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From idea to reality: the key ingredients to successful change management

6 September, 2023
clock 7 MIN READ

Three steps for a successful change management process.  

Business transformation can provide endless opportunities. It’s more than just a chance to do things differently—it’s also a time to look under the hood at all the engine parts. A chance to rethink what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, along with the outcomes you’re looking to achieve. Then, it’s about taking action to seize those opportunities.

When clients transition to the SEI Wealth PlatformSM, it often involves significant change in their front-, middle-, and back-office operations. To help ensure every new implementation is a success, the SEI team has developed an effective approach to change management—one that considers both immediate needs and longer-term goals. 

Our focus is not only on leading a successful change initiative; it’s also on building a sustainable foundation for future improvement.

The human factor: Balancing process and people 

Managing the people side of change is often the most challenging component of a business transformation—and the most critical. In a Prosci benchmarking study, 93% of firms rated highest in change management effectiveness met or exceeded project objectives.

At SEI, we strive to deliver successful change through process and people. 

Change management shouldn’t sit outside the core project. Instead, the process should be embedded within the program governance model. We’ve found that a blended approach works best, when change activities are part of the core project, alongside all the business and technical activities that need to occur. This includes having a plan to address the impacts on your people. 

Note that while most projects follow a traditional path—from design to testing to implementation—the people side of change tends to be much more iterative. It requires a more agile approach.

Successful transition needs alignment, energy, and momentum

Successful change must be aligned to strategic objectives and business outcomes, and it must be delivered on time and on budget. Given the potential impact on client firms, we also believe it’s crucial to make the experience as smooth and seamless as possible.

Our change management process has three key steps.

1. Create strategic alignment

Everyone must be rowing in the same direction right from the start. This usually requires creating a sense of urgency around the need for change while communicating a very clear end goal. Note that, in general, ambitious goals are better for getting people excited about change.

Core elements of strategic alignment:

Report the results

We need a clear sense of how to measure success, which feeds an internal PR engine. The more we report back on benefits and results for individuals and the organisation, the more momentum we can maintain.

Establish clear roles

We need to know: What is each stakeholder’s role? What activities do we need them to perform? What timing is required for those actions? And what is each individual’s current disposition toward the project (supporter/detractor/uninformed)? It’s also important to be clear from the beginning about what's expected of each person.

Set a vision for the future

What should the future look like? Create a detailed picture with the specific roles, skill sets, and functions needed to fulfil leadership’s vision for change. Then, apply organisational design principles in areas such as authority, accountability, centralisation/decentralisation, etc. And, remember that this is going to be an iterative process with multiple drafts.

Ambitious goals are better for getting people excited about change.

2. Engage stakeholders

Embracing change requires energy and commitment. Delivering a successful change program is about having the right structures in place and ensuring that those involved feel engaged throughout the process. It’s also about building trust; people must believe that the changes are in their best interest.

We’ve found two tools to be especially effective for staying connected to and motivating stakeholders:

Change agent network

This is a formal liaison group between the project team and impacted stakeholders. It should be made up of highly respected individuals who are perceived as go-to resources with the ability to influence a broad set of stakeholders.

Acting as an extension of the project team, the change agent network can achieve multiple things:

  • Reinforce the initiative’s key messages via formal and informal employee conversations
  • Communicate feedback or questions from stakeholders to the project team
  • Research and generate ideas for resolving issues and addressing concerns
  • Bridge gaps in understanding between the project team and broader stakeholders

Employee surveys

It’s important to ensure a balanced perspective on the change process across the entire organisation. But not everyone is willing to speak up. Surveys are a great way to capture feedback and give all employees a voice to make sure the project team is staying well connected to stakeholders and that no one is suffering in silence. 

Ask employees to identify  known areas of concern, things the project team could do better, and items that are missing.

Just remember that listening alone isn’t enough. When you receive feedback, respond to it.

3. Sustaining change for the long term

In our experience, most firms aren’t looking for a once-and-done change process. Most want to maintain momentum and make continual improvement part of their organisation's DNA. And, nearly every firm wants to ensure that change sticks.

We recommend creating a change sustainment framework with these elements:

  • Move the stakes. If you accomplish part of an overall goal in the initial phase of the change effort, pick a more aggressive target or add new goals. Just be specific about what you're trying to achieve in each phase.
  • Sustain ownership. People focused on supporting change often return to prior roles or take on new ones. Make sure that key roles are staffed, including an organisational change management lead and members of your change agent network.
  • Transfer training and knowledge. New staff members need the same process training that everyone received initially. Remember to communicate learnings from the process so far. What would you do differently the next time around?
  • Measure success. Define clear metrics for what success looks like and regularly track performance and progress. As the old adage goes, “What gets measured gets managed.”
  • Celebrate wins. Keep that internal PR engine going by sharing the progress you’re making, the ideas you’ve come across, and the benefits the entire firm will see. This step is critical to maintaining excitement and enthusiasm for change initiatives. 

Bear in mind, each step to successful change requires resourcing and focus throughout implementation, often beyond the core project team. Success also requires knowledge and infrastructure, meaning you should provide training and place individuals in roles best suited for them to support the change process.

Lastly, each step involves tools and best practices that facilitate the process. Many firms may not have those tools at hand, but that’s where a strategic partner like SEI comes in. 

Five tips for handling resistance 

Our balanced approach focusing on process and people can help reduce resistance and promote successful change management. Getting a project over the finish line requires commitment and enthusiasm from every level of the team. 

  1. Keep leadership engaged. Maintain ongoing support, and keep it visible to stakeholders.
  2. Be open to feedback. Welcome candid input, and respond when you get it.
  3. Don’t overcome resistance. Embrace it. Ensure individuals with concerns have a voice.
  4. Elevate rising stars. Give them roles to help drive the change initiative. This can do great things for them and the firm.
  5. Maintain momentum. Celebrate wins, and reward and acknowledge the individuals that made them happen.

These factors can go a long way toward building commitment to change for both short- and long-term goals. For additional tips on managing the people side of change management, see our five-step framework for creating a proactive plan.

Vince  Campisciano

Director of Change Management, SEI Wealth Platform

Contact us to learn how SEI can help you power growth, make confident decisions, and protect futures.

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SIEL is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. While considerable care has been taken to ensure the information contained within this document is accurate and up-to-date, no warranty is given as to the accuracy or completeness of any information and no liability is accepted for any errors or omissions in such information or any action taken on the basis of this information. 

The information in this document is for general information purposes only and does not constitute investment advice. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individual shown only and may not represent those of the SEI Group.

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