Expert Insights

Complex change is easy…

…so long as you have a clear plan, the skills to deliver it and the ability to engage with people at all levels and bring them along. Highly experienced interim transformation programme director Tony Martin lists a few simple rules to make effective change easier.

1. Have a plan

A plan that shows where you are and where you want to get to seems blindingly obvious but, says Tony, not having one that is straightforward is a common oversight he’s seen many times. “A simple, yet effective plan is one of the foundation blocks for any change programme,” he says.

2. Have a business case

The business case doesn’t have to be lengthy or too detailed, it simply needs to be a touchstone on how the organisation will achieve the plan’s goal with allocated resources, funding and timescales.

3. Have clear governance

A programme plan doesn’t have to be rigid, it can evolve as the programme progresses “Learn by doing” as Tony puts it. “Whether it changes or not, you need proper governance throughout. In other words you need the right stakeholders in place who can make those critical decisions.”

4. Use existing expertise

While many companies benefit from employing external change management expertise, organisations have plenty of internal skills they can use. “Too often companies don’t use the power of their own organisation to make change easier; getting the blend right between internal and external resource is key”

5. Make decisions with the right people

“The plan, to be truly effective, has to drive decisions and you need to be very clear about who the key stakeholders are to make things happen across the programme,” says Tony. “It’s critical to have different versions of the plan for different stakeholders and stakeholder groups. For example, a one-pager for senior stakeholders and more detailed plans for specialist stakeholders and tasks. It’s also important not to overlook the informal organisation with stakeholders, such as PAs, and administrators being able to play an important part.”

6. Don’t underestimate the power of communications

Tony says: “The most common reason for poorly executed change is that people don’t know what’s going on. You must spend time clearly articulating what you’re doing through an effective comms strategy and understanding what channels you’re going to leverage. Never assume people within an organisation will get what you’re doing and why the first time you tell them, or even the second or third time. You often hear people don’t like change, but in my experience it’s more because they don’t understand what’s happening. The more effort you put into making it clear what’s in it for them, the easier change will be.”

7. Understand the culture of the business

Whoever’s in charge of implementing change it’s important they understand the culture of the organisation – something Tony defines as “what happens when you turn your back”. Knowing what makes the organisation tick, will make it easier to engage people and bring them along with you on the journey.

8. Create a drum beat

By this Tony means creating a straightforward rhythm across the programme to keep momentum and progress visible and tangible. Complex change programmes take place over months and years, so regular daily, weekly and/or monthly calls or meetings with key stakeholders, create the sense of pace and achievement.

9. Have good quality reporting

“Quality reporting is all about being crystal clear around where we are now and where we’re going next. For me the most important thing is to see where we’re behind and what we’re going to do about it. Furthermore, the nature and detail of reporting should be tailored for the specific stakeholder group needs; remember who your customers are”

10. Acknowledge success and learnings

With all this change going on and attention focused on the next challenge, it can be all too easy to overlook a very simple yet powerful motivator: acknowledging success. Tony says: “Recognising people’s achievements and having a bit of a brag list of what you’ve done provides encouragement and motivation. Creating a healthy culture of feedback also enables you to both capture lessons and avoids reinventing the wheel.

“Ultimately togetherness is key, both within the programme team and across the wider business. Leverage the power of the team in its widest sense and you’ll achieve awesome things.”

Tony Martin

Tony Martin is a very experienced interim international programme director working with blue-chip FTSE 100 companies. He is highly successful at managing very large, business-critical and complex multi-workstream change, integration and turnaround programmes across multiple locations.

Williams Bain

Williams Bain is an exclusive hybrid interim and change management provider. We’re trusted by some of the UK’s largest organisations to support the implementation of complex strategies that accelerate results and lead to definitive, positive and measurable change.