Change Management Part One – Make People Aware That Change Is Coming…

By Patrick Boyle | Principal, Supply Chain Operations | Chainalytics |

In my last blog, I talked about the idea of transformational change, the great value the change management discipline brings and the powerful impact it has when used in conjunction with good project management. I shared that my experience has taught me that without a deliberate approach to change, transformation is fraught with trials. I continue my series with the first key idea around change management – make people aware of the change!

During a client workshop with a team that had been aware of the Transformation for about a year, we learned that they had no idea of the new corporate entity structural changes. They were a small group of coordinator level workers with a Manager and had been pretty autonomous in their world handling direct-to-consumer transactions. It is a fraction of the overall multi-channel approach of distribution the client engages in to sell their products, but can create a lot of noise.  

Changes in the reporting relationships left this team with a new boss who was trying to document their processes in order to properly place them within the organization as well as to ensure staffing and resource requirements were understood, allowing them perform their jobs most effectively.  Our team came in to help them “unravel the spaghetti” of tasks that were driving their daily, weekly and monthly activities.  As we engaged in our first set of interviews, we had an assumption that they understood some of the large scale changes that had already occurred where they had organizational interfaces. The factories were combining their capabilities to go from a single branded plant to one that will make all products. The accounting department was being centralized across both companies. The customer service organization was undergoing changes from field-based to a mix of central support and field-based folks.  

The team we were working with was mostly unaware of the new corporate organizational structure. They had been frustrated for months in not realizing the re-alignments, the change in people’s duties, the new contacts, or any of the meaningful changes affecting how they received information (and from whom) to perform their tasks on an everyday basis. Without knowing the new reporting structure, they became increasingly frustrated with what they considered lack of response from people “on the same team.” After a brief explanation of the new structure of the company, they thanked me and commented, “That explains a lot of confusion we have been living with for over six months.”  

I was left wondering, “Is this is an isolated incident for an insulated group or is awareness of this Transformation a real issue for the client?”  Changes in responsibilities, reporting relationships, personnel, and other key items that were never communicated broadly were a real source of frustration.  There are many ways to look at Change Management. In my studies, I find commonality in the beginning of each approach: it calls for the Change to be envisioned and then communicated1. The key idea stated is that folks need to become aware and understand the need for making any attempt at transformation for the project to begin on a proper footing.

As one of the few consulting teams at the client who have worked across the organization, we learned that we were often educating different groups about all of the moving parts. It became a “resource drain” for the client personnel who were trying to figure out how to operate in the vacuum of an established and deliberate change plan.  

Mistakes have been made, customers have been disappointed, key personnel have departed – all of these symptoms resulting from a lack of employee awareness, an understanding of the change, and a deliberate change management approach. So in the event your organization is planning a transformational change, here is lesson number one: Make people AWARE by broadly communicating changes before they happen and provide key points clearly so that folks understand. When questions arise you will be able to define and respond to the implications so as to avoid any confusion across your organization.

Patrick Boyle–a Principal in Chainalytics’ Supply Chain Operations competency–has over 25 years of experience working with manufacturing companies and multiple industries across all of the disciplines of supply chain management, business process redesign and project management. He specializes in ensuring business transformation and team and organizational innovation and alignment. His collaborative leadership style and active continuing education in areas including APICS training, Supply Chain Council’s SCOR Model, PMI PMBOK in Project Management and Prosci Change Management enable him to inspire cross-functional teams to new levels of performance and capability.

  1. Author is referencing John Kotter’s 8 Steps to Change Management, The Prosci™ Change Management Methodology, and Changeologist John Norcross, Phd.

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