Change management FAQs

I’ve been working, with colleagues, on change management – introducing a structured methodology, developing ‘change agents’, facilitating training, designing a related website, and so on.

In the course of all this I’ve noticed repeated questions coming up from various quarters and I’ve been wondering whether we need a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.   It seems a straightforward thing to do.  But, as I investigated, I discovered that getting an FAQ page right is not as easy as I first thought and it may be that it’s not needed anyway.  (One website on writing FAQs advises ‘use them as a last resort’, and another says ‘Avoid FAQs’.)

Info on designing FAQ pages is fairly consistent (good to see), offering both advice on the FAQ page layout e.g. think and share visually, plan for scanning, and the part FAQs play in a user support journey e.g. ‘By providing thoughtful answers to commonly asked questions you are making a user comfortable with your firm and starting to build a relationship with a person who may eventually become your client’.

E-consultancy’s advice on FAQ page layout is typical.  Their five tips, each with a good example for each,  are:

  1. Make it visible,
  2. Categorise correctly
  3. Point the user forward
  4. Keep it customer focused
  5. Use personality

Kayako point out the relationship between searching, via a search bar, and FAQs.  They focus the 5 tips on the user support journey (again with a good example to illustrate each). Kayako’s final word is ‘Design for the utter lack of patience that customers have these days. … Doing the hard work to build a more intuitive and readable FAQ starts to pay off immediately.’

Now I’m on the fence about whether or not we need an FAQ page.  I have some real change management questions that I’ve collected that people frequently ask me.  (I’m not going to fall into the trap of presenting a ‘common question’ that isn’t that common but rather something we think is common).  Here are ten of the questions. I’ve aimed to follow the advice – categorising them, keeping the answers brief, and pointing the user forward.

People and change

Are people really resistant to change?  Not in my view. People enjoy change if they choose it for themselves.  Think of your personal life and the things you’ve chosen to change in it.   Even change you didn’t choose you’ve probably come to grips with.   For some ideas on how to encourage change confidence read ‘Why people resist change’.

Is change overload a real thing?  Yes, there can be too much change going on at one time, resulting in stress and burnout.  HBR has a good article ‘Too Many Projects’, with a quiz assessing whether there are too many going on.  People in an organisation I’m working with now, who have taken the quiz, are in complete agreement that there are too many projects.  The challenge remains on how to prioritise them in order to reduce the number.

How can you become an accredited change manager?  There are various certifications and routes available.  For example, the Change Management Institute (CMI) offers 3-levels, and the APMG Certification was developed in partnership with the CMI, the British Computer Society (BCS) offers a course.  Out of curiosity I looked at Business Change Manager and Change Manager jobs on Indeed.co.uk.  None that I looked at required the applicant to be accredited in change management.  I wondered why that is.

Processes of change management

Is managing planned change the same as managing unplanned change?  Yes and no.  Typically, planned change is implemented via a programmatic approach – see an excellent workbook with tools and templates on this approach from the Government of Queensland –  and unplanned change is emergent.  But both require people to be adaptive to the losses and gains that either type of change brings. As two researchers note ‘Being able to live with emergent change is particularly important since this type of change offers both the flexibility and the agility needed to cope with unpredictable environmental developments related to increasing [individual, organisational, societal] connectivity.’  These same researchers suggested that we need a new way of thinking and talking about change in organisations:  one that combines planned and emergent change and encompasses people’s needs for some stability within a changing context.

Is change management only about behaviours and emotions?  Again, yes and no.  It depends on the change.  In planned change there is a project plan that ‘outlines the specific activities for defining and prescribing how to move from point A to point B (by changing processes, systems, organization structures or job roles).’ And a simultaneous change plan outlining ‘the steps needed to help the individuals impacted by the change do their jobs in the new way (for example, people transitioning from fulfilling Function A to Function B). See Prosci’s blog on this.  Emergent change – with no project plan – requires cultivation of individual and organisational attributes, including resilience, curiosity, adaptability and energy. (See Organisational Change Management: a critical review) It also requires an understanding of the different role of leadership in emergent compared with planned  processes of change.  (See Leading Emergent Change, Gervase Bushe & Robert Marshak)

Do you need a change management strategy? Yes, for planned change, if you want organisational leaders to work with change using similar concepts, language, and approaches.  Read a  white paper on establishing an organisational change management function and strategy.  For emergent change it is hard to develop a strategy, it is better to develop ‘sense and respond’ capabilities.

Does change management involve organisation design and development?  Yes, if you believe (as I do) that change and change management always involve a degree of design and development.

Outcome of change management

Do change efforts fail?  No, this is a popular myth that has been debunked many times but still sticks.  Mark Hughes has a useful article on the topic.

What makes change efforts work?   There is no easy answer to this one.  In my experience enabling people to manage the stability/change tension and have meaningful say in what is going on makes both planned and emergent change easier to handle. McKinsey’s 2017 article offers some views on planned change efforts, citing ownership and commitment as the most important factors.  At first glance it seems that the factors that lead to planned change success could also be instrumental in effectively handling emergent change. But that is a topic for a longer discussion.

How do you measure the benefits of planned change management activity?  I do not know the answer to this question.  It’s one that I am working on as there is an imperative to show an ROI on the investment in it, and I don’t know of much of value on the topic.  If you do, please advise.

Those are my ten FAQs.  Do they merit an FAQ page?  Or are there are ways of giving the info that doesn’t involve one?  What’s your view of FAQ pages?  Let me know.

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