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Change management

There is a wide range of change management practices employed by companies ranging from none through to fairly rigid and long documents that need to be completed before any change can be made - no matter how trivial. Not having change management invites both disaster and avoidable errors; excessive change management is usually a reaction to too many of the former problems.
The key elements to change management are to identify 2 important states:
  • before the change; and,
  • after the change
In addition to identifying these states, change management should address
  • how do we get from before to after
  • what else is affected by both the transition and the change
Above all the change management process should communicate this information to all those affected and act as a way of focusing the attention of both those directly involved in making the change and those affected by the change on identifying potential problems and unexpected side effects.

Although many businesses can avoid the extremes of heavy weight formal processes for change management, the truism, “Failing to plan is planning to fail” applies to almost any change. So even informal processes should consider:
  • Identifying the before state is critical (and sometimes embarrassingly over looked) as this allows you to roll back a change should the unexpected occur.
  • Clearly identifying the after state. This allows you to identify if the change has succeeded and drives all the remaining elements of the process.
  • Identifying the steps of the change process
  • Identifying the elements of the environment affected by the change
  • Identifying those affected by the process
  • Communicating with those affected or potentially affected

In addition to those directly affected, any change management process should require consultation with others. Too often those closely associated with a particular change fail to consider the whole environment or all the stakeholders. Formal processes often require consultation between separate groups within a company to ensure that consequences of failure and all affected end users are identified.

Initiators of a change are also inclined to assume that everything will go successfully, unfortunately, such optimism is common and sometimes (some would venture rarely) unjustifiable.

Forcing, yourself and others to use even an informal change management process which considers the states and elements described, reduces both the number of and the impacts of failures.