by Dawn-Marie Turner, PhD
Time is a precious commodity, but many managers are penny wise and pound-foolish when it comes to their investment in managing change.
As leaders we are constantly having to set priorities, do more with less, and maximize our own and the organization’s efficiency, all in an effort to gain more from the time we do have. It is no different when it comes to implementing change – leaders must balance the need for the change with the associated disruption and the time, people, and resources that will be needed in order to achieve the intended outcome of the change and get the return on their investment.
In today’s environment of almost constant change, it is not surprising that leaders would look for ways to save time and implement change more quickly. Unfortunately for many leaders, in their attempt to save time and speed up the process they often eliminate the very elements that would enable them to use their time more effectively and get a greater return on their investment.
Effective change management enables leaders to integrate the people side of the change process (the soft side of change) with the elements of managing the change event (the hard side of change) such as new processes and training. This integrated approach has been shown to be the most effective at delivering successful and sustainable change.
And there you have the great paradox of change management: The leaders who invest in managing change achieve more successful and sustainable change and make more efficient use of limited time and resources.
Figure 1 to the right, depicts a common approach to implementing change. In this approach, leaders look to minimize the amount of time spent planning in the early phase and move ahead quickly with training and implementation.
Although this approach appears to save time, in reality it “top loads” issues so that they emerge right around the time of implementation – just when time is at a premium and deadlines are looming. You expend more energy and resources as you move through the transition process, while your return on investment decreases.
Contrast it with the approach shown to the left in Figure 2. In this approach, (the change recipient approach) a significant amount of energy is expended at the beginning of the initiative to build a stable base for change. Because the work of adopting change is introduced much earlier and is interwoven throughout the transition process, the time leading up to and immediately following implementation (the MAINTAIN stage) can be used for increasing the value of the change.
In this approach, you expend less energy as you move through the transition process, while the return on your investment increases.
In the common model, you spend more and more time managing resistance as you get closer to implementation. In the change recipient approach (figure 2), your focus is on raising readiness and preventing resistance, which is more cost and time efficient.
Ultimately you will need to decide: Is your change management approach giving you the greatest return on investment for the time you have?