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BLOG: The four Cs in managing change

RAJA VENKATESWAR | Dec. 17, 2012
What drives, enables and sustains change in large organisations?

Wishing all my readers the very best for Christmas and the New Year, wonder if 2013 will be as interesting as 2012!

As a technologist and management executive responsible for driving significant change in large organisations, there is often a tendency to either increase the focus on change management (including employing several change managers and change management models like ADKAR) or there isn't enough focus and attention provided to the change perspective. It is rarely optimal - which isn't surprising at all - with almost everything else we rarely seem to find the golden middle ground!

I thought I should take the opportunity to discuss what drives, enables and sustains change in large organisations - particularly appropriate as I just closed an interesting programme that demanded significant change in people, process and platforms.

At the risk of sounding prescriptive, I think it is the four Cs that make change happen, simple things, repeated and executed well with honesty and focus.

Clarity - decide what is/are the rationale(s) for the change - pick three top ones, simple points that register well. An example of this crystal clear vision was when I was consulting for a regional bank a few years ago. The management team had to reduce costs significantly (thanks to the global financial crisis) and thus a significant change programme commenced.

While there were several articulated reasons - cost, skills, focus on core competence, capital allocation, ageing systems, dysfunctional back-office structure etc, the COO focused on a simple mantra - COP programme - change or perish. He picked three key points - funding pressure, regulation and access to emerging talent, weaved them into his COP communication and relentlessly communicated this to everyone. 

Which brings me to the next point: Communication - the CEO, COO and the management team tirelessly walked the floor meeting individual folks - whether they were impacted or not and communicated the key message - the institution HAS to change to survive - that meant the roles of the people have to change but the organisation would make all possible efforts to retrain and redeploy. This one to one, informal discussions around the coffee counter or the hallways was an incredibly powerful medium to bring the organisation along to the new model. One of the good things I thought was generic e-mail communication was kept to a minimum - leading to more quality collaborative communication.

The next point I think is Consulting - impacted employees were consulted by the leaders on their redeployment plans, necessary training was provided and quality staff were retrained to perform different roles. Through the exhausting and emotionally draining change programme, there was constant consulting and commitment (which is my fourth point) with the individuals and teams. Commitment is critical - the management team demonstrated total commitment to their philosophy of retraining and redeployment and retrenchment only when it was unavoidable or the individuals preferred to take the voluntary retirement schemes made available.


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