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3 Must Haves for a Rock-Solid Change Management Plan

Globalization and accelerated innovation of technology result in a constantly evolving business environment and therefore, a continual need for change.

Change management is not new. The principles and approaches have been studied and practiced since Kurt Lewin, often considered the founder of change management based on his research from back in the 1930’s. And placing people at the core of change, something we at Wonder Services practice in every engagement, has been evangelized since the 1960’s.

And yet, in 2022, the majority of change initiatives fail, with poor change management being a root cause.

Which is why this was still a topic of great interest during this year’s Procurement Foundry’s FORGE event. A conference room full of procurement leaders were revisiting the topic, with new ideas, challenges, and approaches.

We’ve distilled the insights into one key theme – The three steps needed to set the critical foundation for change in today’s business landscape.

The Building Blocks

The case for change

(1)A solid business problem

The business case is a key document for any enterprise-wide initiative or project. It not only outlines the business problem, solution options, and recommendations, but also the expected results and ultimate ROI. The business case also presents an opportunity for procurement to collaborate early on with stakeholders by involving them in its actual creation.

Critical to the business case is that it is grounded in a clear business problem. Often times characteristics exist that a proactive procurement leader identifies as an opportunity   –  unmanaged tail spend as an example – but is not deemed as a burning business problem to be solved by an enterprise wide initiative. A strong foundation is built when a business problem (not just a situation) is clearly identified and is one that stakeholders will rally around, long term. Probe stakeholders for pain points (operational roadblocks, budget constraints, competitive threats) and unrealized goals to make sure support for change will be sustained.

Without a business problem that is causing some level of pain within the organization, you risk facing the friction of inertia, as described in the book by David Schonthal and Loran Nordgren, “The Human Element: Overcoming the Resistance That Awaits New Ideas”. Inertia is a powerful force that keeps people doing what they’ve always done. Pain is a powerful antidote.

(2) Clarity on what success looks like

Procurement leaders continue to be agents of change within their organizations. As leaders of the change, people will look to you during times of uncertainty. Your clarity on the scope, purpose, outcome and future vision will be vital.

“Well, I can’t put it any more clearly sir for it isn’t clear to me” - ALICE

We recommend applying Steven Covey’s Habit #2 here - Begin with the end in mind. Build a shared, clear understanding of success. When creating the vision for the future, include what the future state will look and feel like for each stakeholder group. Communicating the vision should be frequent, consistent and simple. Identify the success metrics, how they will be measured, and what data will be needed. Alignment on the success metrics at this stage will ensure all efforts will be put into measures that are meaningful to the business. This will help drive adoption and governance, two components that, when missing,  can lead to project failure.  

(3) Identify your influencers

Collaborating and building relationships with stakeholders has long been a focus for procurement leaders. But continuously improving and refining how this gets done remains a focal point for high performing procurement teams. In a research report released earlier this year, Ardent Partners noted that 37% of procurement leaders are prioritizing the improvement of internal collaboration.

Formal and informal influencers exist and having both as advocates will be needed. Engage them in the process, early on, and involve them in “co design”.

Informal influencers are often overlooked and are not as easy to identify – they don’t advertise their number of followers. But ignore them at your project’s peril. And when you do engage, make sure it’s purposeful.

To identify informal influencers, consider:

  • Examine past initiatives – who were the people that helped rally support or obstructed it
  • Who are the people that others ask about – “What does Jane think about this?”
  • People who are tenured and have served in different functional roles and bring a broader view
  • Key people in departments whose goals are dependent upon the project outcome
  • Relationships among the executive committee members

Even before change readiness assessments or pre planning, this foundation must be built. Having a wobbly base leads to a wobbly change management plan.

Change management is not easy. It’s a complex process that takes time, effort and resources to execute properly. That’s why it’s so important to set the right foundation for change – something that was a common thread among all of the speakers at FORGE this year. Wonder Services can support you in any stage of the process, and our approach can account for missed steps. But you, your initiative and your organization will be better served by starting strong!

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