Change Management is defined as “a collective term for all approaches to prepare, support, and help individuals, teams, and organizations in making organizational change.” – Wikipedia
Although this definition is correct, it is also a little vague! So, today, I want to describe the nature of change management and how consultants use organizational behavior skills to shift groups of people from a current state to the desired future!
In essence, a change management consultant is responsible for implementing new concepts and helping transform the way an organization operates. Change management consultants acknowledge the areas in which an organization has a need for change and assess the effects of change on the organization.
One of the best parts of being a change management consultant is that you are naturally part of the entire consulting process. It is possible, and likely, that you find yourself hired to implement strategic changes in an organization based on another specialist’s diagnosis.
After discovering the power of proper leadership and change management skills in high school, I have since honed my craft and now serve as a change management strategist. As such, I help executives create strategies surrounding the creation of awareness, desire, commitment, and ability to change from within their teams.
Let’s dive into some key points that make for good change management consultants!
Change Management Consultant Competencies
Change management consultants should operate with the following competencies and considerations in mind.
No organization is the same. Each and every business on the planet has a unique fingerprint embedded into the culture of the organization. Being creative and adaptive means being able to mold frameworks and methodologies around the culture of an organization to make change more compatible.
Culture can be a result of many things. It can be formed around technology, industries, even politics. Anything that can alter the flow or function of the marketplace can have an effect on organizational culture. Adapting to a specific or niche culture is absolutely essential for change management consultants to consider in their work.
Unending Hunger for Learning
Change management directly relates to people, and people change all the time. Keeping on top of best practices, considering ulterior methods, and utilizing new technology are all beneficial things a change management consultant should do.
The hunger for continuous learning is often considered one of the most universal aspects of successful people, let alone successful consultants. Why? Well, a continuous hunger for learning allows an individual to remain open-minded and willing to accept or entertain new ideas and information.
It is commonly said that the most expensive words in business are “We’ve always done it that way.” Without the ability or desire to innovate companies, let alone consultants, will find it difficult to change with the times.
“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” – Eric Hoffer
Progress tracking is an absolute requirement for any kind of consulting service. Clients want to see that they are making progress in line with the goals set out towards the beginning of the project. However, the difficulty surrounding progress tracking lies in the nature of many different organizations to track many different things.
This is simply the nature of business. Due to the cultures of differing companies, different metrics will be used. Some performance and value indicators that will have to be used include KPIs (standard actionable performance indicators), set goals, reinforcement, etc.
One progress tracking solution is suitable for one organization, but not all (or even any) others.
Change-resistance is unavoidable. In fact, many times, a change management consultant’s sole duty may be to diagnose and mitigate the resistance that arises in an organization due to change. Often, resistance can be greatly mitigated before change is even implemented, merely by understanding the nature of individual human behaviors and how to appeal to the psychological safety of employees.
Roughly 3/4 of all change-resistance is due to people, both employees and managers/executives. Due to the nature of top-down influence in a structured organizational hierarchy, it is important that change management consultants get all key-influencers on board before influencing operational employees to change.
Understanding resistance and how to mitigate it at all organizational levels is a key element (if not THE key element) a change management consultant must have.
Managing the implementation of change is necessary for identifying barriers, risks, and other considerations that have not (or could not) be accounted for beforehand. It is impossible to plan and prepare for everything, but a proper change management consultant can identify issues during the change process itself and navigate the organization around these issues.
Implementing change is not without it’s quirks, and it is up to the change management consultant to become aware of them, empower those who have the ability to resolve them, and enable the organization to succeed.
Without an understanding of various communication channels, the use of trust within an organization to communicate different ideas, and the ability to designate sponsors/fill positions, a change management consultant would be dead in the water.
Most people would say that there is no such thing as too much communication, to which I respectfully disagree. In change management, there are so many moving parts and considerations that must be made regarding the trust of employees and management also. For example, I would take change more seriously if the strategic vision was communicated by the CEO as opposed to my immediate supervisor.
Similarly, the channels of communication are also important. Communicating via one-on-one interviews is often much more interpersonal and effective than large seminars (albeit much more costly in terms of time and effort).
Within communication is the proper development and delegation of change sponsors, both formal and informal. Formal change sponsors are likely members of the executive teams. Informal change sponsors may be individual team leaders or even team members who others seem to rely upon.
Before any change can occur, it would be in the best interests of every relevant party (consultant and client) to perform a change-readiness assessment on the current state of the organization. Why? Well, a change-readiness assessment helps determine if you are able to forgo certain steps in the implementation plan in order to reserve costs and time.
Consider the nature of an organization that is change-ready as part of its culture. This organization will likely be on top of change, they will be comfortable surrounded by new ideas, and they will require much less prodding over the long run to fully implement change. This can save lots of time and money that would otherwise have been wasted on the full change management efforts.
Similarly, a change readiness assessment will help you diagnose which barriers will require most resources and attention to overcome. Doing this before the implementation process is a great way to avoid the potential for a “perfect storm” of issues later on.
Aligning Strategic Visions
Change management consultants must be able to communicate with executives in a way that brings forth the vision behind a change effort. Only when vision aligns with action can the beneficial future state of the company be achieved and cemented into organizational culture. Strategic alignment is always the reason behind a change effort. No organizational change would occur unless organizational leaders attempt to alter some kind of functionality in terms of their strategic visions.
Change management consultants must always consider the strategic alignment of an organization during the change process. Only when this occurs can a consultant develop the proper methods, channels of communication, and resistance management that is necessary to make organizational change a success.
What kind of consultant work would be complete without adaptive problem-solving? This key characteristic of good consultants is closely tied with adaptive creativity, in fact, both are often used at the same time. It takes proper diagnostic abilities and logical thinking to break down a problem, and good creativity to find the most optimal solution!
Problem-solving is entirely a factor of critical thinking. If there is one thing I have learned about critical thinking it is this: Any issue you face is NOT a result of not having a solution, instead, you are asking the wrong QUESTIONS.
Problem-solving abilities is a natural strength of any kind of consultant, however, in change management you must consider most of the problems you face in terms of organizational behavior.
Various Organization Change Models
There are a litany of organizational change models and methods out there. Having a firm grasp on many of these models will allow you to pick and choose certain ideas and knowledge to benefit the unique nature of a single organization when need be. This is why having an unending hunger for learning is so important! There is no “one size fits all” in change management, or really any consulting suvject for that matter.
Some Models Include:
2. Nudge Theory
3. Mckinsey 7 S Model
4. Kotter’s Change Theory
5. Bridges Transition Model
6. Productive Disequilibrium Model
7. Kubler Ross 5-Stage Model
These are some of the major players in the field of change management. more specifically these are the key models I mainly consider when I employ my 6-step change technique: Foundation, Learning, Planning, Implementing, Sustaining, and Re-aligning (if necessary).
Ultimately, this change management list of skills and abilities is a small reminder of what proper change management should be. It accounts for the 20% of things that change management consultants do to develop 80% of the effects!
Ultimately, here is a list of some of the key skills that change management consultants use on the daily.
-Excellent communication in terms of differing perspective, respectful disagreements, break-out sessions, strategic communications, persuasive argumentation, etc.
-Training and coaching skills are necessary to inform others of the skills needed for change or executive teams of the requirements needed by the change sponsor. After all, based on the nature of organizational trust, a change sponsor must be someone from within the top tier of the organizational hierarchy. The development of training programs may also be necessary.
-Assessments and analysis of issues based on both qualitative and quantitative data. Analyzing this data is necessary for framing issues, aligning vision and operations, defining and analyzing success metrics that determine overall change-effectiveness.
-Excellent leadership skills for developing group assessments, facilitation skills, workshops, presentations, break-out sessions, and/or leadership consulting where and when necessary.
-Self-Starter attitude and entrepreneurial spirit for unending learning and growth. This allows the consultant to work well with others, finish work timely and keep motivated fro continuous change and development of best practices!
These have been the key change management consulting qualities to look for in any change-management professional! Consider these qualities when looking for your own change management consultant or whether you feel up to the challenge of tackling organizational change on your own!
These qualities will certainly help you to better manage your teams and clarify your own ability to manage organizational change within your own business or another’s!
Thanks for reading!
Work With Austin!
-Austin Denison is a change management consultant from Southern California and founder/CEO of Denison Success Systems LLC. He is the author of The Essential Change Management Guidebook: Master The Art of Organizational Change as well as The Potential Dichotomy: The Philosophy of a Fulfilling Life.
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