulty of employees kicking old habits and adopting new systems. New skills, intense discipline, and strong personal relationships are needed to maintain the momentum. The key to sustaining a transformation is to embed what at McKinsey they call an “execution engine,” a replicable process that fundamentally changes performance rhythms and decision making in the business. Incremental change is often a long process, consisting of very small and often imperceptible changes in behaviour and attitudes. But by developing strategies to create a renewed sense of purpose and urgency, you can help give fresh impetus and prepare the organisation to respond to setbacks and other challenges.

4. Monitor and evaluate

You’ll want, of course, to measure the results of your change programme against the goals and milestones established in the original plan. But are these goals still appropriate or do they need to be revised in the light of experience? Those initial performance measures may not be compatible with the changes being introduced and may hinder change unless they are revised. So re-check that all the measures used are consistent with organisational vision and goals – and if not, re-design them. And be honest in your assessment of progress. Be open about failure and involve employees in setting new targets or devising new measures.

5. Manage conflict effectively

Sign up to be a change manager and you’re signing up to be a conflict manager. Change usually brings about conflict of one kind or another, simply because people have different views and react to stressful situations in different ways. Try to bring conflict to the surface rather than allow it to fester; tackle it by examining and analysing it with those involved and seeking ways to resolve the issues. The upside? Conflict can often be put to positive use. For example, open discussion and clarification can lead to the resolution of difficulties and introduction of improvements. This CMI webinar on tackling difficult conversations could help you.

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