The accounting profession is at one of those key points in time where change is inevitable. With the new International Standards on Quality Management (ISQM) coming into effect on 15 December 2022, we are less than four months away from its effective date. The question is: ‘Are you ready’?
The only constant in life is change. Whether you want to or not, at some time you need to change, and adapting from the old to the new can be challenging.
Being prepared and ticking the boxes is one thing, but how do you ensure that the anticipated change you seek is successful? How do you make any change possible? The answer: change management.
Change management is defined by TechTarget as ‘a systematic approach to dealing with the transition or transformation of an organisation’s goals, processes or technologies. The purpose of change management is to implement strategies for effecting change, controlling change and helping people to adapt to change.’
There is a lot of literature on change management available on the Internet; with a simple Google search you can find almost anything on the topic. From the ‘7 Rs of change management’ to ‘5 steps to successfully change’. But how do you implement it in your organisation?
In general, people’s initial reaction to any change is shock, even denial; refusing to accept the change. This is where it is important to get the people who will be affected by the change involved as early as possible; moving them through the change curve which talks to people’s emotions when experiencing change. The change curve can be visually represented as:
Change happens at three levels: change within an individual, in the individual’s team, and in the organisation as a whole. In all organisations there are ‘early adopters’, those who ‘wait-and-see’, and ‘resisters’. Implementing a change management strategy/plan is a collaborative effort where those who are implementing the change need to develop a strategy specifically to move the ‘wait-and-see’ majority to adopt the change. Not only does the strategy need to talk to those who wait and see’ but also the ‘resisters’, as they are key to the success of the desired change. If the ‘resisters’ are not ‘moved’, the ‘wait-and-see’ majority could join them, resulting in a failed project.
Certainly, the question that comes to mind is what the key elements for success are when it comes to change management. One of the models many organisations turn to is the Prosci ADKAR Model. This is a results-oriented approach to managing change based on a simple truth: company-wide change happens one person at a time.
The acronym ADKAR stands for:
- Awareness – Creating awareness about the change.
- Desire – This talks about why the change is needed and probably the questions many ask, what is in it for me? Why do I need to make the change?
- Knowledge – Training individuals on the change that happened or is about to take place to equip them with the required knowledge to perform optimally. Making resources available for the desired change.
- Ability – This makes the change practical: how the individual’s work will be impacted and what is expected from them.
- Reinforcement – Often missed, this is what happens after ‘going live’. How an individual is supported, follow-up training, refreshers, what happens with exceptions and how questions are dealt with.
Throughout the ADKAR model the 5 Ws (why, what, who, where and when) needs to be answered to ensure that the model is effective and addressed at all levels: people, processes and technology. Here are some of the questions that could be asked:
- Why is the change needed?
- What is actually changing? What is the impact of the change on an individual’s day-to-day life? What is the consequence if we don’t change?
- Who will be impacted?
- Where can I get information or support?
- When should this be implemented (by what date)?
Working through the ADKAR model and answering the 5 Ws is not enough − you need to go further. Linking it to ISQM, it is important that leadership is aligned with the change. ISQM 1 clearly states that leadership is responsible and accountable for quality, setting the tone at the top. Through their actions and behaviour, the leaders demonstrate their commitment to quality; moving from quality control to quality management, making the required shift (change).
Through change management we recognise that an organisation’s most important resource is its people; getting the people’s buy-in is key to the success of change. This is also where leaders play a fundamental role: they set the example from the start. They should walk the talk.
An overarching principle is effective communication. Communication is fundamental to the success of any project. Insufficient communication can lead to misunderstanding, missed opportunities, regression, aggression and even frustration.
Developing and implementing a change plan is crucial to ensure that everyone stays on track and that everything gets done. This is where project management plays a role to ensure everyone delivers what they are required to, and by a specific date. This ensures that everyone works together towards a common goal and stays on track. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
After implementation, it is essential to evaluate if everything that the organisation or leadership has set out to achieve has indeed been achieved. The process doesn’t stop after implementation. This is when reinforcement is fundamental, as this embeds the change resulting in it becoming the new normal.
Accounting firms can certainly take a page from other organisations with internal change management specialists. Something they do well is celebrating successes along the way and at the end. Celebrating successes allows the organisation to take its staff along on the journey, making them part of the organisation’s success.
Perhaps you are still sceptical about the relevance and importance of effective change management. The below table shows research conducted by a company called Prosci on what happens when there is change management:
|Without change management
Employees feel surprised and besieged by change
|With change management
Employees feel prepared, equipped and supported
|Failed project results||Six times more likely to meet project objectives|
|Extended project timelines||Five times more likely to stay on schedule|
|Additional project costs||Two times more likely to stay on budget|
|Low adoption and usage||People-dependent return of investment achieved|
It is not too late to build in elements of change management as we embark on the final stretch in preparing for ISQM implementation.
Jeanne Viljoen CA(SA) is a Senior Manager at Mazars