(Originally published on Bloomberg Government, November 2016)
By Dr. Victoria Grady and Dr. Patrick McCreesh
The Trump Transition Team is tasked with filling approximately 4,100 jobs in less than three months. Change is coming. Not only will the leadership and other critical positions be filled with new faces, but the policy and process will likely change too. Our first article highlighted what change might look like and introduced the value of using change management to improve the probability of change success.
What is change management? We define change management as an approach to introducing change that accentuates and underscores the impact of the people side of change. Change management is the engagement, education, and encouragement of stakeholders throughout the change process to maximize the potential of the change effort (ROI) and the likelihood of sustained change.
Why does it matter? Simple: If no one uses your solution, the investment was wasted. Leaders consistently cite that 60-70 percent of change efforts fail, but more important than citing the statistics is understanding the reasons for failure. Over budget, missed deadlines, doesn’t meet objectives are among the most common reasons cited for change failure. We believe many change initiatives fail because efforts fail to understand and successfully navigate the people side of change.
A quick google search reveals hundreds of suggestions for a change management strategy. At the core, there are five key critical components:
1. The Plan – Change management is not a project plan. Each change will have its own project plan to make sure that the desired change is completed (e.g., the system is built or the process redesigned). Change management requires a parallel and integrated plan that supports people through the change.
2. Communication – There are many different stakeholders in a change process and each person experiences change differently. The key to communication is that nobody will change if they don’t understand what the change is and why the organization is doing it. Even if the change is happening merely for political reasons, the people need understand the change.
3. Training – All change, even simple process changes, requires a re-orientation. This shift in mental model requires an investment in educational resources to ensure the people know how to make the change.
4. Performance Incentives – “What gets measured gets managed,” right? The same is true with change management. If an agency decides to reprioritize work in a new way; all the planning, communication and training in the world will mean nothing if there is no way to enforce the adoption. People will perform, they just need to be motivated.
5. Leadership – Leadership/sponsorship is one of the top three factors for successful change. This is no different in the federal government. The common misperception in government is that most agencies are hierarchical. Few are. Most agencies have the same informal leadership structures found across all large bureaucratic organizations. Identifying the right leaders at all levels of the organization and preparing them with the right tools is critical to the people side of change.
The challenge is significant. As new leaders establish their plans for the administration, they can increase the rate of adoption, and ultimate success, by developing a strong change management plan.