So, the Brexit negotiations have started. At this pivotal point, it’s useful to consider how this significant transformation has been handled so far and what we can learn, (or not) about change management generally; whatever one’s political views
As the months roll on no doubt more issues will come to the fore, but for now:
1. Be clear why the change is necessary and its objectives. Explain in terms that are meaningful. To ape the Brexit style, to say for example that ‘transformation means transformation’ has no value and will leave people confused about what it means for them or what the purpose is.
2. Don’t lead off with no red lines. Whilst purpose and objectives should remain steadfast, how achieved will reasonably be informed through the change process and must include the opportunity for valid feedback from all stakeholders.
3. Understand the scope. What may seem a simple change impacting on a confined process or team may have repercussions throughout an organisation or only work effectively if the context of operation is significantly reviewed. Are you fully prepared for this?
4. Be mindful of unintended consequences. Even with effective planning things will happen which are unforeseen. Have a process to manage risk and which allows review of direction of the change process and rethinking detail; invest sufficient resources to deal with this. Understand how change may impact on day to day operations; avoid ploughing key resources into change to the detriment of the service along the way.
5. Have a realistic timetable, weighing the need for change and a reasonable workload. It needs to continue post ‘go live date’ to embed the changes, monitor success, and make alterations. There is always ‘snagging’.
6. Communicate even when there is little to say. We all know engagement is key. Reporting on Brexit can be found via multiple media and appears continuous (the BBC have a dedicated web page). But people still feel ill-informed whilst over-loaded with differing and sometimes fatalistic views. Opinion will always fill a communication void. Accept you may not get it right but a consistent flow of information in accessible forms is vital for successful implementation.
7. Respect people who don’t agree with you. Organisational change is rarely democratic. Many may never accept the reason for change or the direction of travel but may still have something useful to say. Navigating the “bumps in the road” can provide salutary lessons and make the end result more sustainable. Acceptance will rely on all voices being heard. Don’t alienate people, they will find their voice and more likely vent negatively.
Change is tough and demanding. Be sure that what you get out of it, is worth the investment put in. Be wary of change for change’s sake. History will pass judgment on Brexit.
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