Change Management

How change management can help your strategy succeed

Andrew Howie
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Over the last two years, our industries have faced an unrivalled level of change. Organisations have needed to react rapidly to implement solutions to address immediate needs.

As we look to 2023 and the years ahead, we are poised to take our learnings from recent years and strategically plan for our futures. For many organisations, the diminishing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and the start of a new calendar year represents an opportunity to review and revamp their strategy. Incorporating change management into your strategy can enable an organisation to pivot from a prescribed strategy to an emergent strategy and increases the likelihood that you will achieve your strategic objectives.

Change management is the application of a structured process and set of tools for understanding, managing and leading your people through change. Strategies seek to implement a new vision for the future, but few strategies result in meaningful, lasting change without the buy-in of your most powerful asset - your people. The ultimate goal of change management is to achieve objectives through actively engaging impacted individuals and inspiring their adoption of a new way of working.

Common pitfalls

With the best of intentions, errors in judgment do happen. When an organisation fails to recognise the importance of their people when implementing change, they create unnecessary obstacles and resistance to both immediate and longer-term sustainable change. It cannot be over-emphasised how important strong and consistent leadership and communication is for any strategy to be realised. Managing change can help you to ensure that your leadership and communication are clear, compelling and effective.

While failure to recognise the people impact of your strategy can be detrimental to its success, so too can your approach to strategy development.

Common pitfalls in developing a strategy without due consideration:
  1. Lack of shared understanding of the visions and goals
  2. Lack of visible sponsorship
  3. Lack of engagement from executives
  4. Lack of clarity and discipline
  5. Information overload
  6. Resistance to change

How we can help you to avoid these pitfalls

At Grant Thornton, we have honed our acute awareness of these avoidable pitfalls and have developed mitigating actions to reduce their influence. These actions include:

  • investing the time upfront to articulate the reasons for embarking on a new strategy;
  • involving all layers of management in the strategic design;
  • clarifying accountability and decision making mechanisms early;
  • identifying impacts and those affected; and
  • enlisting and promoting continued enthusiasm for the strategy.

Understanding the Challenge: Securing Buy-in for Holistic Strategy

We recognise that it can be difficult as senior leaders to secure a critical mass of individuals in your organisation to understand and prioritise all elements of your strategy. You may have found that you can get buy-in from individuals for some elements, but you have developed a strategy that is holistic, with each element as important as the others. So how do you achieve buy-in from individuals for things they may not immediately understand or feel engaged by?

Unveiling Motivational Factors in Change Management

Change management practitioners are equipped to understand that for most people, there is a key motivator which keeps them involved and engaged in change initiatives. Generally, there are five core-motivating factors in work: incentive, risk of penalty, belonging, strong leadership and worse alternative. Understanding your organisation’s motivators is key to securing buy-in from individuals and groups.

Bridging the Gap: Connecting Strategy to Personal Impact

One of the main reasons that individuals do not buy into change is because they do not see or understand how it affects them personally. With change management, we prompt leadership to consider and communicate the effects of each element of your strategy on key stakeholder groups in your organisation.

Leveraging Motivational Insights for Engagement

Once you have an understanding of the motivators for your people, you can use this information to communicate the expected benefits of engagement to them. This will prompt your stakeholders to want to become involved in your strategy implementation.

Empowering Stakeholders through Shared Ownership

One of the quickest and easiest ways to drive engagement in your strategy implementation is to share ownership of key initiatives with your team. Often senior leaders will assign ownership to other senior leaders in the organisation. As leaders, we must recognise that the best placed people to help us understand the key motivators for individuals are usually their direct line manager.

Harnessing Middle Management for Lasting Change

To influence lasting change, leaders should draw on the strong relationships between employees and their line managers by assigning ownership of strategic initiatives to middle management. Shared ownership, coupled with the understanding of their employee’s personal motivators, can result in significant buy-in and lasting results.

Successful strategy development and your change advocacy network

Strategy development can be a lengthy and complex process, which aims to answer the question “where do we want to go?” Change management answers the question “how will we get there?” by assessing engagement, change appetite and readiness to create an environment for inspiring adoption of strategic objectives.

At Grant Thornton, our change management approach is designed to consider how the people at the centre of an organisation will react to a proposed strategy and how we can guide buy-in and adoption of new ways of working. We recognise the value of existing channels of communication and networks of influence within the organisation and use that to drive strategic change.

Imagine a group of people across your organisation backing your strategic objectives, discussing them with their colleagues in a positive light, listening to concerns and actively taking on board ideas on how to achieve common goals.

Imagine being able to manage any concerns or ideas and having power in knowing what is being said “on the ground” before a concern escalates into a much bigger issue. An effective way to engage staff and to ensure consistent communication is through the development of a change advocacy network.

A change advocacy network leverages a select group of individuals in an organisation to inspire and lead change from within, opening communication channels, embracing employee engagement and feedback. For a change advocacy network to operate efficiently, there are three key areas to consider:

  1. It should leverage existing and natural social groups within the organisation: Individuals respond most positively to their social groups when faced with change. This group is often their immediate peer group. The network should feel natural to stakeholders and act as an enhancement to official senior leadership communications.
  2. It should have key messages: The change advocacy network should develop change leaders who are versed in the key messages of the strategy, as well as a basic understanding of change management principles. This approach ensures that employees are hearing the same information across the organisation.
  3. It should demonstrate active listening: For stakeholders to buy-in to your strategy implementation, it will be important for them to feel heard. A change advocacy network should work with stakeholders to relay information to executive sponsorship team and act on areas that will increase buy-in and support.

At Grant Thornton, we understand that organisational strategy development is key to achieving your potential and continued growth. We also understand that change management is fundamental to realising that potential in a deliberate and sustained way. Effective change management helps leaders to understand the limits of what is possible to direct their organisation to success.

Change management enables us to leverage vision, communications and culture to influence and embed new ways of working. Our interdisciplinary teams are experienced in delivering on strategy development and implementation.

We use a blend of methodologies to support organisations in achieving their objectives and have the people and experience available to support you on your change journey. Our approach at Grant Thornton considers both the organisational and people impact of your strategy and delivers a plan to guide your team to success.