How can Companies Prepare for Change? An Expert’s Insight
In this talent insight, Afiniti partner Sarah Matthews provides practical and actionable advice on how organisations can prepare for change and explains why this should be a pivotal part of your change programme.
Why is it important for organisations to prepare for change?
Taking the time to effectively prepare for your change, whatever its type, scale or scope, is the best way to build the foundations for successful delivery and adoption. Conversely, we all know what happens when you build on poor foundations…
The business case for change will often focus largely on targeted outcomes, benefits and ROI. However, making sure you really understand the challenges around getting ready to drive change should be an essential part of every business case; bottoming out the risks to achieving the outcomes and therefore benefits at the earliest stage means your strategy can be designed around their mitigation, and foundations are strengthened.
Preparing for change and achieving strong foundations of course involves cost, effort and specific structured activity. Investing in these will reduce the risk to planned end-state benefits be they financial, productivity-related or reputation-based. A robust data-led approach to change readiness will help to provide visibility of the ROI and demonstrate the importance of investing early on.
What practical steps can organisations take to ensure they effectively prepare for change?
Taking the time to really dig into the challenges you will face while implementing your change is essential, in particular anticipating the areas of resistance you will meet. Remember, resistance to change is part of what makes us human; we’re naturally programmed to be hesitant, sceptical or even fearful, so to anticipate this is key to successful planning. Active, early and regular engagement acts as the ‘eyes and ears’ to the organisation’s response and equips you to refine approaches as you learn more.
Ensuring the ‘why’ of your change is super clear and compelling is also critical. As mentioned, target benefits are often articulated in the business case but not always articulated to the wider team and impacted groups in a manner that resonates. It’s these people who will be responsible for living and breathing the change, and therefore these groups whose motivation to do something differently we need to access. Communicating these change drivers will go a long way to overcoming resistance and gathering momentum.
Establishing programme governance that supports healthy tension between change management and programme management is often a critical success factor, helping to ensure the people agenda has equal time to systems and process.
Strategies for change must be set up to breathe and evolve based on the ever-changing constraints, variables and external factors that impact a programme. Embedding an outcome-centric rhythm to governance can avoid the change strategy being ‘put on a shelf’ and in so doing ensure leaders are equipped with insight to course correct as required.
The importance of establishing robust progress measures is underlined here also; taking a very honest baseline of organisational readiness can expose some uncomfortable truths and provide visibility of areas of strength to leverage. With knowledge, there is power to take action, and in so doing protect the target outcomes.
Can you tell us about an engagement when you helped an organisation prepare for change? What were the outcomes?
One of my favourite change programmes was aimed at enabling a leading global Life Sciences organisation to meet key regulatory expectations relating to clinical trial documentation; ensuring timely, complete and high-quality document filing.
There had been multiple failed attempts at achieving this in previous years, with the tasks seen as administrative and low priority. When Afiniti was engaged to help them prepare for change, we identified some major challenges:
- The ‘why’ underlining the importance of timely, complete and high-quality documentation was not clear.
- Leaders weren’t aligned, nor active and visible in their expectations.
- High workloads meant the clinical trial document owners had to continually operate based on short-term and reactive prioritisation, and this work was understood as low priority and administrative in nature.
Through surfacing these major change readiness challenges and doing so in a qualitative and quantitative data-driven manner, we were able to support the business to achieve a complete mindset shift and embedded way of working change. The outcomes included:
- The ‘why’ was directly linked to the patient, accessing the core motivational drivers of everyone working in the organisation.
- Leaders found the breakdown of global readiness data by function interesting and a very visual representation of performance. The same measures provided a consistent framework and drove action towards achieving a powerfully united voice that articulated the vision, journey and patient-centric expectations in a compelling manner.
- We made it fun! We created a vibrant and interactive approach to encouraging a habitual diligent rhythm for document owners, which being underpinned by the very compelling ‘why’ achieved a tangibly changed mindset across the organisation – people prioritised it and were equipped with a toolkit to maintain this mindset.
What’s particularly effective about how Afiniti’s specialist change management services help organisations prepare for change?
Ultimately, at Afiniti we are experts in people-centric business change. We remain outcome-focused, meaning we seek to make change real, tangible and relatable. It’s the very creative approach to distilling a change journey, and the very practical application of change management which sets us apart. Whether we are bringing respectful challenge at enterprise exec level, reflecting and responding to the voice of an organisation’s grassroots, the way in which data is threaded through Afiniti’s work is often key.
Yes I’m biased, but in order to answer this question fully I must emphasise the vibrant and highly skilled people that comprise Afiniti. Reflecting our values in every single action they take: People at the heart, Put the client first and Act with integrity.
All of this is built on tried-and-tested tools and methodologies to ensure we give data-rich and evidence-based recommendations. To see an example of one of these, you can take an online version of our 6LeverTM change readiness assessment, which will help identify some of the gaps and strengths in how prepared your team are for change.