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Building change capability takes more than “want to” or an executive decree. Building change capability takes structure and intent. The risk is that we, as a community, get enamored with the concept of change agility, but we do not do what it takes to actually build it. Building a core competency in change is a transformation for many organizations. It is fundamentally altering how changes are managed and executed.
Below are four key tips for building organizational agility, derived from some of the most critical mistakes research participants have seen in organizations that get excited about change capability but come up short when the time comes to truly change how they change. With these tips (and the associated mistakes) on your radar, you will be in a better position to transform how change happens in your organization.
1. Secure Adequate and Effective Sponsorship
In all eight of Prosci’s benchmarking studies, extending back to 1998, active and visible executive sponsorship has remained the greatest overall contributor to success. Why would this contributor to success be any different if the change happens to be building change capability? Building organizational agility will require the right level of sponsor, actively engaging in the effort. This means more than simply paying lip service to a desire to be more agile. It means providing the resources, budget, authority, credibility and commitment for the effort to truly come to life.
As a practitioner pitching an investment in building change agility to senior leaders, your main responsibility is connecting organizational change capability to the strategic and financial success of the organization. You must be able to make a distinct and strong connection between building change management capabilities and what your executives care about—their ability to generate financial return in times of change and move the organization in the direction they want to.
2. Treat a Change Management Capability Build as a Project and a Change
Treating a change management capability build like a project and a change means being structured and intentional in your approach. You will need to:
- Understand where you are today
- Create a vision of where you want to go
- Design a solution
- Write a charter, business case and project plan
- Apply change management to get others to do change management
3. Define the Future State of the Organization
Defining the future state of the organization provides direction and a way to evaluate your progress. It also creates stability when the excitement around change management ebbs and flows. Unfortunately, many practitioners begin pursuing change capability without ever defining what they would look like if they were successful.
In the Prosci Enterprise Change Management (ECM™) Boot Camp, we use a framework for defining the future state from the enterprise, project and individual perspective. We use “we” statements to capture the intent of building a change management capability. Below are examples of the “we” statements at each level.
Enterprise change capability
We consistently meet and exceed expectations in change. We share a common language for change.
Project change capability
We appropriately budget for and resource change management on all projects. We have change management present at the start of every project.
Individual change capability
We all see “leading change” as part of our job. We have the skills to do it and we are measured on how well we do it.
4. Use a Multi-Faceted Approach Throughout the Capability Build
Organizational agility and a change management capability have many moving parts. You cannot grow your change agility if you are only doing one of the following:
- Training people
- Hardwiring change management activities into a project management approach
- Creating a Change Management Office
All of these approaches have merit, but without a holistic approach you end up with isolated tactics that fail to drive a true core competency.
In the Prosci ECM Boot Camp, we use a five-wedge model called the ECM Strategy Map to describe the various types of tactics that can be used to embed change management. Each of the five wedges must be considered. And over the lifecycle of your change management capability build, there will be different focuses on different wedges. Although the balance of your ECM Strategy Map might look different than the map of another organization, you need a holistic approach to build change capability.