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General principles of chance management

204 Comments · Business outsourcing

Effective change management in organizations has been studied and examined in great detail.

No stone has been left unturned because scholars and organizational consultants recognize that this is a particularly needful (and lucrative) area in which to practice.

Unfortunately for managers who have to sift through all of the articles, reports, books, and consultant schemes, it is not clear which of the approaches should be used to manage the changes produced by a business process outsourcing (BPO) initiative.

Take heart-in the end, the well-chosen actions taken to manage change are less important than their consistent and well-communicated application.

Let us state that again: The well-chosen actions taken to manage the changes brought by BPO are less important than their consistent and well-communicated application.

Of course, that does not mean to suggest that all managerial interventions are created equal.

The consistent application of a poor technique will inevitably produce poor results. That is why we added the “well-chosen” caveat.

The change management strategy adopted should be one that makes sense under the circumstances.

It would be difficult for the project management team to explain and/or defend its change management tactics if it was obvious that they were inappropriate or plainly ineffective.

The most important insight that change management scholars and years of organizational experience have uncovered is that consistent application of a sensible strategy is necessary to produce effective results.

Most would agree that any attempt to achieve “optimum” results is likely to lead to paralysis, as the search for the perfect technique to match current conditions would be inordinately time-consuming and fraught with endless debate.

Rather, the predominant counsel today is to use a satisfying approach-one that will produce results that exceed certain prespecified and, hopefully, measurable parameters, but might not be the optimum solution.

Satisficing is a concept not used often enough among those who execute organizational change management tactics and strategies.

It is a handy concept-handier than, say, synergy-that promotes action over inaction, results over paralysis, and consistency over trendy management theories. We recommend that the concept become a part of the project management team (PMT’s) lexicon and a pillar of efficient change management style.

In light of our recommendation that the consistent application of a well-chosen strategy rather than the strategy itself is the most important factor in effective BPO-induced change management, let us examine change management principles that qualify as well-chosen. Experience and scholarly research converge on a few guiding principles:

? Effective change management requires a compelling vision of the outcome of the change process.

? Effective change management requires visible leadership from top management of the organization.

? Effective change management requires extensive communication and opportunities for employee feedback.

? Effective change management requires the ability to deal with job loss and changeover.

? Effective change management requires an ability to maintain business continuity and benchmark performance.

In the following sections, each of these general principles is examined in greater detail and in light of their application within a BPO imitative.

Creating a Compelling Vision
It is easy for management to deride the value of vision to organizational achievement. After all, it is usually not the visionaries who are celebrated in song and story-it is the action figures we prefer.

The visionaries are often considered to be soft, pensive, or overly cautious. And certainly, anyone could waste a lot of time in dreaming up a vision and trying to crystallize it in his or her mind.

Vision, so conceived, is a waste of time and has no place in the competitive global arena in which most organizations are striving to eke out advantages over rivals.

Yet, a less exaggerated concept of vision does have an important role to play in the alignment of organizational goals and individual efforts.

As has been amply demonstrated, clarity on the outcome of a difficult and challenging project helps people establish a sense of flow and ownership that can lead to high levels of performance under difficult circumstances.

An effective organizational vision is not something that is pondered over and analyzed to infinite detail.

It is nothing more than a tale-a story-of what the outcome of a project is expected to look and feel like to organizational members.

It is up to the managers creating the vision to determine how much detail is required to tell a story that is compelling enough to drive high performance.

For skeptical listeners, the story may need greater detail and more analogies to satisfy them.

For already-converted listeners, less detail and more encouragement to step out and take action may be all that is required.

Corporate storytelling has become a high-value consulting specialization for some. Firms such as Hewlett-Packard, Nokia, and Rolls Royce recognize that overreliance on the alphabet soup acronyms of many change management programs leads to stupefying doubt and confusion.

They have developed corporate stones to enliven the troops and align them on a common purpose.

It is likely that many of the managers reading this book do not fancy themselves the storytelling type.

A good corporate story does not need to live dramatic characters or daring action heroes. All that is required is a word-picture of the expected outcomes of the project and the likely impact for the people operating it.

It strikes us that managers who lack such a vision are flailing about and succeed only by chance.

Far better for personal success, as well as the success of the overall project and the organization, is to craft a working articulation (a story) of the outcomes of the project and then refine the story as required.

Five basic elements must be present to make storytelling an effective technique for leading change.

These elements of effective organizational storytelling are straightforward enough to be practiced by nearly anyone in a project management role.

Mangling a BPO transition requires placing the project in the context of the bigger picture, including the likely future state of the organization and its people.

Developing and articulating a truthful story about the organization’s likely future state will not eliminate all change-induced problems.

Nevertheless, abdicating that responsibility will undoubtedly mean that the organization will experience a greater number and intensity of change management issues during the BPO transition.

Elements of Effective Organizational Storytelling
• Effective stories are context specific. Research indicates that linking an activity or     project to a company’s strategic challenges improves the effectiveness of the initiative.

• Effective stories are level appropriate. The storyteller should frame stones so that participants can see themselves in it and reflect on what they might do to resolve the challenges it poses.

• Role modes tell effective stories. Storytellers must be both highly respected role models and highly accessible coaches.

• Effective stories have drama. The best stories focus on the storyteller’s need to make tough choices, usually without perfect information or complete agreement among involved parties.

• Effective stories have high learning value. For a story to be effective it must stimulate learning, and for learning to have impact it must produce changes in behavior.

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