Recently we came across a US Government Accountability Office report that looks at eight recent consolidation efforts undertaken by federal agencies and identifies five sets of questions that managers should be able to answer if they find themselves in charge of an initiative to consolidate infrastructure or management functions.
Below, we’ve summarised the question set headings and questions that relate to communication and change, in particular those where a more narrative approach across the change piece will make a great deal of difference to nurturing an environment in which the Lewin model of Unfreeze - Change - Refreeze is possible, maybe coupled with William Bridges’ sound advice on making powerful endings, strong beginnings and the most of what he calls ‘the neutral zone’ (Lewin’s change phase). It’s a great checklist for any organization.
photo | koalazymonkey
What are the goals of the consolidation? What opportunities will be addressed through the consolidation and what problems will be solved? What problems, if any, will be created?
- Have leaders identified specific goals to be achieved?
- Have leaders assessed how consolidation can help an incorporate changes in technology, business processes, or the needs of customers or clients?
- How have leaders weighed the importance of achieving the
goals against a realistic assessment of the effort needed to achieve them?
- How have leaders considered the risks?
- Are agency leaders defining the benefits and describing how the future will be both different from and better than the past?
- Are agency leaders providing a clear and compelling picture of what will constitute success?
Who are the consolidation stakeholders, and how will they be affected? How have the stakeholders been involved in the decision, and how have their views been considered? On balance, do stakeholders understand the rationale for consolidation?
- Have leaders identified affected stakeholders?
- Have agency leaders determined the necessary frequency and timing of communication about the consolidation to internal and external stakeholders?
- Does the communication strategy allow for a two-way exchange of information between management and stakeholders?
- How is the agency planning to involve employees to obtain their ideas and get their support? Have union representatives been consulted? Are there employee task teams responsible for developing and proposing common solutions to particular issues related to the consolidation?
- How does the agency plan to provide information to employees about how their jobs might be affected, what their rights and protections might be, or how their responsibilities might change with the new organization?
- Is the agency planning to communicate information through different channels such as e-mail, face-to-face meetings, large and small group meetings, intranet websites, and town hall meetings?
To what extent do plans show that change management practices will be used to implement the consolidation? Will top leadership be engaged in driving the consolidation plan?
- Do leaders have plans to move deliberately to demonstrate their conviction and commitment to making the needed changes?
- Do leaders have plans to provide clear guidance to employees about how to conduct business during a potentially turbulent period?
- Will a Dedicated Implementation Team Lead the Consolidation?
- Will the implementation team have strong program management skills and a proven record of successfully working through or overseeing major transformations?
- Are there networks such as senior executive councils, functional teams, or cross-cutting teams that can ensure that changes are thoroughly implemented and sustained over time?
Will the Implementation plan include metrics to measure progress toward the consolidation’s goals?
- Will there be an action plan with goals and milestones to track progress and identify any needed mid-course adjustments?
- Will an action plan identify critical phases and the essential activities that need to be completed by and on any given date? Are there plans to publicize and report progress on specific goals for each phase of the initiative?
- Is there a strategy for tracking employee attitudes toward the consolidation and identifying any morale or productivity issues?
Will the implementation plan include a strategy for attracting and retaining key talent?
Is there a strategy for using the consolidation experiences of other
organizations and lessons learned?
- Have agency officials involved with the consolidation initiative identified and consulted with other agencies or organizations that planned for or implemented a similar consolidation effort?
- Is there a process for capturing lessons learned after each phase of the consolidation and using the information to improve the management of subsequent phases?