So far, I have been a huge fan of IBM's Making Change Work study. It provides solid quantitative research in a field that is sorely lacking in scientific study. They have also drawn some outstanding conclusions from this research. When I got to the "Better Skills, Better Change" section, though, they threw me for a loop.
If you're like me, when you read the third headline from the study, you were expecting a discussion around training and ensuring your people have the right skills to implement the change. Instead, the study focuses on having a skilled Change Manager. In fact, IBM found that, "Projects with a professional Change Manager had a 43 percent success rate, compared to a 36 percent success rate for projects without one."
What "better skills" should a professional Change Manager possess? Oddly, the study doesn't say. It provides excellent advice about ensuring Executive Sponsorship, involving employees in the change, communicating across the organization, and building sustainable change. None of these topics, however, tell you what skills are necessary for a good Change Manager. Which leads me to today's practical advice:
Skills Every Good Change Manager Should Possess
As with any position, there are a number of qualities a good Change Manager should possess. Below are the top three skills I recommend. If you're hiring a Change Manager, look for these skills. If your goal is to become a Change Manager, look for training and hands-on opportunities to develop these qualities.
- Foundational Skills: A Change Manager should be able to jump in to any aspect of Change Management and actually do work. If your Change Manager can't a) write a coherent communication, b) plan, develop, and deliver training, c) create and execute a Stakeholder Management plan, and d) explain the methodology he or she is following, it's time to find a new Change Manager.
- Patience and Diplomacy: Because Change Managers deal with the people impacted by a project, they are often the face of the project. They are the ones delivering communications and training, responding to inquiries, and, quite often, dealing with upset employees. I've had clients and end users cry in my office, yell at me in person, over the phone, and via e-mail, and tell me how stupid they think the project is. It is extremely important that in any of these situations your Change Manger is able to take a deep breath and respond in a calm, professional manner.
- Professional Polish: Change Managers often work with senior clients much earlier than their counterparts. It's more common for a Change Manager to interact with C-suite clients than, for example, the testing lead. As a result, professional polish is mandatory for anyone involved in Change Management.
Do you agree? Are there other skills that you feel are more important?