Mobilising Change – the key factors for success

Change is difficult at the best of times. As we have seen through numerous conflicts in the 21st century, securing long-term and sustainable change in a complex, global environment can be extremely hard to achieve.

I’ve declared war, now how do I win the campaign?

In a continuing series of blogs on mobilisation, here we draw upon military analogies to highlight two key factors that will give you a fighting chance of success when mobilising for business change.

Be clear on strategy

Often mobilisation is seen only as a checklist activity to build a delivery capability.  Armed forces will focus on rapid mobilisation of the troops, provisioning equipment and logistics, establishing an operating base etc.  These items are, of course, important – and it is often imperative just to get up and running. Too often though, troops only develop initial strategies to install a change, without being clear on the strategy to implement deep change, transition to a business-as-usual state, and ensure that the change is sustainable in the long-term.  One expression that comes readily to mind is that “it’s not about winning the battle but the war.”

Creating a clear vision

For a change programme it is essential not to leave mobilisation without a clear vision, a view of defined benefits and a list of success criteria.  These objectives will provide an ongoing reference point and continue to set direction when the programme team are ‘up to their necks in muck and bullets’.  It is critical that the nature of the change is understood and that the high-level objectives/concepts are clear, before heading into the discovery or design phases of work.  Having to backtrack or recover these items later in the programme can be costly and time-consuming.

Developing a change community

Another neglected item, sometimes only thought about after mobilisation, is the development of a change community, and then embedding those individuals into the heart of the programme.  In the military context, when you’re operating on foreign soil, you’re going to need an effective coalition of partners, local allies, translators, guides and fixers.  Winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of the impacted communities, and drawing upon their local knowledge, will increase the chance of success immensely.  Think back to the first Gulf War and the failure to establish, as part of the campaign, an enduring, stable and fit-for-purpose governance and leadership.  If the change doesn’t endure, then what was the point of all the investment and sacrifice to land it?

Establishing a change network

Of course, when leading change programmes we aren’t actually ‘going to war’. However, we are often operating in complex, political environments, with a range of different stakeholders with different expectations and motivations.  We are often seeking to make a deep and fundamental change to the current modus operandi.  Practical mobilisation tasks should include establishing a change network, comprised of change champions, local sponsors and subject matter experts; and setting up the business forums and communications channels to ensure that the business voice is heard loud and clear, as part of a two-way dialogue.  This won’t guarantee sustainability, but not having this forethought will certainly compromise it.

In summary, we advocate not treating mobilisation simply as a quick set-up activity.  If you have a clear view of success and what an effective exit looks like, and put the people impacted by the change at the heart of your programme from the outset, then your chances of succeeding rise spectacularly.

If you have any concerns that your next major change initiative isn’t yet set up for success, please do get in touch, as we can help.

To read our other blogs on mobilisation click here: Mobilising a change programme and Mobilising change programmes – I’ve started so I’ll finish

POSTED BY: Peter Lewis - Consultant


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