Change Management – 7 Common Elements of Change

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Change management - 7 common elements of change In recent years, I have been responsible for leading substantial change in 2 different organisations.  In both cases, the digital divisions I headed up were struggling to meet expectations.  In both cases, demand for work was far greater than they could possibly fulfil.  And in both cases, implementing agile management methods was a big part of the solution.

But also in both cases, agile methods were only part of the solution.  There were other aspects of our transformation that were critically important to its success too.

Not long ago, I moved into a consulting role with the purpose of helping other organisations to achieve the same type of transformation.  It was strange for me, becoming a consultant instead of being in the executive positions I had held before.  One of the challenges for me was being able to articulate how I had led the changes I’d made, rather than making them instinctively at the time.

In order to do this, I thought about all the different things we did to transform these divisions.  There were literally a hundred different things we paid attention to in order to change the nature and performance of the organisation.  But looking more closely, I identified 6 broad categories:

  • Vision
  • Principles
  • Practices
  • Structure 
  • Technology
  • Leadership

Thinking about the changes we made in these 6 categories helped me to articulate what we did, and helped me to see the transformation in a more structured way in order to share it with others.

More recently, I have also discovered the McKinsey 7S framework, which is a model for evaluating whether or not all parts of your organisation are working in harmony together.

I think it’s really interesting from a change management perspective, because our goal when undertaking a major organisational transformation is to shift all these elements to something new.  When you manage to make the shift successfully in some areas and not in others, you end up with incongruence between the different elements, which makes the change hard and frustrating.  Therefore, when driving organisational change, it’s important to address all areas of the framework.

These are the 7 elements of McKinsey’s 7S framework:

  1. Change management - McKinsey 7S frameworkStrategy: the plan devised to maintain and build competitive advantage over the competition.
  2. Structure: the way the organisation is structured and who reports to who.
  3. Systems: the daily activities and procedures that staff members engage in to get the job done, as well as computer systems.
  4. Shared Values: the core values of the company that are evidenced in the corporate culture and the general work ethic.
  5. Style: the style of leadership adopted.
  6. Staff: the employees and their general capabilities.
  7. Skills: the actual skills and competencies of the employees working for the company.

The idea is that all must be coherent if you want your organisation to work in harmony.

I found it interesting to compare McKinsey’s 7S framework with the 6 categories I came up with when reflecting on successful transformations I have led in recent years.

Strategy could certainly be compared with Vision.  What are we trying to achieve, why and broadly how.

Structure – got that.

Systems – I split this into two categories: Technology (for systems and tools), and Practices (for processes, procedures and methods).

Shared Values – I called it Principles but certainly it included values and principles.

Style – I had a similar category but called it Leadership.

Staff and Skills – I had these under Structure.

So it turns out I reinvented the wheel.  When I discovered that, I wasn’t sure what to think.  Am I a genius for discovering what I am sure cost McKinsey much more to discover?  Or am I stupid for not just Googling it in the first place?  Either way, I thought I’d spare you the trouble!


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