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Taking a holistic approach to transformational change

An approach to Organisational Transformations

to deliver business value

People Centricity: 2023

Change is constant. We all go through change either in our personal lives or at work. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to change in many ways, particularly the way we do our work and how we deliver services. In many cases COVID-19 has accelerated organisational transformations. However, even prior to the pandemic, organisations were delivering change initiatives, yet research shows that 70% of organisational transformations fail to deliver the expected outcome (Beer and Nohria 2000).


In this article, I will discuss how taking a holistic approach will not only allow organisations to realise the expected benefits from the change initiatives, but will also enable their people to be involved, supported, and empowered to sustain change. The main enablers of organisational transformations are:

  1. Project Management

  2. Change Management

  3. The People

Whether your organisational transformation is a culture change, regulatory change, mergers and acquisitions, workforce transformation, or technology systems change, applying a holistic approach through these areas will enable you to meet your objective and deliver business value.


1. Project Management

The Project Management Institute (2021) defines project management as “the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to deliver something of value to people.” Project management is vital to deliver the technical solution. An example can be delivering new technology. Projects apply a number of techniques and methods to ensure they deliver the solution on time, in scope and on budget. Projects use communications and training so that end users are aware of the project and they have got the skills and capability to operate the new system. However, change is personal and managing the people side of change is beyond communications and trainings. Delivering the project objective by itself will not be sufficient in getting a return on investment. Change does not just happen, it needs to be managed with the end users being at the centre of organisational transformation.


2. Change Management

Prosci (2021) defines change management “as the application of a structured process and set of tools for leading the people side of change to achieve a desired outcome.”

Change management is a people-centric approach framework that applies various methods and tools aimed at supporting people through their change journey. Change management is key to ensure the solution from the project has been accepted by the business, and people have started using the solution. When this happens, organisations will get a return on investment and mitigate organisational risk. For example, when it is regulatory change initiatives, it is a must that employees are not only aware of the change, but they have the capability to do their work in the new way of working. This is critical for the organisations to meet their new regulatory requirements.


Change management acts as a link between the project, the organisation and their people. It applies tools and techniques to ensure people are aware of the change, involved and supported throughout the transformation. Applying a top down and bottom up approach to improve employee engagement can be one way to go about it.

  • Top down communications approach - Those who are leading the change need to communicate the compelling vision of their transformation, what is changing, why the change is important and what is the benefit for various stakeholder groups. This is the first activity of change management, equipping change leaders to create and deliver the vision for change.

  • Bottom up engagement approach - Working collaboratively with the people on the ground is important. Involve stakeholders in designing the change plan. Ensure employees' views are sought out and listened to in the process. People will be keen to participate in the change that will impact their teams and areas. The people on the ground are the best to advise on what impact the change will have on them and their teams. In change management, we work with the people not only to understand the impact but to provide a mitigation strategy to minimise any operational or strategic impact on day to day business.

While project management and change management professions are distinct, they are complementary. Project managers and change managers have a common goal: to deliver business outcomes. Projects deliver the solution and the change management ensures people are involved and the solution is fit for purpose. In my experience, when project and change management have aligned their activities, there is greater chance for the organisations to be successful in their transformations and deliver business value.

In summary, without project management, we cannot deliver the change and without the change management we cannot ensure change is adopted and sustained.


3. The People

Finally, people are key to any organisational transformations. Both project managers and change managers work with the people across their organisations. In change management we put the people at the heart of what we do through empathising with them, understanding the emotions they go through and providing the right support to ensure they are supported in their change transition. In my experience, people have good intentions, they don’t resist change, they just need to understand the ‘Why’ and need to be supported as they abandon their old ways of doing and learn the new ways. This is what change management does: work with the people through the application of neuroscience, psychology, and other change models.


The transtheoretical model (2018) of change really illustrates the individual change journey, which covers people’s awareness of their behaviour to changing and sustaining their behaviour. The model states that

  • People stop old behaviour when they have made a decision to do so, meaning when they are ready

  • Changing behaviour is a continuous process not a one-off exercise.

Regardless of the transformation, it all boils down to the people, they have to be willing to shift their mindsets and change management focuses on the people-side to support the impacted group. In conclusion, taking a holistic approach to organisational transformations means ensuring project management, change management and the people are at the forefront of the decision making and ensure a dedicated change management resource is allocated.


References

Beer, M. and N. Nohria. (2000) Cracking the code of change. Harvard Business Review (May-June): 133-141.

Project Management Institute (2021) What is Project Management? https://www.pmi.org/about/learn-about-pmi/what-is-project-management

Prochaska, J. O and Norcross, J. C (2018). Systems Psychotherapy. A Transtheoretical Analysis (9th Ed). New York: Oxford University Press

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