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Change management: it’s a question of attitude

August 31, 2016

The need to manage change is becoming more probable and more frequent. Markets, customers, regulators – it is a challenge for business today to remain competitive and to remain compliant. And that situation is often made worse by the extent to which we depend on our external trading partners to facilitate (or even originate) that change.

Why is it that reliance on external providers would make change more complicated? Surely a key argument for outsourcing is that it offers greater flexibility, that it removes the pain associated with internal change programs – so is outsourcing not working?

A recent blog by The MPower Group focuses on the factors that are needed for effective change management. They highlight the essential elements of leadership, employee engagement and honest, open communication. Immediately we start to see the problem. Far from facilitating change, many of the contracts we put in place today operate as barriers to it. There is frequently an attitude that change is risky and represents a potential win-lose game, associated with concepts such as ‘scope creep’.

Since most changes rightly need to be negotiated, it is appropriate that contracts place controls on the way this will happen. But in today’s business environment, it is essential that the mechanisms are fast and adaptive, ensuring the right data and conversations, the right stakeholder engagement and appropriate levels of sponsorship. Many times I find contracts do not define these mechanisms and are either vague or bureaucratic, reflecting poorly defined internal procedures.

Underlying this is the problem of attitude and the view of too many contract negotiators and managers that change is something that will bite them, that facilitating change will mean either a hit on margin or an exposure on price or budget. What we must understand is that without change, we will not be able to compete. This is just one example of the areas where contracting practices and attitudes can operate against the interests of the business – and the people who work there.

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