Managing complex change effectively is more important than ever. Complex change is just one aspect of change management, the area of managerial expertise that looks after all the ways organizations undergo change. Although large-scale change projects are never simple, they are called “Complex” when they include particularly challenging circumstances.
Change managers worldwide have dedicated their time to avoid a negative change outcome. In this article, we’ll explain what complex change is and why it matters before explaining several effective models for managing it.
What Is Complex Change?
A complex change management project occurs when one or more complicating factors create an obstacle. They can include:
- Geographically diverse locations
- Low investment from employees
- Major organizational restructuring
- Involuntary redundancies or job losses
- Crisis management
- Change saturation
Some of these problems may be present in simpler forms in any change management project. For example, long-standing staff members are often resistant to organizational change.
However, when all employees are apathetic, disengaged, and resistant to the proposed change, the difficulty of the organizational change increases dramatically.
Why Is Managing Complex Change Important?
The future of any business depends on managing complex change effectively. Of course, any change management project involves risks. Staff, revenue, and customer relations can all negatively affect a poorly organized change management project.
In situations of complex change, every part of the change strategy becomes far more challenging. A recent Gartner report suggests that it’s challenging to maintain self-control, transparent decision-making, and teamwork when managers are faced with paradoxes and uncertainty.
When managers struggle with the complexity of the situation around them, it will be even harder to maintain positive attitudes from across a team. Pre-existing models to manage complex change can bring the best out of everyone and negate organizational conflict.
Managing Complex Change for Key Community stakeholders
Key stakeholders play an important role by giving financial backing to a business, monitoring processes, and offering significant contributions to organizational planning.
During the change process, the opinions and experiences of every employee are essential. But change managers must be cautious with key stakeholders. As their input into the business community can lead to significant improvements, losses, or restructuring, their comments should be sought at every stage.
At times of complex change, any change management team must be conscientious about engaging and responding to key community stakeholders.
After a complex change, managers must adapt their skills to manage staff with a new idea of normality.
The phrase “new normal” was first used to describe changed norms after the economic crisis of 2008. More recently, the term has been applied to the restrictions of the Covid era.
However, as a recent Deloitte report points out, after any major disruption, “the next ‘normal’ may be vastly different than the current state.” Perhaps the incentives employees typically have changed, a lack of resources leaves people frustrated, and new challenges prevent the company from moving ahead.
Fortunately, modern change management methods offer many resources for adapting to change and managing a team.
Champion New Technology That Enhances Work, Performance & Productivity
New labor-saving technologies can make a major difference in the workplace. Adopting new tech involve risks, but new technology is worth it to keep a company moving forward.
Championing new technology should come from a solid overall vision, whether solving a common problem or changing to a completely different business model. It’s then essential to communicate clearly with staff, test it carefully, and hear comments once it is implemented.
Overcome Barriers to Cloud Adoption for Secure Collaboration
Cloud-based services provide incredible value to companies. They make it far easier to share applications and data and improve data security during organizational change.
However, preconceptions about cloud adoption are common. To evoke true cloud transformation, a technology champion must correct mistakes if management has misconceptions about security, costs, flexibility, and external partnerships.
Connect & Engage With Omni-Connected Experiences
An Accenture case study defines the omni-connected workplace embraces ” the complete experience of work: of feeling connected, of being included, and knowing we belong, regardless of our physical location.”
Remote and hybrid working are now widespread, giving many benefits to employees. However, these modes of work can leave staff feeling disconnected. Digital solutions make staff feel part of their workplace.
Use Proprietary Business Communication Platforms To Enhance Collaboration
Many employees use communication platforms to organize their lives. In the workplace, they may wish to use the platforms they are most comfortable with. However, organizations are responsible for providing highly secure and consistent platforms to facilitate instant messaging, video conferencing, and file sharing.
Before, during, and after a complex change project, straightforward methods of reaching all staff will be crucial.
Communicate Effectively By Sharing Knowledge Across The Enterprise
In-house people may possess expert knowledge. But it isn’t helpful to a change process if no one knows about it. Learning can be shared through newsletters, workshops, online knowledge bases, or AI-driven knowledge-sharing tools. When everyone knows how to find the information they need, collaboration leads to valuable solutions.
Encourage Employees To Actively Participate In Digital Transformation Processes
When a complex change involves digital transformation, helping your employees adapt is key. If staff doesn’t have the skills to use a unique solution, offering a tailored training and support package will be essential.
Analyze, Employ & Foster New Tools
Innovative managerial tools help to make complex change happen. Data analysis and mapping can be the best ways to quickly understand the most relevant strengths and weaknesses.
Existing models can also help with complex change. That’s what we will cover in the next section.
The Five Key Components For Managing Complex Change
Change management models, such as the Lippitt-Knoster model, are one popular approach to managing complex change. Named after Mary Lippitt and Timothy Knoster, the model is simple. It explains how a successful change comes from engaging with five areas: vision, skills, incentives, resources, and an action plan.
Missing any of these ingredients will lead to an adverse change outcome, such as confusion, sabotage, or anxiety.
Like any change management project, the complex change vision validates and directs the whole project. At the start, business leaders must understand why they are attempting to change, what difference it will make, and how to measure it.
Every business needs staff with excellent skills to manage change. Employees with the right skills can be a guiding force for the change project. If a business does not have the necessary skillset at the outset, it must plan to obtain them.
The next necessary element in the Lippitt-Knoster model is the pay-off for staff members. They might get higher salaries, better working conditions, or more opportunities for promotion. If they don’t have a good reason for the plan to succeed, the change efforts may be in vain.
This element may connect to other factors in the model. The necessary resources might include staff, hardware, training, expertise, or the money to make essential acquisitions. A lack of resources will create frustration.
- Action Plan
A coherent action plan is a final element required in the Lippitt-Knoster model. The change project won’t go anywhere without a schedule, narrow focus, and clear direction.
The Seven Cs of Change Management
Linda Brimm proposed an alternative model for managing complex change in 2015.
She suggested that there were “Seven Cs” that made up a successful change: Complexity, Clarity, Confidence, Creativity, Commitment, Consolidation, and Change.
The Cs may follow sequential parts of the change effort, but they are likely to overlap. All the elements work together to secure a positive outcome.
1. Complexity: Considering the issues that need to be addressed to make a change
Planning a change project will create many questions. The complexity might be so great that the idea becomes overwhelming.
At this stage, keeping things as they are may be tempting. A company that is serious about change must embrace complexity. Leaders must investigate everything that will make it complex without ignoring employee resistance, geographical spread, or other internal challenges.
2. Clarity: Discerning and valuing those issues
Getting clarity about the complexity depends on thorough research, frank conversations, and trying to hear comments from around the organization. The process of clarifying will help to decide whether a change effort is worth it.
3. Confidence: Having faith in the changeability of the situation for the better
When a business’s leadership has understood the challenges of a change project, they must feel confident about the decisions they make.
If managers feel anxious about an implementation, then executive staff must help them to believe in the outcomes. No one can have certainty in the future. But the available evidence must create hope of success.
4. Creativity: Brainstorming creative solutions to problems that arise
With clarity and confidence, organizational leaders can start to creatively brainstorm the solutions their company faces. The company might be coming up against problems they’ve never encountered before. It is essential to harness expertise from all parts of the organization. If in-house people can’t solve the problems alone, external consultants are a valuable source of wisdom.
5. Commitment: Initiating the change
When an organization understands its challenges, it can finally implement the change. They must do this confidently and decisively. There will be moments when it feels right and when it doesn’t. But the outcome of a change process won’t be clear until it’s complete. In the meantime, commitment to the project is essential.
6. Consolidation: Adopting a new identity
As the vision leads to a completed change process, there will be moments when companies are caught between two worlds. The new processes are starting to take root. But the positive outcomes aren’t yet apparent, and the old ways still feel better.
At this point, it’s time to stick with the plan and invest decisively in the change processes.
7. Change: Embracing change and living with the consequences
It’s happened. There’s no going back.
However, it doesn’t mean that everyone is happy. If employees still prefer the old ways they did, they’re not necessarily wrong. Leaders must make further adjustments to embed the change into the company culture.
Remember: Don’t Forget the Human Element Of Customer Experience
When staff are working diligently to reach the achievable goals of a complex change, they should not lose sight of the things that matter to the business. For most organizations, customer experience is the guiding star for everything they do. Employees must still have the time to do their jobs effectively, delivering excellent results with understanding, empathy, and kindness.
Managing Complex Change With Expert Models
Organizations only rarely face complex change. When they do, the experience of management experts is vital. There is not just one managing complex change model.
This post shows that the Lippitt Knoster model and the “seven Cs” can guide a change to success.
There are many alternative models for implementing complex change. For example, Gartner’s Leading Through Change Report explains how the SIMPLER model can guide organizations through times of crisis. The size of the company, the nature of the change, and the existing expertise, will all make a difference to the model an organization chooses.
WalkMe spearheaded the Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) for associations to use the maximum capacity of their advanced resources. Utilizing man-made consciousness, AI, and context-oriented direction, WalkMe adds a powerful UI layer to raise the computerized proficiency, everything being equal.