If you are like me, you have either spent or watch the company spend countless hours or money implementing a new process, technology or both just to watch it not get adopted or utilized by those it was made for. Management then attempts several strategies to get people on board to ensure that the new process or technology is utilized, with often little success. Enter in change management. We try the change management approach, get the buy in of the right people along the way and get them to champion the process. It works better than the previous model, but it’s only a tick in the box exercise which is often enforced via the stick approach. People comply, but their heart is not in it.
The outcome is that these projects and implementation exercises fall short of the initial expectations. As a consultant, I have seen glossy power point reports produced by top consultants gather dust and applications cast aside, thousands of dollars later because of a lack of use. Business leaders, who are often action driven, often overlook the people element of change. In fact one business Leader I have a working relationship with takes acceptance by the people as a given. Anecdotal evidence on the other hand shows that without an active change management program, such projects fail to reach the required objective. Whilst change management is helpful, a recent study in Australia shows that coaching potentially increases the level of effectiveness for senior executives and management Rock & Dunde (2008).
Proponents of the coaching approach to change management often neglect to highlight the effectiveness of consulting in effecting business transformation. The impression is often given that it is either coaching or consulting. This view is incorrect as evidence shows that consulting is effective as is coaching. However, fewer studies have considered the blended approach to effecting business transformation. A 2018 study by the International Coaching Federation on building a coaching culture for change management, identified that change management initiatives with coaching were more successful than those without coaching.
As a consultant myself that works in the advisory space, one of my pet peeves is the number of consulting engagements that fall short of their potential because of a lack of effective change management. As a certified Coach, I have been able to successfully marry both disciplines and found that successful business transformations combine both elements of executive coaching as well as coaching middle management. As Cheryl Belles puts it, the most effective consultants and coaches are able to create value for their clients using an optimal blend of consulting and coaching skills. Thus consultative coaching will lead to effective change management through business transformation exercises.
Although this conclusion is not new, few organizations use the blended approach. Consultants are still viewed as “experts” who identify problems and proffer solutions, deliver a report or presentation and leave. We find that millions of dollars later these manuals, procedures and reports are still gathering dust years later. Organizations can improve their outcomes by ensuring that they ask the question “how do we best prepare our people for this change?”. Answering this question will often result in organizing training but beyond technical preparation, people need to embrace and own the change. As the authors of the ICF report put it: “When people experience change as something that is happening to them rather than something they are integral to, they become resistant to the change.”
This sums up my experience as a consultant and a change champion within organizations. I have found my greatest success and effectiveness in my work when I have managed to coach leaders and key stakeholders through the change process. This sometimes takes months or a couple of years, but then I start to see results as I gradually experience a shift in mindsets.
Executives could adopt several strategies to implementing the consultative-coaching. Either hire a coach to work along teams for big change initiatives, or raise a team of internal coaches, by certifying leaders in the organization who have the bent as well as desire to grow their skills as internal coaches and change champions. A third option would be to engage consultants who also have a coaching skillset. These are few and far between, however, a growing number of consultants are also getting certified as coaches to help serve their clients better.
Adopting a consultative-coaching approach will probably take more time and money, but it is time and money well spent to ensure that grand project doesn’t die a death thousands of dollars later.
David Rock, Ruth Donde, (2008) "Driving organizational change with internal coaching programs: part one", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 40 Issue: 1, pp.10-18, https://doi.org/10.1108/00197850810841594
ICF, HCI (2018). Building a coaching culture for change management [online] Available at: https://webcasts.td.org/uploads/assets/264/document/BuildingACoachingCultureForCM_2018.pdf[Accessed 29 Mar. 2019].
Cheryl Bells, (2000) “ Blending Consulting and Coaching for real value”, Consulting Today Available at: www.consultingtoday.com.