Five Change Management Challenges

What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a change management professional?” was a discussion topic in the group Network of Organizational Change Managers. In case the group is not public here is my answer:

1. Getting the ear of the owner of change
2. Maneuvering around third parties
3. Coaxing out end state descriptions
4. A misunderstanding of “change management”
5. Tweaking structure

The Ear of the Owner

Too much change management happens in the middle of the organization (because leaders pass the buck or the organization thinks that is where CM starts). To be able to work with the owner (the person in control of the money) gives us a chance to actually make real change happen.
Because really being the owner and engaging is a scary venture it is hard to get the one on one time to explain.

Third Party Maneuvering

At least here in Northern California an external consultant with their own firm must spend hours of what I consider wasted time trying to maneuver around third parties (firms that call themselves consultants, sourcing firms and recruiting agencies). This ties to number one in that the “preferred vendor” arrangement passes the buck and ensures that true consulting will not happen- clients listen to consultants and tell contractors what to do. With this wall of “parties” between the client/owner and expertise change management can be a slog.

End State Descriptions

I find the hardest, most challenging part (and the most fun) element of change management is coaxing out the description of the end state from leaders. They can go on and on on about business cases and monetary justification of the change, but get stuck when they have to explain what that looks like for them or an individual stakeholder. Which illustrates they really do not understand the change; which translates into a lost opportunity for trust between them and the stakeholders.

Change Management Misunderstanding

CM is misunderstood. And my version will not be agreed to by the next poster. Mine is two approaches- Tactical Change Management and Strategic Change Management, The first is our middle of the organization layered over project management CM. The second a high level across the organization influence that looks at a much longer time frame and integrates project to program to initiative to transformation.Both can work together, neither, for anything big, works well alone.

Structural Tweaking

Every change has something within the status quo that must be tweaked. I use the word structure since it seems to have less sting. Things like performance management, succession planning, the org chart, and locked in cultural norms must be looked at and then tweaked for change to happen. This is THE biggest challenge. Rarely will a senior leader be willing to take on the fight for structural change. And so we are often left spinning our wheels knowing this could be better.

Five challenges facing a high level change management consultant: speaking to the owner directly, hurdling over the third party wall, coaxing out end state descriptions, confusion around change management and the need for structural tweaking.

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