Elements that will help leaders win the game of change
By LOUISA DEVADASON
“The more things change, the more they stay the same”
– Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
Change is often an uncomfortable, confusing process – it’s tough. When a company goes through change, every member of the organisation goes for the ride.i
They experience the ambiguity and uncertainty in different ways that interplay with other changes or events in their life. Hence, managing change is a hard but necessary undertaking.
One of the big reasons change can be so hard on employees and companies is that it’s difficult to agree on the factors that impact transformative efforts.
Fly – or die
Harold L. Sirkin and Perry Keenan, senior partners of The Boston Consulting Group conducted a 225-company study that revealed a strong link between the outcomes of change programmes and four hard factors: duration, integrity, commitment, and effort.
They call these variables the DICE factor because they could be loaded in order to make projects’ a success.
“If you think about it, the different ways in which organisations combine the four factors create a continuum – from projects that are set up to succeed to those that are set up to fail.
At one extreme, a short project led by a skilled, motivated, and cohesive team, championed by top management and implemented in a department that is receptive to the change and has to put in very little additional effort, is bound to succeed.
At the other extreme, a long, drawn-out project executed by an inexpert, unenthusiastic, and disjointed team, without any top-level sponsors and targeted at a function that dislikes the change and has to do a lot of extra work, will fail.
Businesses can easily identify change programmes at either end of the spectrum, but most initiatives occupy the middle ground where the likelihood of success or failure is difficult to assess.
“Executives must study the four DICE factors carefully to figure out if their change programmes will fly – or die,” Sirkin and Keenan shared.
The DICE Factors are:
Companies often worry too much about taking “too long” to instate change programmes – assuming that more time means more opportunities missed or more goals lost. Sirkin and Keenan found the opposite to be true.
Longer projects that were regularly reviewed had greater success than short projects with less reviews. It appears that the time between reviews were more critical for success than a project’s life span.
It is recommended that companies conduct bimonthly reviews of their projects. Locking down milestones and analysing their impact prove to be the most effective way by which leaders can review project execution, troubleshoot and critique.
Milestones are best in the form of major actions or achievements as opposed to daily activities. They need to be significant enough for executives to be assured that progress has actually been made.
Performance integrity is the extent to which organisations can depend on their managerial teams, supervisors and members to execute change projects successfully.
The success of change depends on the quality of the team handling it so it is important for companies to allow their best people autonomy and opportunity to spearhead these projects while ensuring smooth daily operations. This requires skilled, committed team members who will go the extra mile.
It is important to make sure the team is cohesive and well led – often executives assume a likeable manager is a good leader and they are often not one and the same.
Executives must identify strengths and be particular of the team’s composition. It is important to be inclusive when picking teams by getting names from key partners and finding out who is the top performer for multiple functions.
It is also important not to just pick members who are supportive of the change but rather focus on team leads who have strong problem-solving skills, are driven by results and are simultaneously methodical and agile.
This might interest you: Why Do Leadership And Organisational Integrity Matter?
Boosting company commitment and moral is essential in order for a change project to take root. It is important to seek the clear backing of influential leaders in the company who do not necessarily hold top spot.
Additionally, it is important to factor the enthusiasm or apprehension of the people who have to deal with the new systems and processes. Higher-level commitment to change is essential to facilitate the commitment of employees in making the new way work.
“Sometimes, senior executives are reluctant to back initiatives. That’s understandable; they’re often bringing about changes that may negatively affect employees’ jobs and lives.
However, if senior executives do not communicate the need for change, and what it means for employees, they endanger their projects’ success,” Sirkin and Keenan said.
Sometimes thorny issues need to be tackled like layoffs and that’s why strong consistent communication from senior executives are essential – to assure staff that things are going to be handled systematically, transparently and professionally.
When companies launch transformation efforts, they frequently don’t realise, or know how to deal with the fact, that employees are already busy with their day-to-day responsibilities.
People often are already overworked at many companies and when sudden transitions are added to these existing responsibilities – people will naturally become resistant.
Change project teams must calculate how much work employees must do beyond their existing responsibilities to change over to new processes – ideally not more than 10% of their current workload.
Beyond that and human resources become stretched thin and either drag down the project or daily operations.
Employees will also feel lost and burnt out – maybe even cheated – leading to conflict between the team and others.
It is important to consider how scarce everyone’s time is when planning transitions.
Companies need to decide whether reducing some of their key employees’ daily workload is necessary for the success of the project – especially non-essential duties.
In addition, firms should review all the other projects in the operating plan and assess which ones are critical for the change effort.
DICE: a language for change
Sirkin and Keenan have found that senior executives’ focus and attention on these four factors have been the foundation of many companies elevating themselves to a higher trajectory of performance.
The DICE framework provides a means to effectively communicate change – it enables companies to delve into the insight and experience of their employees. DICE takes bias out and creates a clear process for an organisation to embrace.
Simply put, a standardised and quantitative framework allows for frank conversations at all levels within organisations – the DICE framework helps people do the right thing by change.
Louisa is currently pursuing a Masters of Development Practice overseas — majoring in community development. She is an editorial associate and freelance writer with Leaderonomics. An extrovert who loves to bug her team and the outdoors; she thinks change is exciting and should be embraced.