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Why is change management important?
The recent volatility in economic conditions has meant that businesses have had to adapt their strategies in order to survive, which can mean significant change. When there is a downturn in the economy the businesses hit the hardest are those not willing or able to adapt. In order to survive businesses have had to modify and in some cases completely review their business strategy. Successful change management begins with recognizing the need for change, ensuring the direction of change is in line with emerging market trends and being willing to let go of what used to work in the past. “But this is the way we have always done it!” will not help the business to survive let alone continue to grow.

To lead effectively, what areas of change management should be focused upon?
Once the direction of change has been agreed then the key to successful change management is to act quickly. The change in strategy needs to be decisive, ensuring the impact on the entire business is well understood. The staff need to understand why the change is required, what is going to happen and how that is going to be phased in and to what timescales. If the business takes too long to agree organisational changes and hence prolonging uncertainty in job security then many of the best staff will leave.

Strong delivery management is essential, especially when change involves complex technological improvements or has a significant impact on the business operating model. Robust management throughout the end-to-end delivery from study, design, build, test all the way through to implementation is a must. Without solid programme management there is a risk that there will be gaps in the study and design, overall delivery could be delayed or there could be material compromises on quality, not to mention delivering to budget.

That said the single most important factor to delivering change successfully is communication. A clear and consistent communication strategy should begin by identifying the impacted and interested audience groups and then tailoring the timing and content of the message to each target group. Poor communications will lead to mistrust and lack of cohesion in delivery, whereas strong communication should help enforce the change to be incorporated quickly and effectively.

Some C-level executives would rather focus on strategy, and they don't believe they're responsible for execution. Are they?
There are C-level executives that are extremely successful with a pure strategy focus, however their success is dependent on the wider team being able to interpret and execute their ideas. Successful businesses ensure that they have a team of C-level executives with complimentary skills from idea generation through to execution and management insight.  All successful executives know their areas of expertise and play to their strengths, though more importantly they also know successful delivery hinges upon a good management team. C-level executive sponsors of change are absolutely accountable for delivery, though not directly responsible for execution. Their focus should be ensuring there is sufficient challenge on the design, costs and quality of delivery and steer the programme of work in a decisive and timely manner.

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