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This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.

Organizational change is a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly reality. Commonly linked to the term "change management," there is no universally accepted best practice or definition that defines what change is or how to manage it effectively.

Change management has been written about for at least 50 years, with many publications, training, models, theories and experts offering advice on how to deal with it effectively. Even with all this knowledge it's estimated that 60-70 per cent of change management projects fail.

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Why change initiatives may fail:

  • no framework to lead change
  • faulty preparation
  • lack of measurement
  • conflicting priorities
  • no monitoring

The term change management is an oxymoron; there is no way to control every variable for any one change once it has begun.

Leaders, however, can control their behaviour with respect to how they lead and manage themselves and their teams. Leaders can benefit from working through a structure that facilitates problem solving and decision making.

The word "change" facilitates a mnemonic checklist that can serve as a reminder of the value of having an end in mind and working through a process to achieve a defined goal.

C – Can't continue the way things are. Something has occurred that has influenced leaders to make some type of change. The root cause is driven by a defined risk or opportunity that creates the motivation to take action. This defines what needs to change and why. The vision, benefits and urgency have been established.

H – How much change will be needed, by when, and how long the change will take from start to finish. The facts shaping the change are to be verified, along with the exact degree of change, how success will be defined and measured, the timeline and speed the change will need to happen. The expected outcomes need to be stress tested to ensure they are realistic. The purpose of this step is to remove assumptions and guessing and to create the conditions for how the change will be properly monitored and measured. This step frames the change and the desired outcomes.

A – Answering how the proposed change may impact employees, leadership, customers and, when necessary, shareholders is a best practice before making a final plan. Factors such as human capital, labour agreements, key stakeholders, policies, procedures, environment, resources, equipment and sensitivity are a few examples of the factors to be considered in the planning process. The degree of change (for example, minor, medium, major), as well as what industry and sector will shape what factors to consider. This is a diligence step to assess risk and factors that need to be considered before making a plan. This step anticipates the what-ifs.

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N – New direction and a final game plan for how change will be done need to be defined. Every plan needs to consider specific needs such as communications strategy, training needs, staffing, resources, and measurements to lead the change. Once the plan is finalized and the launch date is defined, the next step is to initiate the change. The plan is to have a clear beginning, middle and end. The final game plan is written and the leaders who are accountable and responsible are clearly defined in the plan.

G – Go time is when the plan becomes live with the workforce and other key stakeholders. This is the implementation stage where the change initiatives go from a plan to reality. It's common that once a plan goes live to get some degree of resistance. Not all employees will respond the same to minor, medium and major changes. This step is when the work begins to move a change plan from an idea to reality. There may be additional issues that need to be dealt with that were not planned for. Seldom is a change plan perfect, so there may be a need for some adaptation if feasible. This step requires attention to detail, monitoring and follow-through.

E – Evaluating the success of the change from its beginning, middle to end is an important step to ensure the change gets done as planned. It can provide important lessons as to how to best facilitate change in the culture. There will be a next time, and the more leaders learn, the better they will be at successfully leading change.

Change is constant and can be confusing when it's not led. It's not uncommon for more than one change to be happening at the same time. Leaders who are crystal clear what letter they are on for each change initiative and ensure that each stage is completed one at time increase their probability for positively leading change.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.

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