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Nancy DeViney, Vice President, Organizational Change Management, IBM

By Nancy DeViney

Change may be essential to progress, but no one said it was easy.

As anyone who has worked on a major transformation project will tell you, organizational and culture change issues invariably present the biggest challenges.

Redesigning processes, deploying new technologies, reformatting the org chart, you can get all that right but still stumble if you don’t get your people on board. One McKinsey study found that only about 30 percent of change programs succeed. The Number 1 stumbling block: behavior and attitudes failed to change.

Several years ago, IBM conducted an internal study to investigate what has worked and not worked in large-scale transformation initiatives. The types of challenges identified were relatively consistent across the 10 projects we studied. In fact, since then clients have told me that they encounter similar issues. The most common reasons for uneven adoption or difficulty sustaining change?     

  • Changes to the strategy, design, or implementation plan were made without thinking through the impact;
  • Changes were not plumbed far back enough into the business to make them stick;
  • Required behavior changes were never addressed – it was assumed those impacted would simply “get on board.”

To address these recurring issues, we revised our transformation playbook. We established an organizational change center of excellence to train and support change program leaders who are embedded into the project teams of all major initiatives. We see addressing the people side of change as a key factor in the success of IBM’s ongoing transformation.

Organizational change management is an evolving discipline, and we certainly don’t claim to have all the answers. But we have developed and refined a consistent approach that we’ve applied to instituting change in strategy, process, the introduction of new tools and technologies to our workforce, acquisitions and other major enterprise situations. Based on our experience, we’ve found three operating principles essential for building a successful enterprise change management program:

1)  Build a sustainable change capability. We’ve deployed a common method and toolkit that provides our leaders and teams with proven techniques for staging and managing change. We stepped up our change leadership curriculum for leaders and change management training for project managers. We now offer learning modules for all employees to help them better understand their own orientation toward change. We also created an on-line community for change practitioners that now has thousands of members who share their experiences, ideas and lessons learned. It’s important to build pervasive change capabilities into the fabric of the organization.  

2)  Leverage analytics for employee insights. Today’s sophisticated analytics tools are giving change management experts better data to assist leaders as they implement programs. At IBM, for example, we are capturing feedback from impacted employees to measure how well they understand a change initiative, how committed they are to it, how equipped they feel to implement the new approach, and other key indicators of change readiness. We roll up this information in a consumable dashboard format that helps leaders pinpoint potential issues and what needs to be addressed to improve adoption and business impact.

3)  Give employees a voice. As our culture has become more collaborative, we’ve learned that you can’t mandate change. Engaging employees to tap into their creative energy to help shape change is key. Many firms are focused on social business strategies for deepening client relationships, but overlook the transformative potential of social tools for their own workforce. On her first day as IBM’s new CEO, Ginni Rometty established an online community to engage employees across the globe on the strategic beliefs she has put forward as priorities for the company. The forum is ongoing – stimulating ideas and feedback from IBMers across the organization – and giving employees the opportunity to shape the next chapter of IBM’s transformation.

Transformation is always a journey. It never happens overnight. But we’ve learned that leaders who engage and energize their employees in change drive real commitment versus mere compliance. The organizations achieving the best results are making the boldest moves – and making them pay off through smarter change management.

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This is an important article. No matter how strong one’s vision for transformation is, there must be an accompanying strategy for turning vision into reality. Nancy’s reference to the statistic about only approximately 30% of change efforts succeeding should be enough to convince us that smart people need better strategies for inspiring their organizations to adopt the transformations they put fourth.

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Great post – thanks Nancy. I could not agree with you more. The voice of the employee is absolutely critical in effecting longstanding change – as well as our customers and partners in many transformation initiatives.

I look forward to hearing more and being part of our Transformation Journey

Posted by: Lori Feller
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So true, addressing the people side of change is often an afterthought. Our work in the OCM CoE helps leaders prepare their organizations for the change and supports them with leading, role-modeling, and engaging employees in the change.

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Great post Nancy. I believe that social business and it’s role in shaping culture is a critical to any business today. Employees need a voice!

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1 Trackback
May 30, 2013
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[...] Organizational Change Management (OCM) in the future will fully embrace and integrate social media and social business tools into standard management models and approaches. Operating within restricted budgets, social media management requires a small footprint of resources that returns a significant benefit to an agency’s mission, performance and goals. Therefore, deploying social business tools can yield economies of scale, cost savings and greater efficiency of communication to support lasting change. Looking at the traditional, tried-and-true tenets of OCM, ranging from John Kotter’s Eight Step Process for Leading Change to IBM’s Better Change Methodology, it is easy to identify where social media and collaborative technologies augment and integrate seamlessly to support a well positioned business transformation plan [...]

Posted by: Organizational Change Management: Weaving In Social Media & Social Business Tools to Drive Lasting Change | Government industry
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