Ownership of change

By: Natasha Crooks

Who is the owner of change? In our personal lives, that question tends to be easy to answer - moving house, starting that diet - these are changes we own individually; as the people involved and those who wear the consequences  - positive or otherwise.
When the change occurs in the context of a working environment, the ownership lines can blur - it is easy to view the change as something which is 'being done to you' rather than something which you own. A lack of ownership presents challenges for an organisation, since it is a precursor to a lack of  staff engagement - and engagement is a critical element for successful change programmes.
Why the difference between personal and corporate change? The distinction tends to lie in choice and control. 
We choose change when there is a perceived benefit from the altered state - in a sales context this can be referred to as the WIIFM (What's In It For Me) statement, even with an absence of control over the change, it is more likely to be adopted if there is an incentive for the individual.
A change programme should:
  • Understand the impacted parties and their motivations.
  • Be able to clearly articulate what an impacted party stands to gain, and lose from the change.
Where a party understands what they stand to gain from the change, they are more likely to become an advocate for it, and take greater ownership for it - in the sense of seeking to make sure that it happens, rather than resisting it.
Control in the context of an organisation is more challenging, because an individual is unlikely to have control over the change in any real sense of the word, instead, the organisation should be striving to empower staff to be involved in the change process from the outset - where there may be some room to influence outcomes in design and delivery, and to allow a good understanding of the change impacts.
A change programme should:
  • Act and communicate transparently with staff, so credibility with impacted parties can be built.
  • Provide a forum for feedback/advocacy with impacted parties, and demonstrate that this feedback is considered.
Where an organisation is trusted, and the change programme is credible, impacted parties are more likely to be engaged with the programme, and ultimately adopt and own the change.
Where change is owned by impacted parties, there is an investment in the outcome (successful delivery), and a greater likelihood that the change will be sustained once the change programme has finished. Change management teams can help facilitate this through robust stakeholder and impact analysis (understanding the impacted parties and what it means to them), and providing the right mechanisms for meaningful communication with impacted parties.


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