Sustaining change: How change management can assist effective asset optimisation

The change towards effective asset optimisation inevitably leads to a degree of organisational change. In order to ensure that new models of working resulting from asset management are successfully embedded, internal adjustments are often required. In some cases it can even demand a complete overhaul of internal processes, organisation structure, and job roles – requiring training, education and, most significantly, behaviour change.

More often than not, the key factors that lie behind every company’s decision to manage their assets more effectively are a desire to improve performance, reduce risk and lower costs. Many assume that this can be achieved changing ICT or work processes, or even by restructuring the organisation. However, just making these physical changes isn’t enough; work needs to be done to enable real and tangible behaviour change.

Leaders must understand and respond to the gaps in their workforce’s knowledge and skills, as well as developing their own skills and competencies to prepare for change. Recognising what drives your workforce will also be important; many employees can be resistant to change, and don’t see the point in working differently, while others want to change everything, and need to have their expectations managed. Having a thorough understanding of how ready your workforce is for change is fundamental, and it’s worth investing some time to listen to what your employees are saying about change, and what matters to them. While you’re unlikely to ever have a full picture, it will ensure that you can embark on a change process having a clear idea of what makes your people tick.

Change – the status quo?

Most organisations are in a near-constant state of change, and for many their employees will experience a degree of change fatigue. Perhaps you’ve experienced some false starts in previous change programmes that may not have succeeded, for whatever reason, and it may feel that you’re at a disadvantage before you even begin a new period of transformation. The key here will be to openly acknowledge these false starts, and explain the lessons learnt. Don’t forget that all change, however big or small, needs to be coordinated well and spearheaded by credible and trusted leaders.

It’s also fundamental to get the right people involved in change where possible. Those people don’t necessarily have to be your allies, though that helps. Having critical friends involved in the process who are able to really influence the process, as well as communicate the change to their colleagues is valuable.

Our top tips for implementing change

If you are about to make some changes to the way your assets are managed, don’t underestimate the task in hand! Here are our top tips for ensuring those changes are embedded properly:

  1. Define your vision early. An inspiring vision for transformation is absolutely invaluable. It will be important to not only make the case for that vision – why it’s needed in the first place – but also to make that vision personal, demonstrating how it touches each of your employees. It’s sometimes difficult to achieve this, as the need, and capability, for change sometimes evolves slowly. Employees are much more likely to respond positively to change when they understand and identify with the vision that is set out for that change. Leaders also need to actively demonstrate new behaviours from day one, and clearly communicating how this change will result in a more positive working environment for their employees.
  2. Communicate clearly. Be open and honest in your communications. Set the bar for transparency, and encourage your employees to do the same. A two-way conversation will always achieve more than issuing directives. Allow your change plans to be influenced by feedback from staff, and show them how you’ve responded to their comments – but don’t allow it to change your end goal.
  3. Plan thoroughly and don’t rush. Take time to sketch out how you want people to work with each other, and what your systems and procedures will be. Having a carefully considered plan will help keep you on track. Don’t try to skip stages, fast-track things or overreach yourself. Embedded change takes time and a lot of patience. Bear in mind that some changes can’t be scheduled. Some companies have tried to plan and schedule culture change, and failed, because there are too many uncontrollable factors.  A great example is the growth of social media. No-one could plan this or know how rapidly it would take off.
  4. Ask yourself difficult questions. Sometimes the simplest questions can be the hardest and the most important. Ask yourself: How do we work now? What’s not working as it should? What are we lacking? What do we need? What do we have too much of? Who do we have too many of? Encourage your colleagues to do the same and you’ll be ahead of the curve.
  5. Don’t underestimate the challenge! You could read a hundred books on change management but, while the knowledge and tools are useful, every company is different and has its own unique challenges. Change management is difficult, subtle and delicate. Lead by example: change your own approach first so that others can follow. Watch for indications of success – such as people working differently – reward those who are making the right steps towards change, and create an environment where those who are resistant to change can be encouraged.

Organisations in the Netherlands have implemented a wide range of changes in recent years, with varying degrees of success. Our expertise, not least as an asset manager for many of our clients, has guided many effective programmes.  We add value by asking the right questions and translating the strategy behind the change into operational plans. Successful change is about people, too, so a focus on leadership, competencies and training is essential in delivering the best possible outcomes.

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