“There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.” Winston Churchill
The F.P.I.E.™ process (pronounced ‘eff pye’), which underpins The Change Consultancy’s approach to organisation change projects, draws heavily on our collective experience. In particular, it taps into project management and business psychology practice. As a consequence, we have substantial experience in consulting on organisation change projects from start to finish.
Furthermore, we consult on both hard and soft change. Hard change requires a quantifiable, bottom line solution for achieving well-articulated and clearly understood objectives. At the other end of the spectrum, soft change exists where the organisation change project goal is less well-defined; indeed, in reality, it can be downright confusing and fuzzy. There is a higher degree of unpredictability and associated emotional charge.
In recent years the Association of Project Managers has focussed more attention on soft change, since it is the area in which its members, all change practitioners, tend to encounter most difficulty.
Irrespective of the nature of organisation change, we have placed simplicity, structure and plain speaking at the heart of the The Change Consultancy’s practice.
Returning to F.P.I.E. let me address each letter of the framework in turn…
|Stage||Steps + Related Products|
|# 1 Foundation
|# 1 Sponsors’ Change Goals
# 2 Stakeholders’ Change Goals
# 3 Set or Review ObjectivesPortfolio of people change development modules. Group and individual delivery.Tribe™
“They had to work with what they had, not with the world as they would like it to be.” Christopher G Nuttall, The Fall of Night
The Foundation stage is principally focused on generating realistic goals for the organisation change project. It recognises that the development of organisation change goals is a political process. Therefore, obtaining a clear understanding of sponsors’ requirements is crucial to producing a scope document for the organisation change project.
Depending upon the size of the organisation change project, there could be few stakeholders or there could be many. Irrespective, it is important to identify the impact of the proposed change on stakeholders. Clear thinking is required to identify stakeholders’ level of interest and power to support or resist the proposed change, which could have profound implications for the project timeline.
All of the information gathered can then be converted into an objectives tree for the organisation change project. Objectives are expressed in the SMART format. If this feels like change with a hard edge or change with a Spock-like logic, you are correct. It is difficult to see a firm foundation being laid for an organisation change project without these steps. However, what of the soft aspects of change, i.e. those most often associated with people?
The Change Consultancy knew it had to address this situation. We concluded that every stage and every step of F.P.I.E. required hard and soft techniques in the toolbox. This will be followed up in greater detail, starting with the next edition of Interactive.
In addition, we quickly realised that Foundation for Change had to offer to coach or train the necessary (people) knowledge and skills to lead an organisation change project. Our friends at the Association of Project Managers have made it abundantly clear that mastery of soft (people) skills is not as widespread as they would wish. Indeed, rather disturbingly, the organisation change projects that fail (we assume to meet the objectives set for them) do appear to have people issues at their core.
Hence, under Foundation for Change, The Change Consultancy has designed and offers a series of short, change-oriented, people modules for group or individual delivery. These are for clients who wish their organisation change project leaders to build up a portfolio of knowledge and skills on topics such as: assertiveness, communication, conflict management, leadership style, motivation, networking, team development.
Occasionally, organisations whether expanding SMEs, new divisions or overhauled departments of larger entities, require a process that embraces the whole group, not just part of the whole. For example, enhancing employee engagement and commitment may be an explicit requirement of the organisation change project. In such circumstances, a Foundation for Change process that we refer to as Tribe™ could come into play.
A three stage process, Tribe™ starts with Directing Our Tribe, then moves to Connecting Our Tribe, with Supercharging Our Tribe completing the process. Interactive #3 has more information on the Directing Our Tribe stage of Tribe™.
Discussion : Are we right to place emphasis on the first two steps? Does our desciption of
developing change goals as political seem valid?
We believe that our present portfolio of knowledge and skills modules may be
incomplete. Hence, we welcome your views on possible future topics and
|# 2 Planning (P)||# 4 Identify & Select Issues or Problems
# 5 Analyse Issues or Problems
# 6 Generate Options for Change
# 7 Select & Plan the preferred Option for Change
“Prior planning prevents piss poor performance.” British Army
Tom Peter’s mantra “Ready. Fire. Aim.” from ‘In Search of Excellence’ has been quoted to us as a reason for adopting a planning-lite approach to change. Unfortunately, it does run the risk of treating everything to do with organisation change as an emergency or crisis. In our opinion this merely serves to underscore the need for sound planning. We believe that time devoted to planning provides a context for business change and engenders a feeling of control (in the change leader or team). But beware, do not slavishly follow an organisation change plan!
“Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” General Dwight D Eisenhower
Since we now know where we are going with the organisation change project, it is vital that we understand where we are starting from, i.e. what is happening in the here-and-now. It enables us to identify and analyse potential issues or problems, as we strain to meet the challenges of the organisation change project. Not only do we need to understand what is happening, we need to understand why it is happening. Hence, logical data-informed analysis is necessary.
Generating options for change follows. This can be stimulated by various means, e.g. discussion or benchmarking the practices of organisations deemed to be front-runners.
Regarding the latter, as an HRD manager, I was a member of a senior manager group tasked with benchmarking groupworking practices on behalf of a division of the UK’s largest pharmaceutical company.We enjoyed a successful visit to Mars at Slough. However, one group caught our eye, because they seemed to stand apart from the main body. Our guide informed us that the group was referred to as ‘the warm and verticals’. Curiosity had to be satisfied. Our guide explained that Mars had a ‘no redundancy’ policy, but some of their people did not fit into the new order. Non-essential jobs were made available for the misfits who chose not to accept redundancy terms, hence the nickname.
Paring down the options to a few or even one and planning their implementation completes the stage. Here at The Change Consultancy we do wonder how options for change are actually evaluated as fit for purpose in organisations…
An evaluation matrix which unpacks the measures from SMART objectives and compares them with the generated options seems to be a sensible, practical approach. However, experience informs us that emotion plays a much greater role in decision making and decision taking than is publically admitted.
Discussion : What do you think about our assertions? How do you feel about them?
|# 3 Implementation (I)||# 8 Implement the Selected Option for Change|
When your organisation change plan meets the real world, the real world wins. Seldom does everything go as planned. Errors and issues accumulate. Mistaken assumptions can come back to bite you on the backside.
“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley” Robert Burns
“No plan survives first contact with implementation” Andy Weir, The Martian
The lesson is clear – expect things to go wrong during implementation. Formulation of ‘what-if’ alternatives during planning is definitely a good move.
Many moons ago, when I was a personnel manager at a famous-brand tea factory, the factory general manger relentlessly rehearsed our negotiation team. ‘What-ifs’ were included. This approach worked well. Ultimately, we were successful in maintaining control of factory costs, and in preserving sound relationships with the union representatives.
Not everything went swimmingly. I recall a rather uncomfortable occasion when the factory general manager, production manager and I had to meet the entire night shift to address their concerns.
Our clients have told us about their horror stories. Typically, these stories revolve around:
- Confusion about goals – doubts or concerns about expectations
- Conflict with roles – two people trying to do the same thing or responsibility falls between two stools, leaving vital activities undone
- Unclear procedures – status issues about who is in control
- Communication ‘fails’ – content, channel choice, style of delivery, timing
- Personality clashes – leading to very heated and very public arguments.
Overall, the above stories centre on co-ordinating the activities of the people charged with making the change happen. Communication generally falls well-short of the frequency and timing required. The cohesion of the organisation change team, often a vital requirement in a project’s success, struggles to materialise.
The Change Consultancy’s substantial experience in applying business psychology enables us to work with clients to anticipate, address and resolve the issues described above.
Discussion : Do you agree with the views expessed? Have we over-stated the issues?
|# 4 Evaluation (E)||# 9 Evaluate the Effectiveness of the Change Project|
“Crisis? What Crisis?” Supertramp (album title)
In UK business culture ‘evaluation’ carries with it implied criticism. No-one wants to be blamed for an organisation change project gone wrong: over-time, over-budget, squandered resources, health and safety issues, or the stigma of failure and possibly career derailment. Given that the pace of change appears to be quickening, it does appear to us that proper evaluation is either rushed or skipped altogether – to facilitate plunging headlong into the next organisation change project.
This is a bad move in our opinion; learning from experience is a vital part of individual, team and organisation development. Otherwise the mistakes of the past are repeated and continue to avoid robust challenge. Evaluation need not be a lengthy or a formal affair, but it does require to be planned and structured.
The Change Consultancy encourages its clients to evaluate their organisation change projects. We agree with Einstein when he said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Discussion: What is your experience of the evaluation of organisation change projects?
Is our assessment too pessimistic?
Interactive builds The Change Consultancy’s library of articles about organisatio change. It is edited by Tom Lindsay, who is also a major contributor. Our heading of Interactive is a deliberate choice, because The Change Consultancy is keen to engage with its audience. Each article contains Discussion points. If you wish to comment, then we cordially invite you to get in touch with Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Lindsay is a graduate Chartered Psychologist and MBA specialising in business psychology. In the 1990s he was a part-time Course Tutor of Planning & Managing Change for the North East Region of the Open University’s Business School. Prior to this he held personnel positions in blue chips and the NHS. For the past twenty eight years he has been a consultant concentrating on the people aspects of change. He is a director of The Change Consultancy.