The decision by any organisation to undertake a new collaborative activity is a signal of the start of change. The complexity and the timeframe of the collaborative activity itself, will indicate the extent of the change management process required to effectively support the new way of working. All organisational stakeholders of the collaboration need to feel a strong sense of ownership and as valued and supported by the new collaboration as they were by the single entity.
Processes for managing change
Understanding and promoting the reasons for and benefits of the change
It is natural for people to resist change, yet the capacity to change and evolve is an essential element of any successful organisation, service or collaboration. It is therefore extremely important to get the process right and to clearly communication the reasons for, and the benefits of the collaboration, to all the collaborations stakeholders and the broader community. It is not the biggest organisations that survive it is the most adaptable.
Establishing culture and values at the beginning of the process
All partners need to agree and adhere to, a set of values that set the standard for how partners will work together. These values need to be practiced within individual organisational partners, within the collaboration and whenever staff interact with service users and the broader community.
Within individual organisational partners the most effective way of supporting and encouraging the new way of work is to be a “learning organisation”. This approach promotes a culture of continuous improvement that is comfortable with both radical and gradual change, so long as that change is in the best interest of the organisation and its stakeholders. Reviewing and improving becomes standard practice.
Develop a change process
Individual partner organisations need to work through the change process within their own entities as well as when they are developing and implementing new collaborative approaches.
Begin with the end in mind
If the drivers of the collaboration do not know where they started or where they are going, it is hard to decide on the right track. Benchmark where your organisation is now – from various perspectives. Ask where do we want to be – begin with the end in mind. Know the gap between the present and what you hope the collaboration will achieve. Identify the changes needed to close the gap. Be clear in what the collaboration is trying to achieve – where practical use objective measures. Be able to explain those goals to others clearly and succinctly. Remember staff and stakeholders must be comfortable with the change if it is to work. Keep goals few in number and unambiguous.
To plan and manage change well, you need to be realistic and understand the difficulty of the change and who it will affect. Then identify, quantify and organise the various stages of the change. Ask how will this affect those involved? Everything that may change needs to be documented. Changes in individual responsibility must be clear. Effective communication with everyone in the organisation is essential. Where practical break the change down into small steps. Undertake a critical path analysis and know in what order changes need to occur and the time required to implement each stage. Continually restate the benefits of the change.
Effective change strategies must allow for the variety of attitudes and needs of those engaged in the change process. Identify those most important to implementing the change and ensure that they are included in the process. Consult as much as practical however be very clear where there is a capacity for people to influence the change and where things will be mandated (legislation; protocols agreed at board level; changes in service agreements.) Make getting your people policies/protocols right a top priority. Use training as a way to engage people in the change process. Hold frequent informal and formal meetings to communicate the change. Manage people’s expectations carefully. Include everybody in planning at least one phase of the change and give people some autonomy and flexibility. Encourage and support stakeholders as the changes progress.
Manage the timeframe
Drivers of the collaboration process must have long term goals while simultaneously planning small operational changes that may only take days or weeks to eventuate. To make change more palatable introduce it in phases where practical. Continuous lasting change is an accumulation of all the smaller changes that occur. Look for short term solutions that solve problems quickly. Establish a timeframe for changes and stick to it. Stay future focused, and always keep the desired end goals in mind.
Have a documented action plan
Develop an Action Plan in a variety of forms to allow for people’s learning styles. For example: an action plan document; a PowerPoint presentation; a flow chart; a gantt chart. Keep involving all those directly impacted by the change around the practicality of the proposed changes and their time frames. If circumstances change, be willing to change the plan.
Formal risk management plans are essential for any complex collaboration however it also helps to consider the “smaller” problems that may arise.