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Thursday, May 11, 2017

The HR Person as a Change Manager

A lot of well-meaning and much needed changes fail because of our failure to apply some fundamental concepts in leading and managing change. We often think that we can bank on our authority to make change happen, and then we complain about how little commitment we get from people. We often get minimum compliance from people as a nod to our authority while they grumble about the uselessness or impracticality of our initiatives. Case in point? Performance Management System. In many organizations, managers go as far as filling up the forms and submitting them to HR and not a lot more.  You look at every other HR initiative, and you'll see similar lack of buy-in behaviors. I think it's time we change our tactic if we haven't done so yet.  My suggestion is to adopt a change framework. There's a lot out there. The simplest is Lewin's Unfreeze-change-refreeze. There's ADKAR, and then there's Kotter's 8 Steps. For this post, I'd like to use Kotter's.

Step 1: Create Urgency- When I sense a need for change as an HR Manager, I'd look for data to validate my observation. When there's compelling reason to propose change, I present my observation and my data to the stake holders so we can have a shared conclusion about what needs to be done. When I was HR Director, I noticed a correlation between overtime work, tardiness and  rework or quality issue. I digged our data and showed management thar whenever employees take longer than four hours of OT, they're most often late the next day and the quality of their work plummet. I calculated the cost to help them understand the impact. This convinced them that we cannot continue our current practice.

Step 2: Build Guiding Coalition for change - HR Managers need to have organizational and political savvy. I knew that as an HR Manager, my influential power trumps my formal authority. I recognized that there are people in the organization that are more powerful than me but if I can get them as allies for change, I get to borrow their power to effect change. I use my ability to present information and recommend changes to influence them to join my coalition for change. 

Step 3: Create a vision for change - I say co-create it. Nothing is more powerful than a shared vision. We need to learn how to facilitate a visioning process. It helps to gather your coalition and agree on a vision for change.

 Step 4: communicate your vision for change – communicating one’s vision for change doesn’t mean communicating a complete product. We tend to get this one wrong. When we reach out to people about our desired change, we should be ready to hear back. In fact we should solicit feedback about what they think in terms of our idea's potential benefits and issues. It helps to listen and exchange ideas and opinions until we get to the part when we decide how we must proceed. This is an important part of co-creating change.

Step 5: Enable broad-based action – They say that the devil is in the details and the details of change fall on this step. As we pursue change, we need to work with other players and stakeholders in creating the roadmap. The plan should include developing policies, capacitating participants and managing risks. And then do it!

Step 6: Generate short-term wins – People are often impatient with results. When they don’t see or hear progress, they’d think that the initiative has failed.  The fear mongers feed on people’s doubts.  Without  a proper celebration of accomplishments or milestone, people start losing their interest. We can’t have it! It’s important to keep people updated so they would keep at it. As a change champion, we in HR should learn to cheer on our early supporters and champions by drumming up their accomplishments and encouraging them to continue. If you are implementing a Performance Management System for example, it helps to look for volunteer departments to pilot the program.  A pilot initiative, is much easier to handle than a company-wide initiative. I suggest that we try it and be ready to reward and recognize those who succeed and use them as inspiration for others.

Step 7: Don’t Let up! We need to build on the change. Piloting change bring about great opportunities. It allows us to see the initiative work, it also gives us insights on what needs to be improved.  After implementing a change, we also see other opportunities for change. For example, setting up a service culture building initiative could lead to process improvements and others.  Pay attention on opportunities like this.

Step 8: Make it Stick.  I remember facilitating a visioning workshop for a retail company.  During the session, we realized how much their old vision statement has stalled. That’s because all the successful change initiatives got stuck. Their best of breed retail software became a legacy application that they are having difficulty upgrading. Leading change is not just about making “a” change happen but about making changes happen! As HR leaders we need to continue challenging the process, looking at data for clues on change needs and act on them. It helps to have system in place for continually, planning, doing, checking and acting.

The whole point of leading change is getting everyone enrolled in the idea of change and co-creating a change plan. Let’s stop formulating change alone in our HR rooms or HR cubicle. Get out, and reach out to every who need to be involved and get them to join in the change journey.

Leading and Managing Change is not exclusive to HR. Everybody needs to learn how to lead and manage change. Check out ExeQserve's Leading and Managing Change Training Program. 


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