Whether it’s for a large organization, a team or department, or an individual, effective change management must occur at three levels to become sustainable. Change is the movement within the transition state from the current to the target state.
Although large organizations drive changes at the team or department level, the direction established can significantly impact the individual. Change often takes people out of their comfort zone, where they feel a lack of control. Clear communication, efficient project management, and good accounts payable leadership skills are key to navigating the rough waters of change management.
Change management in action
Significant organizational changes include mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, reorganization, strategic initiatives, and system implementations. The accompanying changes in corporate culture can be a challenge. When Hewlett Packard (HP) acquired Compaq Computer Corporation, there was a major change in corporate culture. Compaq was used to a corporate culture that was slower and more casual. At HP, things seemed to move faster than they did at Compaq and there were fewer voicemails, more email, and more succinct decision-making. Hewlett Packard identified the need to conduct a series of company-wide training sessions called “Fast Start.”
The “Fast Start” training sessions focused on the cultural differences between Compaq and Hewlett Packard and included managing change regarding:
- Consensus management — timing of decisions
- Decision by committee — decision-making processes
- Voicemail vs. email — communication differences
- Time zone differences — California vs. Texas
- Different acronyms – corporate language
- Offices vs. cubicles – open vs. closed office layouts
- Wireless technology – 24/7 emails
- Dress code – casual vs. business attire
- Rewards and recognition – California vs. Texas
A successful AP leader needs to understand the basics of change management in today’s accounts payable organization. Unfortunately, there are some situations when change management efforts fail. Here is what can happen when change management initiatives are not successful:
- Feelings are ignored.
- There is failure to involve everyone who is impacted by the change.
- Current policies support the status quo and not the change.
- Reward systems are not aligned with the vision of change.
- Communication is not effective.
- There is no change management plan.
- Project management is ineffective.
- Expectations aren’t properly established.
- There is no training for the resulting process or system change.
- Leaders do not change.
Change management efforts also fail when the accounts payable leadership behaves like a “change junkie.” In other words, change should always be for the better, not just for the “sake of change.” In some cases, patience and perseverance are the signposts to the stability.
Change management models
Various models have been designed for successful change management and business process reengineering. Let’s consider two popular models: PCI and ADKAR.
The PCI approach lists six critical success factors that must be managed to build commitment to change initiatives and create behavior change.
- Shared change purpose — Create a powerful case for change in the organization.
- Positive change leadership — Develop strong change leadership for the initiative.
- Robust engagement processes —Deliver plans to engage people in the change.
- Committed local sponsors — Build understanding and commitment of middle and front-line managers.
- Strong personal connection — Create commitment and behavior-changing actions for front-line people.
- Sustained personal performance — Support people as they learn to adapt, managing their resistance sensitively and empathetically.
Prosci developed the ADKAR model with input from more than 1000 organizations from 59 countries. Initially used as a tool for determining whether activities like communications and training had the desired results during organizational change, the model is steeped in aligning traditional change management activities with a given result or goal. For example, this model provides a helpful change management framework for integrating large organizations such as Compaq and HP.
The building blocks of ADKAR include:
- Awareness of why the change is needed.
- Desire to support and participate in the change.
- Knowledge of how to change.
- Ability to implement new skills and behaviors.
- Reinforcement to sustain the change.
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