10 Key Competencies for Change Managers

Although change management is founded on established theories, in too many cases initiatives fail to produce intended outcomes, and go over time and over budget. One study by Gartner Research, for example, found that of the companies surveyed 90% had experienced significant change within the past two years, but only 5% had avoided substantial disruptions and finished on time. Why do problems like these exist? Is there something wrong with change management theory? Or does the problem lie with how people perform?

In this article we examine 10 key competencies for change managers.

1. They must have proven research ability: Change management is a form of problem-solving. The best solutions to the problems are not discovered by guesswork, hunches, a ‘sixth sense’, or past experience. The stakes are far too high to trust unreliable processes. Problem analysis and solutions must be based on scientific evidence, and that means change management must be seen as a social science research exercise. Managers don’t need rigid ‘maps’ of how they work or get overly excited about the tools they have at their disposal. What they really need is a sound knowledge of how to conduct excellent research in social sciences. They need to know how to design research projects to collect sufficient, valid and reliable data; how to analyse data; how to report findings; and how to use the findings to create practical and workable solutions.

2. They must have a clear understanding of the change process: Nobody is going to do a good job if they don’t know what change is, how it works, and the theory and principles of how to manage it. Their understanding must be based on well-established research. It cannot be based on what the person ‘thinks’ change is, or on past personal experience. Change management is on shaky ground without a thorough understanding of the change process and established management principles.

3. They must be able to overcome resistance to change: It is a well-known and often lamented reality that people in organizations resist change. They do so for all kinds of reasons – and the manager must be aware of what those reasons are and how to overcome them. Failure to manage resistance sees most change initiatives ultimately fail in a slow war of attrition.

4. They must be able to identify and work with key change agents: Key change agents are people who are ready for change, and people of influence. People with readiness are unlikely to resist the change (providing it is introduced well) however, they are likely to spread positive stories about it. Those are the kind of stories you want.

5. Change managers must be able to harness the power of narratives: Stories create extremely powerful forces that can make or break change. Change managers must be able to tap into those forces and shape the kinds of stories people are telling within the organization.

6. They must be able to address cultural issues: Organizational culture is a broad concept that includes elements such as belief systems, attitudes, use of language, expectations, management styles, etc. These cultural elements must be examined to see if they are contributing to resistance, or contributing to change. The manager must know how to assess them and how to influence them, as required.

7. They must ensure organizational processes and structures support change: The processes and structures within the organization must support change for it to be successful, and it is essential the manager is aware of how these processes and structures impact the change process.

8. They must be able to use the power of organizational networks: Organizations are networked structures. Certain people are influential, and certain people have power. Change managers need to be skilled at working with different types of people. They need to be able to influence powerful and influential people so they become engaged with the change and contribute positively to the process.

9. They must have commitment for the change: Change can be tedious and exacting – most complex problem-solving exercises are. The manager must be dedicated to continually solve problems as they arise, to change tactics, and to see the process through to completion.

10. They must have realistic expectations: Change managers must be realistic about how difficult the process might be, and how long it might take. They also need to be realistic about how staff might react, and what their challenges could be.

The role of change manager is a complex and demanding one that requires a specialised skillset and extensive knowledge. The list of competencies listed here is by no means exhaustive. If the manager is not up to the task change can become very expensive, very disruptive, and potentially toxic to the organization. Even if you have skilled and experienced internal change managers, there are advantages to securing help from outside. External change managers provide an objective view and not caught up in organizational politics.

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Change Management for Project Managers

Projects that focus on the needs of the customer generally have more successful outcomes than those that focus on the product itself. So the desire to keep a client happy is paramount to most project managers – they know that the client will have to sign-off on the completed project and if they are not satisfied with the end-result then the project will not be deemed a success.

But on the other hand a project manager also has to keep a tight grip on finances and the project schedule, which naturally means controlling requests for change. If the scope of the project starts to diverge substantially from the original requirements then the client may be happy with the end product but they will certainly not be happy with the budget and/or time over-run.

So how does a project manager put the client’s needs first when they want to change details of the project part-way through the schedule but still manage to deliver a quality product on budget, on time and within scope?

Project managers regularly face this challenge and their skills in managing people, budgets, schedules and deadlines are all vital at such times.

Clients do not always appreciate the consequences of a seemingly simple change. When a change is requested once the project is already in progress it can be much more costly to implement than if it had been built in at an earlier stage. Project plans usually have many tasks running in parallel and often have complicated inter-dependencies so any change can result in huge risk to the successful completion of the project.

But it would be naive to assume that change never happens in a project or that requested changes are always trivial to implement, which is, of course, why change management is considered such an important part of a project and the ultimate responsibility of the project manager. Project managers who are used to dealing face-to-face with clients know that it is simply not acceptable to turn down a change request without an extremely good reason that can be backed up with facts.

More usually the project managers will accept the change in order to show that they are cooperative and flexible and putting the clients needs first. But in order to mitigate the effect of the requested change they will need to have a good project management process in place and the best project managers will often try and negotiate a compromise within the new request to reduce its impact on the whole project or trade off the new requirements with one of a lower priority that was already factored into the plan.

So what is the best way to implement a change control process?

Firstly, it is important that right from the start of the project everyone involved is aware that any change in requirements must be documented through a formal change request.

Every change request submitted should then be reviewed to ensure that those changes that are really necessary or desirable are actually approved. The purpose of the process is not to prevent change but to control it so that it does not jeopardise the success of the project. Requested changes are often the result of ideas that have arisen only as a result of seeing progress in a project in reality. Many people find it hard to think completely in the abstract or to relate fully to drawings, models or prototypes so it is important to recognise that many change requests will result in a better final product.

It is, of course, also important to be able to distinguish between a change that will enhance the end-product and one that is inappropriate and will only serve to delay delivery of the final product.

So a change request has been submitted and reviewed and deemed to be worth investigating further. The next step is to produce an estimate of how long the change will take to implement and how this will affect the existing schedule, and also to weigh up the advantages of making the change with respect to the disadvantages. All of these steps should be documented and discussed with the client.

If it is agreed that the change should go ahead it is important to agree, at the same time, any increase in budget or extension of the completion date as part of the formal agreement to the change. If no additional time or funds can be allocated and the client still requires the change then this is the time to negotiate a trade-off with another, less important task.

In many businesses new ideas can be formed and developed rapidly so resistance to change is never an option. Instead, to remain competitive an organisation and its project managers must be able to deal with changes in projects in an efficient way. This is why change management processes are vital for the delivery of successful projects and why change management is usually part of the project management training undertaken by those responsible for complex projects.

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Obstacles to Change Management

Change is part of our lives today. And sometimes it affects our organizations. Unfortunately, we don’t always react well to it either as individuals or in a group.

But our survival as an organization frequently depends on our ability to react. We know this and yet we still resist change.

Learning to live with change means learning to overcome the obstacles to appropriate reaction. In many ways, the whole term change management is wrong. What we as organizational change specialists do is manage reactions. We manage the reactions of the people being affected. We manage the reactions of the organization. We do this by overcoming the obstacles that force an improper reaction.

But what are the obstacles to change management?

There are many obstacles to change management. Many are unique to individual organizations. Many are unique to the individuals involved. This uniqueness is what forms the environment for change. The ability to recognize commonalities and work within this environment is crucial to success. In this article, I’m going to share six obstacles that are frequently found across many organizations.

1. Lack of education in managing the reaction to change. Even the term change management indicates that we don’t properly teach managers how to manage their organizations through change. People’s reactions to our change efforts follow a reasonably static set of responses. As managers, we need to be able to predict their reaction in order to identify the appropriate structure around the change.

2. People are slow to recognize change. People don’t really resist change as a general rule. However, they often fail to recognize the extent or importance of change. This is actually a survival mechanism. And while it is in many ways a good thing, this delay can cause issues when surviving a change requires quick reaction times.

3. Lack of time and energy to do it right. Often as managers, we are faced with a lack of time and energy to convince our people to adapt to the change. In fact, sometimes we’re faced with a lack of time to even convince them that a change is needed. While people don’t really resist change they do resist the imposition of changes. And unfortunately, lack of time and energy often manifests itself in the imposition of a response. It is the reaction to the imposition of change that often is perceived as resistance to change.

4. Complexity of the changes. It can be argued that our grandparents saw greater changes than we did or ever will. But what can’t be argued is that the changes we are faced with are occurring faster and in more complex patterns than have ever occurred previously. The complexity of these changes makes the primary response difficult to identify. In addition, it can also make identifying the best way to manage reactions difficult.

5. Contradictory changes. Part of the problem involved with the complexity of the changes being dealt with is that many of the changes are in fact contradictory. For example, the emergence of the job board meant that job seekers could submit applications with less effort and greater control. However, it also meant that human resources became quickly overloaded, reducing the probability of a job seeker being selected.

6. Political environment. No discussion of the obstacles to change management could be complete with a mention of the political environment. While it’s nice to believe that people accept change and resist change for rational reasons the truth is often different. Emotions form a large part of our decision making process. And that includes emotions related to protecting our turf, ourselves and our position. As many necessary changes have found themselves failing as unnecessary changes have found themselves forced into place due to improper political pressures.

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Prepare For Your Company’s Future With Change Management Training

You CAN Manage Change Successfully With A Good Strategy
Is your company planning a significant change in the near future? If so, it is essential to have an effective change management strategy in place long before you begin implementing the change.

After all, making a change is a process that takes time, money, and a number of other resources. You need to make certain the process is completed as smoothly as possible.

Unfortunately, there are many issues that can get in the way of making a successful change. For example, employees may react negatively to the change, or they may simply have difficulty with making the transition. By having your management team complete a high-quality change management training program, you will have a better chance of maintaining the level of productivity you expect as your employees transition through the change.

Even if your company is not expecting a major change, it is always a good idea to have your management personnel complete a change management training program.

After all, the key to company success is the ability to evolve as customer needs and expectations change. By having a staff that is properly trained in change management, you can be confident they will be able to develop an effective change management strategy for any change your company undertakes, no matter how big or small.

Some examples of situations in which your managers can be better prepared following change management training include:

Restructuring or re-organizing the business

Major modifications to company policies or procedures

Changes in leadership or management style

A proposed merger or acquisition

Possible down-sizing or reductions in force

When your company is ready to make a significant change, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced training company to help develop a change management strategy that is specific to your organization. By taking a critical look at your company and the type of change to be implemented, an experienced change agent can work with your management team to develop a change management training plan that meets the unique needs of your company.

Making changes isn’t easy for anyone, particularly when it comes to employees who have become comfortable with the status quo. With the help of a well planned strategy, your company can manage change successfully.

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Do Your Managers Know How To Effectively Implement The Change Management Process?

Learn Effective Strategies With Organizational Change Management Training

When it comes to ushering employees through major organizational changes, there are several variables that must be addressed. After all, the process of change can be difficult.

Not only can it be emotionally draining on employees, but it can also be mentally challenging, as employees learn how to handle new rules, regulations and procedures.

Of course, the change management process affects management as well. Following are just a few of the ways in which change can affect the workplace:

Management is uncertain how to best introduce or implement necessary changes.
Employees become distracted by the changes, resulting in mistakes being made that could have been prevented.
Key employees become frustrated by the change, resulting in poor work performance.
Rumors start to circulate regarding the changes that are being made.
Employees refuse to accept new responsibilities and direction.
The possibility of increased turnover grows as the work climate becomes more and more uncomfortable
To help prevent these possible scenarios, it is most beneficial to work with a change management consulting company, or to have employees and managers complete an organizational change management training program beforehand.

In fact, with the help of a quality change management training program, you can learn how to…

Proactively gain support for the organizational change.
Implement the change more comprehensively and quickly.
Overcome negativity and resistance to the change.
Structure communication in a way that helps to effectively facilitate the change.
Understand why employees may be resistant to the change.
Anticipate employee reactions to the change, and plan the proper responses.
Serve as a role model and a catalyst for the change.
Reduce conflict with the help of conflict management techniques.
Counsel and coach employees through the change process.
The bottom line is that effectively implementing change requires management taking proactive steps, while also knowing how to handle the problems that arise throughout the change process. The better your management team knows how to introduce the change and how to handle the problems that arise, the more smoothly the process can be completed.

If you know that an important change is on the horizon, your management team may best be served by completing a comprehensive organizational change management training program. Not only will a training program help them learn more about how to implement the change management process with employees, it will also help to alleviate their anxiety about the change that is to come – and better guide employees through the change process.

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How Does Small Business Consulting Add Value to a Business?

Consultants to a business offer invaluable expertise that aim to help your business succeed, or achieve its goals. However, there are also instances wherein small business consulting feels disconnected or not utilized fully by business owners who have hired them. This results in doubt about how productive can these consulting services be and what value they can offer to a business. The burden here lies in the business owner because it is their responsibility to look for small business consultants that will become productive in their agreement.

The services of a small business consultant is geared more towards small or starting businesses. However, even established businesses can benefit from this kind of service, too. The common situations wherein a consulting firm would be of help is when the business is undergoing expansion or in a transition period. Needless to say, a consulting firm can prove valuable at various stages of the business.

There are two ways to ensure that a small business consultant can provide value to your business: 1) choosing the right consultant and 2) building a good working relationship with the firm.

Choosing the Right Consultant

This is an important part of the process if you want to take your business to the next level. You need to be as thorough in the selection process as possible.

You must begin by conducting an in-depth initial interview and ask them for a pitch. In addition, if they claim to be an expert on a particular field, they should provide a convincing argument as proof for this. Remember, you will be investing on that expertise, so they must be able to deliver. You can also seek opinion from previous clients to see how well they have delivered work. It will also reveal other crucial factors that you can use for deciding whether to hire a firm, such as reputation, work ethics, and ability to deliver beyond what the task requires of them.

The most important qualification, though, that you should not miss out on is the alignment of your personal qualities to that of the consulting team. This goes outside of a business level as it is also important that you relate to the firm or individual on a personal level.

Working with a Business Consultant

Before you finalize an agreement with a business consultant, there are three vital factors that you should focus on. First, you need to determine the scope of the work and examine how flexible the firm is in accommodating your needs. Second, you must determine how payments are positioned throughout the entire phase of your contract. And third, you must be straightforward on deliverables such as how much budget to allocate on a task and the period wherein they are to be completed.

Small business consultants enable you to stay updated with the market trends, newest business marketing techniques, and customer preferences to gain competitive advantage. Without a business consultant, you would have to undergo trial and error in resolving problems within your business. And any business owner is aware that trial and error is very costly. You can therefore leverage the knowledge and expertise of a consulting firm to determine how you can reduce the amount of risks and tackle management problems more productively.

Honest and constant communication is another important aspect of small business consulting, that is if you want to maximize value. And of course, you need to be able to assess the consultant’s dedication to your business to ensure that they are committed to your long-term success.

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Performance Consulting – What You Should Expect from Your Business Consultant

As a small business owner, you are paying big bucks for a skilled consultant to help resolve a pressing issue. What should you expect from your business consultant? This article will list why most business owners or managers hire a consultant. This article will also describe four key areas of knowledge a highly skilled consultant should possess in order to provide performance consulting.

The reason most businesses hire a consultant is generally because they need someone who has the technical skills, the knowledge and the experience needed to perform a required function. Most business owners or managers are juggling a lot of balls in the air during day to day operations. They do not have the time or the resources to stop everything and focus on the tasks required to resolve some issue or develop some new program or process. Another reason is that some issues, such as conflict resolution, strategic planning, or establishing a more visible brand may require skill-sets that are not currently available within the organization. In any case consultants provide a valued service by focusing on the needs of the organization through their knowledge, education and experience.

There are four key areas required by a performance oriented consultant:

1. People Skills

2. Content Knowledge

3. Organizational Knowledge

4. Consulting Skills

A competent consultant takes the initiative to seek out the stakeholders who will provide invaluable insight into the organization, its operations and it processes. Stakeholders include everyone who has a stake in the business, such as top management, middle managers and supervisors, and workers. Stakeholders may also include all those external players such as supplies, distributors, outside sales, and even customers. A good consultant will have the people skills to forge relationships at each level of the organization and create a working network of key people. It is though these people, the consultant will gain insight and discover the inter-workings of the organization.

A competent consultant will have the content knowledge necessary to bring in-depth understanding to the project. This does not necessarily mean that the consultant has to be an expert in the same field as the business. For example, while working with a winery, an organizational development consultant does not have to be a wine expert. The winery’s staff members are the real wine experts. The organizational development consultant is an expert in organizational development and combined with the winery staff, they will form a sort of team of experts.

Organizational knowledge is another key area. A consultant must understand how the business or organization is put together. A good consultant will seek the connections between various operational components, the people working in those areas and the various stakeholders that influence or rely on each area. One of the first things a manager can do is to check on the consultant’s background and experience. Who has he or she worked with in your industry? Does the consultant provide a list of references? Another way to check on a consultant’s organizational knowledge is to check out the professional organizations the consultant belongs. Ask about the consultant’s professional development. A good consultant should belong to key organizations, read professional journals, and attend appropriate conferences and workshops to keep up with new innovations.

The last important area for a competent consultant must include their consulting skills. The practice of consulting is a synergistic process between the consultant and the stakeholders of the organization. These skills should include the ability to perform an in-depth assessment of the situation. This is a hands-on top down process for collecting data. Once the assessment has been performed, a proposal is written explaining the situation as it appears, the steps the consultant will take to perform the consulting function, a time frame, the fee schedule and method of payment, and the performance outcomes or deliverables. A good proposal will be a sort of checklist of how things will be done and what is expected at the end. A good consultant will provide a professional looking document in the form of a contract, which when signed will be the agreements on how and when work will begin.

A competent consultant will be one that is considered a performance consultant. You should expect a lot from your consultant, especially when it comes to their people skills, their content knowledge, their organizational knowledge and their consulting skills. It takes the whole package of skills and knowledge, backed by education and experience, to provide your organization the very best results.

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Business Consultants Compared – What Makes Firms Different?

When inviting a business consulting firm to get to know your business and its weaknesses, it is a delicate dance to find the best corporate qualifications, experience, and ability to navigate the inevitable invisible issues that will come up. It is also important to make sure your own corporate culture and on-going business do not get lost in the process.

In the marketplace of Business Management Consulting or Management Consulting, competitors generally fall into just a few categories:

-Sole proprietor consultants, who are generally niched and geographically based

-Larger consulting firms, who have multi-niched teams and the ability to reach out to other cities or regions

-Small consulting firms, regionally based and team oriented

Sole Proprietors: Personal Touch

Smaller and sole proprietor consultant competitors, like Jannelle Buzzell, Jim Grew, Will Moore, Mannus O’Donnell and others, get to know the client and their needs very personally. They start from exceptional business acumen, and make sure to create buy-in within the company. The client company is trusted to know their core business and its people very, very well. There is often not a pre-conceived corporate formula other than profitability, efficiency, and better managerial controls through feedback. To these folks, it is common to receive a fearful call where a business owner shares that they ‘aren’t even sure what the problem is or where it started’.

Large Consulting Firms: depth and breadth

Larger competitors, like Boly Welch Consulting, CBS Consulting, Georgia S. May, Point B and PeopleFirm, all offer fresh eyes, strong business acumen, and an understanding that all business evolution comes from the people within the firm. To make any consulting project stick, it has to come from within, which starts from leadership. Once leadership has aligned the goals and strategies, the consulting firm assists in rolling out change. This change management happens from setting measurable goals, checking in with ROI, and staying in regular touch with the feedback loop.

Small Consulting Firms: Personal touch and depth

What makes the smaller consultancy different is the unique blend of these styles. With a small firm, you are likely to meet the owner, but not work with them regularly. You will have a small, personal team, but enough distance to call their supervisor if necessary. A small firm has 8-30 employees, and is generally based in a single city office. Conversely, the consulting firm is big enough to have scheduling and launching flexibility more like a larger consultancy. Small consulting firms cannot do everything involved for a larger project, so they are forced to rely on (and train) the employee team. This strategy keeps the consulting team in alignment with owners, in order to organize which work is done by which team. Smaller consulting teams do not take over a floor of your building and set up shop. It is necessary to work along side the employee team constantly in order to on board change at a pace owners and employees can handle.

How Much Do They Cost?

When we compare business to business consulting, price is an unavoidable topic. If you don’t care how much the consulting firm costs, you are not in the market. Clients care, even if they aren’t sure they can afford it (or have plenty of money to afford it). Small firm prices lie in the middle, just as you might expect. Many sole proprietors charge a lower rate, especially if they aren’t busy. However, if they are busy, they simply cannot take the work, or quickly bump up to the rates of larger firms. Larger firms have additional overhead for travel, benched employees and significant benefit packages at all levels. These higher prices are significant and consistent. With a smaller firm, you are unlikely to receive enormous perks as a part of your purchase. They focus on the work done, and building the relationship on the job.

In general terms, a client can expect:

Team Size Typical Hourly Rate

Sole Proprietor 1 $40-$150

Small Firm 2-30 $75-300

Large Firm 30+ $200-750+

These rates are a generalized survey in Portland, OR, based on surveys of a small handful of varying small and medium businesses.

Conclusion

When you are considering outside consulting for your operations, spend some time considering the depth and breadth of the project, the budget you expect, and then consider requesting proposals or conversations from varying firms. Some projects are clearly one size or another, but medium scale projects that can take some time to evolve are a likely fit for a blended small consulting firm. If you go that route, you will save significant money and train your staff along the way.

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