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Creating a Change Center of Excellence
Historically, change occurred in a predictable manner within organizations. The senior leadership team determined the vision of the organization for the next five to ten years and then identified the strategic priorities needed by the organization each year in order to achieve that vision. The changes to the organization would occur serially or one at a time and there would be time to execute on the strategic priorities in order to achieve the said organizational vision. Then the next change initiative or project would be designed and implemented.
The employees within the organization when they encountered change, historically, would respond with working harder and smarter in an effort to facilitate the realization of the organization’s strategic vision. Additionally, there was a great deal of new technology implemented that would facilitate a more efficient work force aiding in the employees working harder and smarter.
The difference today is that organizations are facing high-speed change. Change that is random and appears to occur simultaneously rather than in a sequential fashion impacting the organizations focus, anticipation, direction, strategic vision, and behaviors of engagement and change capability. These unpredictable market changes impact the business processes and work structures of the organization, technology and system upgrades, the structure of the organization, present and in the immediate future, the execution of marketing campaigns, the demands of customers, etc.
The Positives Associated with a Change Center of Excellence
The number one thing that organizations need to remember is that the organization has to keep running while all of the changes are being implemented or addressed. In the case of both project and change management, resource allocation is a critical component to success. Consistency is often lost when the same resources are utilized to get the routine work done, fight the daily fires so to speak, and also implement a major project or change initiative. Running the business daily and implementing change throughout an organization requires very different skills.
The level of readiness for change initiatives is largely based on the resistance that exists within the organization and the size of the change (as well as the cultural acceptance of change and the number of change initiatives going on within the organization at any one time).
Establishing a Center of Excellence focused on Change allows an organization to move from mere initiatives to executing on the science of problem solving and delivering effective solutions. This means that the organization moves to create a standardized methodology that can be integrated with the culture of the organization and other changes that are occurring, monitoring and assessing for project and solution success, and transferring key learnings to others throughout the organization prior, during, and at the completion of a change initiative.
The consistency delivered through a standardized methodology results in decreased risk to the organization and to the strategic projects selected for implementation, and anticipation of increased value to the project delivery, improved quality of the change deliverables, and improved time to delivery of products, goods, or services associated with the change.
The Negatives Associated with a Change Center of Excellence
The first negative can be played either way...could a Change Center of Excellence seem like only a few people are tasked with being change agents or can this Center of Excellence facilitate even more people being able to evolve and change as the company applies additional resources and focus on efficient and effective change efforts for key projects? Change should not be seen as an event but more as a journey built by the company to achieve success over time.
It would be wrong if only change capabilities existed within the Change Center of Excellence instead of throughout the entire organization. Resilience to change has been repeatedly identified as a key organizational competency needed in the Twenty-first century. Worse yet, could the change Center of Excellence become bureaucratic…what organizations need today is less bureaucracy and greater agility.
The Qualities of a Center of Excellence include the following:
- It is usually team-based
- Focused (in this case, I am referring to a Change Center of Excellence)
- Results-driven with execution being the key to success
The Responsibilities of a Change Center of Excellence:
- Governance: Prioritization of projects and allocation of resources (people, time, money, etc.) to ensure that the organization is focused on strategic projects that are the most valuable to the organization creating and leveraging economies of scale wherever possible
- Support: CoEs should provide support for their key customers by providing subject matter experts, working on key projects, and delivering good and services to meet or exceed the needs of the customers
- Guidance: The use of structured problem solving, standardized methodologies, templates, knowledge-sharing, and the creation of repositories of information
- Shared Learning: The development of a high level of skill and education allows the subject matter experts within the Center of Excellence to spread their expertise and experience across the organization
- Metrics: The Center of Excellence should be able to demonstrate the value that they bring through the use of output metrics
What Defines a Change Center of Excellence?
A Center of Excellence is a formal organization designed to ensure best practice sharing and collaborative efforts to assist the organization in achieving its mission…in this case, achieving change throughout the organization. When done correctly, building a Center of Excellence can assist an organization in delivering on key business objectives and results. A center of excellence should be designed to prevent an organization from repeating past mistakes in planning, execution, or assessing organization success. It should be simultaneously designed to increase the constant transfer of skills and competencies within and across the organization.
A Center of Excellence could provide governance, a skilled support structure, directional guidance, key metrics, and shared learning across and organization. A need or drive to achieve on complex organizational goals should be a driving force for the formation of a center of excellence.
Two critical aspects of success include:
- A structure that allows for fast mobilization of talent and the development of shared learnings
- The organization must focus solutions and effective problem solving on delivering to meet or exceed the expectations of the organization’s customers
Items that a Change Center of Excellence would have in common:
- A logical grouping or alignment of personnel similarly skilled
- A focus on building advanced skill for the CoE but expanding that skill to others within the organization
- The CoE becomes a place where people develop and learn new skills and share the knowledge that they have learned with other areas of the business
- It is a physical organization where everyone works together to achieve the strategic priorities of the organization
- It aligns resources with demand
- It is about making people within the CoE feel valued when they do they deliver value to customers
The key findings of the available research on the implementation of Centers of Excellence is that it is important to establish a CoE that matches the organization’s structure, skills, and culture. Once considering these facets, remember that a CoE is a living, working, constantly evolving system or structure, especially a Center of Excellence of Change.