If you are interested in change management you probably, like me, have a dozen or more books on your bookshelf, each on one particular dimension of the change management process and none addressing the whole process. You also know you’ll probably buy the next highly acclaimed one to be published as you search for that elusive “answer” that will produce the desired outcomes from your change management initiatives.
This is why Leslie Allan’s book is such a gift to executives, leaders, managers and supervisors who want to initiate a change process in their organizations. It’s a complete guide and true to its subtitle a very practical guide.
How often have you heard the comment: Change doesn’t work? True, it doesn’t for many people and organizations. It doesn’t because change management initiatives are often poorly conceived, planned and implemented. It is important to note at the outset that Leslie Allan believes that for change management initiatives to be successful in organizations they need to be led by the CEO, executives and managers, not HR. So his book outlines a process these people can go through that gives the best guarantee possible that the change they want and need to implement will provide the outcomes they desire.
The book is actually a workbook and that’s why it is so valuable. It takes teams and their leaders through the entire change management process from conception to implementation. It is not, however, the read-chapter-1 and do-chapter-1 and then move-on-to- chapter-2 book. Rather it is a book a change management team, with a commitment to reflective practice, could work through as a group PRIOR to commencing a change process in their organization. This would mean that the leadership team becomes conscious of the possible challenges to the successful implementation of their plan in advance and can address them. In other words, many of the obstacles to success would be addressed BEFORE the process even begins.
This is not, however, a book about slick strategies. At the outset it contextualizes change management which is crucially important for any change management team to do to ensure the integrity of their initiative. This is the part that is often neglected or only superficially addressed and therefore results in a poorly conceived and ultimately failed process. Leslie Allan raises the importance, at the outset, of addressing six contextual issues:
- forces for the change – what are both the external and internal forces in their country, industry, organization and in the global community?
- scope of the change – how much of the organization will it encompass or impinge on?
- objectives of the change – is it about infrastructure, systems, people, structure or culture?
- duration of the change – is it short, intermediate or long?
- depth of the change – will it be incremental and linear or transformational and multi-dimensional?
- direction of the force for change – will it be driven from the top or will it emerge from the front-line workers?
It is Leslie Allan’s six phase, innovatively presented CHANGE process, however, that forms the major part of his book (coloured diagram of this cannot be shown here):
Each of these phases is addressed in great depth and worksheets are provided for each, allowing people to record and document their ideas and responses as they proceed. While this approach has been presented in a linear fashion so that people can see the process, Leslie Allan makes it very clear that it is not, in practice, a linear process. He makes the point throughout the book that it is people, not machines, that make change happen – or obstruct it – and that those leading the change need to go back and around all the time, re-iterating the vision and repeating the message in a wide variety of ways to gain the support of their people.
In fact, one of the most important chapters for me was the G section on Growing the capability of people. After all this is my area of expertise and interest! Leslie Allan stresses the importance of investing in the organization’s people and their training, taking into consideration their various ways of learning and coming to know and understand, if we want change initiatives to be successful. This fitted well with the emphasis he put on the importance of communication in his H section on Harnessing Support.
One of the great values of this book is that it does address the important planning issues relating to organizational and business objectives. It does address, for example, the performance metrics in change management, but as well it strongly supports the engagement of the organization’s people in the process of change and offers much support, ideas and suggestions for how to do that in a way that will ensure the success of the change initiative. It emphasizes the need for those leading the process to not only be technically proficient but to also have highly developed soft skills, those all important people skills, interpersonal and communication skills.
This book is too comprehensive to review in its entirety. It’s a book, however, that I’d recommend to a whole range of professionals and business leaders, not only to those people initiating a change management process. It has excellent sections for project managers, teams leaders and people engaged in training and development, for example. It also has valuable information on the psychology of resistance and how to win people over to new ideas and change, an excellent section on communication, good information on goal setting and a comprehensive section on team building.
While seeing this book as a very valuable book on change management to have on your bookshelf, I’m not promoting it as the magic bullet of change management, because there is nothing magic about change. It is hard work! The book is, however, a very helpful, practical and excellent guide to the change management process. It charts a path to follow; it raises very pertinent questions for consideration; it offers many, many solutions to common problems faced in change management initiatives. The thirteen worksheets it provides to accompany the book mean that, having worked through the book, the readers have a very well-developed draft of a change management process – all in advance of commencement.
Leslie Allan is Managing Director of Business Performance Pty Ltd, a company specializing in creating practical tools and guides that help HR professionals perform their role more effectively. Mr. Allan has been assisting organizations improve their capability for over 20 years. He has contributed in various roles as manager, consultant and trainer within the manufacturing and service industries, both for public and private sector organizations. Mr. Allan has led and been involved in the full gamut of change programs, including training function start ups, strategic planning, new technology implementations, continuous process improvement, building relocation, workplace communications and customer focus initiatives.
Mr. Allan is a prolific writer on business issues, with many journal and web articles to his credit. He is also the author of five books on employee capability, training and change management. Mr. Allan currently serves as Divisional Council Member for the Australian Institute of Training and Development and is a member of the Australian Institute of Management and the American Society for Quality.
More information about this book can be obtained at http://www.businessperform.com/html/managing_change.html.