The Change Directorate – a More Powerful Vehicle for Delivering Business Change
1 April 2008 Paul Major
Businesses currently lack the organisational and managerial focus needed to effectively deliver strategic change. According to Paul Major, director of Program Framework, establishing a board-level role with specific responsibility for directing change can remedy this dangerous deficiency.
Almost every aspect of business has changed radically over the last 20 years, yet the structure of top level management has remained disturbingly static. New pressures from environmentalists and customers, coupled with increasing European and UK legislation have created a rising tide of regulation and legislation. Change is imperative, yet job functions in the boardroom remain largely the same and fail to create a consistent focus on how we deliver strategic change.
The pace of change in our working environments is the single largest threat to our continued existence. Historically, organisations have responded to these types of threats by focusing on improving operations. Approaches like 'six sigma' and 'just in time' have been relied on to deliver improvements. This alone is not enough to ensure success.
The fundamental challenge facing business is a strategic one, namely, what step changes in capability must be deployed to ensure a sustainable, competitive advantage and how these changes can be delivered successfully.
Change and management are buzzwords that resonate through the organisation, but the challenge is in creating a core organisational competence in 'change management'. This moves beyond simply a human resources initiative to check that staff are engaged, or that a set of corporate values are readily understood, to a formal board-level appointment tasked with delivering strategic change and competitive advantage.
As organisations begin to understand the need to improve the way they create and manage the changes required, they are recognising an increasing need for a focused, dedicated, qualified role targeted at ensuring the desired changes take place. This role involves creating visibility and control over change and implementing a consistent process by which change is affected.
When products need to be designed, a chief engineer with a background and qualifications in the process is appointed. Similarly, for increased sales, a sales director is contracted. So, when change delivery is required, it would make sense for someone with a background and qualifications in change management processes to be appointed. This is where the chief creator of competitive advantage and the change directorate come in.
New thinking and a new business model for managing change is what is needed, with the experiences and skills of a new breed of business managers. These must be capable of selecting, controlling and delivering change consistently, predictably and effectively to succeed.
But, what does a change directorate actually do? Critically, a business has to put in place a set of processes and capabilities that enables an organisation to select the changes that will most effectively deliver the chosen strategy, control the progress and relationship between the changes and deliver the actual work required to execute these changes.
A change directorate is made up of a dedicated, qualified and focused team that ensures the change initiatives started are the ones that will deliver the most benefit and are totally aligned with the strategic objectives of the organisation. It must also control the progress and relationships between these initiatives and deliver the desired modifications in a practical way.
How would such a management function work? What kind of a team would it need to ensure programmes of radical changes are driven through the organisation efficiently? How would it manage the changes required by constant innovation and choose the most fruitful to deliver the greatest impact? There will soon be answers to these questions, because the concept is being tried in a number of large financial services organisations across the UK.
PEOPLE, PROCESS AND TECHNOLOGY
The best approach is to use a model proven in deploying large projects and programmes and establish it as the modus operandi for creating an organisational capability to deploy change consistently, quickly and accurately. This approach, however, involves more than just teaching someone how to use Microsoft Project. It is built on three fundamental pillars – people, process and technology.
Using qualified, experienced personnel is key. But, equally critical is ensuring the processes used to manage and execute change combine rigour with pragmatism, rather than being centred on bureaucracy. Ask a business manager or team member to build and track a project plan and there’s trouble ahead. Ask instead for progress on a key deliverable or a milestone and you have a reasonable chance of success.
Given that standard programme management toolkits provide many of the skills and processes described above, why shouldn’t the change directorate embed these as business tools for managing business change?
From a control solution perspective, when organisations have had to manage increasing complexity in the past, 'Enterprise' capable control solutions were implemented – think of the rise of ERP solutions in the 1980’s or the more recent expansion of customer relationship management (CRM) tools. Faced with the need to manage increasingly complex changes across intrinsic organisational boundaries, 'Enterprise' capable change management solutions now need to be considered.
This movement is evidenced in the introduction of enterprise solutions from the major software vendors aimed at enabling organisations to establish visibility and control more effectively across key change areas such as resources, costs, dependencies and delivery milestones. Products such as Microsoft’s Enterprise Project Management Solution combine traditional project management tools with sophisticated portfolio management capabilities to typify this new breed of enterprise-ready solutions.
By having robust processes, the right toolkit, total visibility on how the changes are being adapted and management buy-in, the change directorate would be best placed to deliver organisation-wide change, quickly.
MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE
So, instead of regarding change as being too inconsistent, unpredictable and fluid to manage effectively – and choosing someone to manage and deploy the change without the necessary tools and support to succeed – there now exists the technology and skills to create a driving force to execute change consistently, quickly and according to plan. There is a choice, either to delay implementing changes and always being reactive, or restructuring and embracing change fast to ensure a sustainable competitive advantage.