Going from Change Management to Change Agility
By Josh Bersin, Global Industry Analyst and CEO, The Josh Bersin Company
  • Business leaders have typically approached change initiatives with project management tools such as spreadsheets, assigned deliverables, and rigid timelines. 

  • But the relentless pace of change, coupled with current workforce challenges, requires a new approach based on iterative and agile practices, employee impact, and even human nature. 

Our recent research, together with the ongoing conversations conducted as part of our continuous Big Reset working groups, shows that a traditional approach to change management no longer suffices for the rapid changes businesses across the sectors are seeing.

This is because traditional change management projects are designed as once-and-done initiatives. However, change requires changing business processes, job responsibilities and assignments, the associated employee behaviours, and more – all playing out simultaneously. Not only is a big-bang approach beyond the realm of human nature, today’s speed of change just doesn’t allow for lengthy and complex planning.  

While old change models can give some comfort of providing a structured approach, they can also engender a false sense of security. Even if you follow a change management methodology to a T, something will happen that will disrupt planning. We need to alter the paradigm and move away from a focus on management, to one which facilitates change and supports employees along the way.

In organisations that successfully manage change, leaders and high performers reinforce the company’s mission and purpose. They explain how their reinvented business models will work; they create cross-functional teams to design and implement change; and they acknowledge that initiatives will never be completed. That is, changes to any change processes are inevitable. The research shows how organisations that build change agility are more profitable, have higher rates of employee engagement and retention, and happier customers.

HR capabilities to foster change agility are critical

For the past two years, HR teams have been tasked with catalysing change seamlessly and effectively for the workforce, while coping with changes in their own professional roles and personal lives. In fact, respondents to our Global HR Capability Assessment have put change and transformation as the top priority for HR professionals. However, 40% of the surveyed HR professionals expressed that they lack the skills needed for leading effective change. Organisations need to provide development opportunities for staff to build the muscle for change management. Here are a few ways to get started: 

        Assess capability gaps. Evaluate the current state of HR capabilities in your organisation to prioritise development opportunities. The capabilities that matter the most, as discussed above, include continuous listening; the ability to analyse, interpret, and translate data into action; design thinking; and fostering human-centred leadership. 

        Provide mentoring and coaching. Our capability assessment also asks HR professionals to indicate the development opportunities they consider the most important for their careers. Mentoring and coaching emerged as the developmental opportunity that they consider the most crucial for advancing their skills and capabilities. HR leaders must train their focus on providing their teams with tailored coaching on short-term capability needs and mentoring to support capabilities critical for long-term career growth and business success. 

        Leverage capability academies and communities. Capability academies emphasise honing business capabilities and typically include developmental assignments and networks of people for sharing knowledge and information. Kaiser Permanente brought together a change management community of practice with close to 100 people from HR, IT, and business operations to share success stories, and learn and support one another while tackling various change initiatives. The community of practice shares knowledge and tools in monthly meetings and online discussions, shedding light on increasing overall change capacity.

In conclusion, the most important shift to successfully adapt to change is in mindset. We must recognise that every interaction is a change interaction in itself, from the seemingly trivial to the big moments. And we need to craft the small moments even more carefully than the major ones – it is in these small moments where we can create readiness and acceptance for change and transformation.  
Going from Change Management to Change Agility
PR 26 August, 2022