Friday, 13 June 2008

Preparing for Change

Stefan Stern wrote a piece in Tuesday’s Financial Times on Change. On how organisations and management prepare for change. It compared the ‘change management spectaculars’ of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 project, and the relocation of Eurostar services to St.Pancras. Terminal 5 was a failed change project; Eurostar was a success. Stern attributes this success to one word: preparation.

Eurostar prepared employees for the huge changes (1,600 employees were affected) "not just in physical terms but in an emotional sense too. Business psychologists from the consultancy Kaisen were brought in to advise managers. A huge, two-way communication effort with staff was made. 'It’s not enough to ‘tell and sell’ ' says Eurostar’s Dan Dobson-Smith, one of the company’s senior change managers. 'We had to win everybody’s emotional engagement' ”. And that approach paid off.

But you can’t always plan and prepare for change, because you don’t know the nature of it. I worked on a huge project once. It was so multi-dimensional and pioneering with so many variables we had no other option than to wing it. Some tried to prepare for it as they had other projects. One researcher sat with her coloured pens and mapped everything out. But when it came to the event for which we were planning, I still had no sense of what was going to be thrown at me, all I could do was prepare for the unknown. And somehow, it happened and it was a success. Not through some great strategy and plan. It happened. We didn’t know what we wee managing and producing until it had happened.

And sometimes life and business is like that. You just need a clear head and an open mind, you cannot have a detailed plan.

Unless a world-class airline and thousands of passengers are at stake. Then you need to prepare, prepare, prepare.

Read Stern’s column here.

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