In Demand and Advantageous
In recent years, change consultants have become in-demand due to rapid advances in technology. Advances in technology lead to adjustments in workflow and changes in responsibilities, leadership, and organizational structure. Companies are integrating technology into every facet of their business in order to stay relevant, compete, and scale.
Change consultants have the knowledge and tools necessary to facilitate an organization’s smooth transition across these changes, by helping an organization increase adoption and ensure enablement of new processes and technology solutions.
Change management is a specific management discipline focused on helping people embrace change. The change management process begins with identifying an organizational change and risks to adoption, developing a plan of action, and implementing the plan, step-by-step. Lastly, an effective change management process keeps a close eye on the initiative’s measures of success, such as the adoption rate of X by Y date.
The Seven R’s of Change Management
Daniel Irwin developed a checklist of seven important points that need to be considered when raising a change request. Change consultants can refer to this checklist in their initial conversation with project sponsors, as the responses to these questions will help them gain a better understanding of the change initiative scope. They are:
- Raised - Who raised the change request?
- Reason - What is the reason behind the change?
- Return - What return is expected from the change?
- Risks - What risks are involved in the change?
- Responsible - Who is responsible to create, test, and implement the change?
- Resources - What resources are required to execute the change?
- Relationship - What is the relationship between this change and others like it?
Areas of Focus in Change Consulting
Change consultants have a variety of tools in their toolkits with which to manage organizational change. These tools include:
- Impact assessment: A change impact assessment gauges the current state of processes against the desired future state of processes, assessing how these changes will impact stakeholders.
- Readiness assessment: A change consultant assesses the scope of the change, the impact on the workforce, and the workforce’s willingness to support the change. A readiness assessment evaluates the extent to which the culture and leadership may be required to flex in order to support the change.
- Stakeholder management: Change management consultants spend considerable time assessing how the change will impact affected stakeholders (employees, managers, customers, and others). One outcome of this work may be the identification of change champions, employees who can be relied upon to support the change within their spheres of influence. Accordingly, change consultants are experts in handling the people-side of change.
- Leadership coaching: Change consultants may need to coach leadership to keep them involved and engaged in driving the change forward, from project conceptualization to to completion.
- Resistance management: One outcome of interviews with key stakeholders may be new awareness of pockets of resistance. Change consultants must dedicate time helping reduce resistance and stimulate acceptance among stakeholders.
- Enablement via training: Fear is a common response to change, and learning new processes can be frustrating. Consequently, change consultants help determine the training that will increase the likelihood of organizational transformation, promote workforce engagement, and help employees embrace the coming change.
- Enablement via communications: Change consultants must be skilled at training staff on the particulars associated with new processes. Similarly, change consultants must be adept at communicating important information to stakeholders. Communications must be strategic in order to be effective; messages need to be sent to the right people at the right time (and at the right frequency), through media that will ensure the message has the highest probability of being received, read, and acted upon.
Why hire change management consultants?
When a company adopts a new process, workflow, or application, the change can impact employees, managers, vendors, customers, and other stakeholders. If the change isn’t smooth, it can negatively impact the organization. Change management consultants help organizations plan for and execute the change in a step-by-step manner.
What Do Change Management Consultants Do?
Change management consultants help businesses navigate major transitions by planning, developing, and continuously evaluating an organization’s transformation process, ensuring future growth and success. Change consultants identify areas of weakness that need to change, then manage the impact the transformation has on people and processes.
Change consultants develop communications plans and a change roadmap to prepare the workforce to realize and accept the need for change. The communications engage employees in the change process while the roadmap illustrates change requirements for projects, teams, or even entire organizations.
In addition to preparing, implementing, and supporting change, change consultants also identify and mitigate risk and evaluate an initiative’s measures of success. Without change management consultants on the team, organizational changes such as restructuring and going public can lead to major backlash and resistance.
Change Management Consultant Services
Change consultants help their clients by:
- Aligning organizational leaders around the change initiative.
- Maintaining consistent leadership presence during change meetings and in communications.
- Develop persona-focused communications plans.
- Prioritizing change initiatives, in coordination with the leadership.
- Transforming organizational culture, where necessary.
- Manage the people-side of change through stakeholder identification and prioritization, communication and engagement strategies, and tracking and measuring employee readiness and impact.
A change management consultant practices a specific kind of management consulting. While the discipline is not new, awareness of it is growing. Still, many organizations have never hired a change management consultant before. The information that follows should help with the hiring process.
Change consultants are interested in business, meticulous with details, and enjoy creative problem solving. They balance their detail-orientation with the big picture, understanding that their ability to effectively manage both the interpersonal details and the organizational strategy will impact their ability to successfully implement their change management plans.
Change management consultants should be able to demonstrate the qualities of a good consultant, such as excellent problem solving and listening skills. In addition, change consultants need to be:
- Proficient communicators: Change consultants should be active and engaged listeners in order to gain the information they need from interviews with change sponsors, employees, and other stakeholders. Then, they need to be able to communicate effectively orally and in writing to specific, well-researched personas.
- Skilled project managers: Change consultants need to evaluate risk, design action plans, and identify metrics to track to gauge project success. They organize, oversee, and assess change management plan implementation.
- Culturally and behaviorally aware: Change consultants need to be sensitive to the behavioral and cultural changes they might see as a result of the change. They may need to coach individual employees through personal professional development and behavior change. They need to be prepared to support the change long-term, which involves an awareness of changes in individual and group behavior and organizational culture.
How Does One Become a Change Management Consultant?
In order to strengthen one’s chances of employment as a change consultant, a bachelor’s degree in business or behavioral science is beneficial. A master’s degree would demonstrate further commitment to the field, but is not required.
Change management consulting firms and corporations may require a change management certification from respected training programs such as Prosci. Some universities offer certificate programs, such as Cornell, Northwestern, and MIT. Experience and knowledge are invaluable; if earning a change management degree or certification is out of reach, there are often opportunities to engage in and support change efforts already underway at one’s organization, gaining first-hand experience that can be utilized in a future interview for a change management position. .
Change consultants are specialized experts within the field of management. Experienced change consultants are invaluable in helping organizations navigate major transitions. Companies that are serious about their long-term sustainability will inevitably need to change several times to evolve; change consultants can help them do so successfully.
If you need help managing change in your business, one of our Expert Partners would love to speak with you. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
- Anne Shoemaker
- Change Management
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