Change management is simultaneously one of the most exciting developments of the last twenty years and one of the most banal. At one extreme, change management is the long overdue recognition that organisations must change to survive, yet organisations inherently resist change. At the other extreme, change management is no more insightful than the old saw that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks". Z/Yen subscribe to a pragmatic view - all organisations, even those undergoing continuous transformation, experience periods of punctuated change and can benefit from the experiences of others.
Realising the importance of change as a concept can help managers to see the importance of their role and the likely obstacles they will encounter in trying to achieve new visions.
While each situation is unique, similarity emerges in many change programmes, e.g. the likely proportions of supporters, laggards and obstructors; the need to win hearts as well as minds; the need to develop a sense of crisis. In one study conducted by Z/Yen people, Vision into Action, 22 organisations identified the elements in their approach which had led to successful change. The primary themes were: direction from the top, emphasis on incremental change, the crisis point as trigger, culture change as an act of faith, involvement of staff, visibility of leaders, living with change, the management development spiral, alignment of terms and conditions, de-centralisation and de-layering.
Although change management can be sub-analysed, people are the pre-eminent theme. Change is beneficial because of the improvement it makes to people's effectiveness as a team. Change is difficult because people do not give their commitment without recognition of their contribution, an emerging consensus and meaningful communication. Z/Yen's risk/reward methodology re-emphasises the basics of organisational improvement without overly constraining radical transformation which may be necessary. Some of the most interesting change management work is at the boundary between the public and private sector, e.g. privatisations, commercial companies undertaking public work for the first time or organisations looking at outsourcing.
Z/Yen's change management work spans many sectors. Working with one recently privatised organisation of 2,000 people, Z/Yen developed a tailored approach, for instance using theatrical therapy alongside more traditional tools such as focus groups, training, changed performance measures, 360 degree assessment, assessment centres, client-intensive contact, role shadowing, communications programmes, benchmarking and portfolio re-balancing. The overall objective was to gain new markets more rapidly. Although a difficult assignment, Z/Yen was instrumental in getting the client to a point where customers could be won and retained. Change management is, tautologically, the management of change - but it is the most important management of all.