Five things your change consultant won’t tell you

Five things your change consultant won’t tell you

I’ve worked in the change arena since 2005, and related people performance and HR disciplines for 14 years before that.  I’ve engaged in a number of technical, business and organisational change programmes both in New Zealand, the UK and Europe.  During this time I’ve meet a number of consultants that tended to overestimate and overstate the complexity of change management with a proportional impact on cost and time to deliver.  

I believe embedding the required change may not be as complex as presented and the essence of change is as simple as enabling people to want to do it.  So, I’ve capture five things you need to know when talking to your change management consultant and questions you can ask to validate what they are selling you.

1.     It’s not that complicated

Some change consultants present managing change as a complex, complicated process which requires many years’ experience and a degree in psychology or the sciences.  While knowledge and experience in any disciple are valuable, especially in the early identification of risk & opportunity, I believe anyone with a basic understanding of human behaviour can manage change using proven processes and methodologies.

I’ve worked with people from various backgrounds; project managers, business analysts, human resources, training & development, strategy development and the evidence is they have delivered change to a high standard.

Change at an organisational level requires another set of skills and experiences including an understanding organisational strategy. However, the underlying principles in the delivery of people change remain the same.

Question:  Please detail the process and tools you will use to implement change?  If they cannot provide a change process linking the application of change tools to the defined outcomes, you’re unlikely to get the required results.

2.     There’s nothing new

Little new thought has been added to the science of change since John P. Kotter’s “Leading Change” was first published, Harvard Business School Press, in 1 January 1996.  Kotter identified the most common mistakes leaders and managers make in attempting to create change and offered an eight-step process to overcome the obstacle.

I believe everything since then is a variation of Kotter’s work; – Create Urgency, Form a Powerful Coalition, Create a Vision for Change, Communicate the Vision, Remove Obstacles, Create Short-Term Wins, Build on the Change and Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture.

3.     Change methodologies are all the same

It really doesn’t matter which change methodology you use, as the science of change hasn’t changed, at their core the methodologies are pretty much all the same.  As long as you follow the principles of a change management model then you’ll be fine.  An approach I used on a recent NZ change programme was to pick the best bits from the published methodologies and help the organisation develop their own change processes adapted to their current situational requirements.

My philosophy on methodology is taken from film maker Jim Jarmusch (who stole from everyone) “originality is non-existent, don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it and, always remember it’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

Question:  Please explain why / how your process is different or better than Kotters.  What outcomes will your process enable that Kotters’ wouldn’t?  If they try to sell you on their enhanced deliverables (except practical simple to use tools and processes) then they may be overselling their services.

4.     It’s not a one person job

Efficient and effective change management requires a team approach.  Change is never effectively achieved when implemented by a single change manager.  Depending on the type and scope of change, a change team should be created.  It may include contributions from a Project Manager, Technical & Business Process Managers, Human Resource / People Capability Managers, Communications / Internal Relations Resource, Stakeholders, End Users, Customers and Systems Technical Leads.

A recent approach I used incorporated key resource from the list above, an internal change lead, and myself as a part time Change Management Coach (Change Coach).  I ran a series of change management coaching workshops each week until the team were set-up and self-sufficient.

Question:  Please define your approach to incorporate your change management practices into our organisation?  Be concerned if the response does not include the development of a team and the hand-over to your internal resources because you will need to continue to reinforce and imbed the change after their services conclude.

5.     It’s all about the people

In the end, it’s just a bunch of humans behaving a certain way and the role of the change team is to help them behave differently.  I believe human behaviour is really quite simple and can be summarised in 15 words “People do what they do because of what happens to them when they do it”.

This is a phrase stolen from a great book on performance management, “Bringing Out the Best in People”, by Aubrey Daniels.  Daniels methodologies are, he quotes “grounded in the evidence-based application of behaviour analysis derived from nearly a century of research “   However, you don’t need to be a scientist to understand the science of behaviour and his book is a much easier read than this description suggests.

Robert Mager and Peter Pipe published “Analyzing Performance Problems”, with an even simpler approach.  They defined change in 4 words – “You Really Oughta Wanna”.  Their book, first published in the 90s, discusses how to figure out why people aren’t doing what they should be, and what to do about It.  They’ve refined managing human behaviour (change) to a one page process map.

Question:  Please describe how your approach will change the behaviour of the people affected by our initiative?  Be concerned if you receive a complex psychological response or worse a 10 page presentation.

About the Author: 

Bruce Swain is a senior change and programme manager with 20 years’ experience in NZ and globally. He has an extensive background in human resources and people development.

Bruce is Director of the Change Institute New Zealand Limited and is principle in the development of the X4MIS™ Change Management Methodology.

Change Management Institute NZ X4MIS change management methodology