The new age is full of sudden and fast paced change, characterised with great uncertain and risk. The new change dimensions have been aided by globalisation, the internet and social media. Vast sums of money are annually spent on organisational change, be that new computer systems, company integrations, new structures or processes. Surprisingly, many change programmes do not monitor the key ingredients to change success, rather they often monitor project plans, made up of time and cost. Despite organisational change research existing for well over 70 years, little is known about how multiple change factors may interlink or co-exist, so change managers have been left to experimenting and building experience over time. It may be no surprise that research continues to find that most organisational change fails, where many now call for the topic to be conducted through a multifactored lens.
Multidimensional change : why does it matter ?
Recent research indicates that change factors may be interrelated, potentially explaining why it is so hard for organisations to change in this new age. If various change factors are related, change managers will need to have a broader approach to change, one that targets multiple factors simultaneously. Interestingly one researcher has developed a multifactored change monitoring tool that includes seven identified inter-related factors. The data emitted from this new tool may assist in identifying if a change leader is not trusted and their managers are not planning sufficiently, or if there are benefits to having a leader with strong communication and engagement skills. Boards and governance committees have historically relied upon project updates from their managers, where that process is hardly independent. A new tool that measures a range of key change factors may be just what is needed to help in improving large change projects.
It may be easy for those in charge to downplay the project risks and underlying issues, especially so if they feel threatened by consequences of negative variances. A new measure related to the key leadership and management variables may be the independent data that governance bodies need. The change tool initiated in the recent research named leadership factors of communication, trust and engagement, together with management factors of control, organising or planning among others as being highly inter-related. Other factors, like culture, are likely to be added to that tool as several additional factors were identified and yet excluded from the tool, only due to resources and time.
So what are the governance changes ?
Governance due diligence has historically been focused on progress against plan, with a focus on the time and cost parameters, where the project manager is subject to regular project progress reviews, forecasts and actions. Additional scrutiny is often only added if the project falls behind or if the project team identify and forecast a variance. According to recent research staff are unlikely to be at the heart of change issues, rather leadership and management factors were identified as far more common. It may no longer be appropriate to ignore this recent research if you are governing a change project, rather due diligence may be achieved if you set out to monitor and measure these key change variables with a multidimensional change monitoring tool.
With a multidimensional change monitoring tool, governance bodies may be able to identify where trust is low and if that is related to other factors like poor planning, or whether there is simultaneously poor communication and engagement in a change. With at least seven key factors of change identified there will now be plenty of questions to ask in project reviews and plenty of analysis to build action plans from. The tool developed in the research explicitly includes interdependent variables of communication, trust, staff engagement control, organising or planning. Whilst it is clear that there is no single panacea to fix it all change issues the new multidimensional understanding may substantially change improve the management and governance of change. The new change monitoring tool may also be useful comparing change and management performance across a range of divisions, industries and over time. It will certainly be better to monitor and manage change programmes across a range of leading indicators than to continue managing through project plans and their simple elements of time and cost.
Written by Dr. Mathew Donald’s (Dr Mat).
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