Subscribe to our Blog

Why are Implementation Consultants Important For Change Management

Blog Categories:
December 13, 2021
Reading Time:
5 minutes
Lynn's diverse perspectives on business stem from her extensive experience as a management consultant - her role as a beloved wife, mother and grandmother adds further depth to her insights.

It is one of the mysteries of business life that companies will invest massive amounts of time and resources to get a consultant’s analysis and recommendations - but not use them.

But even those that do try to implement the advice of their change management consultant land up as part of the dismal statistics around failed projects. Change is difficult. Initiatives like installing new technologies, updating processes, restructuring, downsizing, or changing company culture have low success rates.

What are the missing pieces in the puzzle of implementation? And is there something that you can do to have a change management process that works?

The Change Management Process Vs. The Consulting Process

Anyone who has been in consulting knows the frustration of their carefully researched and crafted recommendations landing in someone’s bottom drawer!

It is equally frustrating for business executives and managers.

Part of the problem may be confusion about who is responsible for implementation.

  • Many lists of steps in the consulting process stop at the recommendation stage. Even where implementation and review steps are included, the responsibility shifts from the consultant to the organization.
  • The change management process includes implementation, along with embedding the changes into company culture and processes, and follow-up evaluation. Even though, companies see a consultant as an advisor, not an implementer.

At this point, the organization’s skill and commitment levels will decide how changes will be made and sustained.

Perhaps, what we need is an implementation expert?

“The reason for most failures is that, in their rush to change their organizations, managers end up immersing themselves in an alphabet soup of initiatives.” - Michael Beer, Harvard Business Review

Who is an Implementation Consultant?

Perhaps, an implementation consultant can be defined as a change management consultant with a clear implementation role.

  • They work side by side with clients to make change happen.
  • They generally are on-site and will stay for several months or longer if needed.
  • Their role is to ensure that the organization has the leadership, implementation, and functional capabilities to make and sustain the required changes.

Many are technical experts in their own right. For example, people with solid mining, manufacturing, IT, marketing, or healthcare backgrounds helping to implement changes in those fields.

Basically, this allows them to understand the smallest details of an organization’s current processes and systems and why employees are working the way they do. Employees recognize and appreciate their technical expertise and tend not to regard them as theorists who don’t understand what employees have to deal with.

Then, they can coach and encourage employees at all levels to work more effectively to achieve the bigger purposes of the change project.

However, technical expertise are not enough. An implementation consultant must also clearly understand change management techniques and use the most appropriate methodologies for the specific client.

Change Management Models and Techniques

A common problem is that managers are not change management experts. So, they tend to apply what Prof. Michael Beer from the Harvard Business School calls “an alphabet soup of initiatives.”

Basically, they become so immersed in all the advice available online and in business literature. Finally, they end up with a muddle when they attempt implementation.

Even consultants can get it wrong. Their favorite change management models may not be appropriate to the organization.

Prof. Beer outlines two fundamentally different approaches to change:

The Economic Approach

It is focused primarily on financial returns. It has the following characteristics:

  • Top-down leadership
  • Emphasis on structures and systems
  • Pre-planned programs
  • Financial incentives to motivate employees to make changes
  • Consultants are expected to define solutions

The economic approach often leads to sweeping cuts in employee numbers and selling or closing divisions. Moreover, it can be very effective in the short term but may not be sustainable.

The Organizational Capability Approach

It is focused on building corporate culture. The main belief is that changes in employee commitment lead to increased productivity and economic returns.

Some of its characteristics include

  • Encouraging bottom-up participation
  • Focus on employee behaviors, attitudes, and capabilities
  • Innovation and experimentation to find the right solutions
  • Relying on commitment for motivation
  • Consultants support managers in finding their own solutions

Often, the organizational capability approach is seen as a “soft” approach to change, focusing on the psychological contract between the company and its employees. It may eventually deliver returns but is slow.

However, neither of these approaches is the right or only one to take. Most companies apply something of a mix of the two. Unfortunately, they sometimes lack understanding of the inherent tensions between them.

A more effective approach may be to bring in an implementation specialist with a clear change management methodology.

One such methodology that has been scientifically designed to combine the two change approaches is Organizational Behavior Management (OBM).

Organizational Behavior Management (OBM)

Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) is a scientific method for optimizing organizational performance.

It is based on a behavioral science called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

  • The main focus is on employee behaviors, but it is not a soft approach.
  • Hard measures are set and applied to both behaviors and business results.

OBM is a change management process that combines

  • A 7-step protocol
  • Hard data, and
  • Employee behaviors

Basically, it aims to get people to DO the things that the change initiative requires. It mainly has a positive focus, catching people doing the right things and then rewarding them for it.

Essentially, the methodology is the belief that behavior is measurable and that reward reinforces the behaviors you want.

The elements of the 7-step protocol for performance improvement are to:

  1. Specify Performance in terms of both desired results and underlying behaviors
  2. Set up a Performance Management System to measure performance and the gap between current and desired performance
  3. Use ABC-analysis (antecedents, behavior, and consequences) to understand both unwanted and desired behavior
  4. Organize performance feedback that is graphic and appealing
  5. Set sub-goals with attainable steps to get from the current to the desired position
  6. Give rewards for reaching set goals and recognition for the behaviors that led to the achievement of the goals
  7. Evaluate, adjust and conclude - not just at the end of a project but frequently in the process

Mainly, this is a scientific approach, and each of these elements is underpinned by theoretical concepts and practical application checklists. So it needs a trained change management consultant.

However, an advantage of OBM is that it very easily integrates with - and increases the effects of - Lean, Six Sigma, ITIL, Agile, Scrum, and DevOps.

Moreover, an implementation manager that can combine OBM with these methodologies could make a significant difference to your company’s bottom line.

Fortunately, such experts are available. And online consulting platforms like Consultport make it easy for companies to find the best implementation manager for their circumstances.

Key Takeaways

Whether you are a company manager or a change management consultant, the lack of success in change initiatives makes for unhappy reading. The usual figure is 70% failure.

The missing piece in the change management process is implementation. Sometimes implementation fails because it is unclear who is responsible. Sometimes it is because managers are not change experts, and the wrong change models are applied.

A solution is to use a change management consultant who is an implementation expert and uses a structured, scientific methodology to ensure that people DO what the change program requires.

Looking for an Implementation Manager? Try Consultport.

Also read: Making Change Happen: Five Keys to Driving Successful Initiatives as a Digital Expert.