Efforts to deal with change in organizations almost always cost more than planned, take longer than planned, deliver less than planned and generate lasting resistance to future change.  Why do these attempts, known as change-management initiatives, fail so often? The reasons, excuses, and rationale are countless yet there is an underlying factor that is rarely noted – the absence of a Chief Change Officer, or CCO Leaders of organizations are embroiled in managing ego, power, passion, envy, politics, optics, vertical silos, turf, corporate structure, accountability, authority and not-in-my-backyard conflicts and issues. Vertical business structures provide superior/subordinate control that cascade downward yet horizontal, matrix management structures threaten (real or implied) power and control at all levels of the organizations. Is it any wonder good, worthy attempts to improve what the business does and how it does it crash and burn? Adding another executive title might be just too much to consider except, this would be a disservice since a key aspect of the CCO role is specifically to handle internecine warfare associated with change, quickly and bluntly. After all, dissent is just background noise to the grand objective.  With a CCO at the helm during change, much waste could be prevented, real results achieved, time saved and costs reduced. What might change entail? Some obvious larger examples are acquisition/merger integration, business re-engineering, business separation, new information systems, consolidation, business-process outsourcing, global applications and bricks-to-clicks conversion (a move from old-economy business practices to e-commerce).

Every internal resource who contributes in some way, shape or form to altering or adjusting the organization does so under the umbrella of change. All external resources (vendors, service providers and subject matter experts) who contribute tangible or intangible value to change are included as well.   Change includes all facets of enabling change from concept through to post injection assessment – on a generic basis it includes contributions from literally everyone;  executives, legal staff, strategy groups, board of directors and others during concept hardening; project managers, process engineers, technologists, testers, trainers, procedure writers, legal, marketing, corporate communications, finance, governance, compliance, human resources, receiving unit management, receiving unit staff and many external contributors during construction; many of these along with a host of specialists contribute during implementation and post-injection review.   A number of executives, including heads of information technology and chief information officers, may conclude they are de facto CCO’s. Wrong! The CCO role must be wide, deep and truly multidimensional. The compelling benefit of the CCO role is that it is rooted in independence, unbiased by line accountabilities, and unhindered by favouritism.  In my world, the CCO reports to the chief executive officer or even to the board of directors in exceptional cases and has authority to make sure change is as smooth, seamless, quick and efficient as possible and that it is capable of delivering the anticipated results. He or she ensures that all change across the width and depth of the organization is clear, cohesive and aligned with corporate objectives. Thus:– Preventing waste, replication, duplication and conflict through awareness of the state and context of all past, present and future change across the entire organization

– Ensuring that change is fully integrated within the organization as a whole, thereby eliminating unworthy, unneeded and unsanctioned change

– Knowing what worked and what didn’t, what can be reused, what should be stopped and what should be rethought

– Advising caution when receptivity for change or change saturation may threaten success

– Bringing clarity and cohesion to all change.   A CCO’s contributions can take many forms. Here are some examples:   Some initiatives target growth; others aim at improving productivity, reducing costs or concentrating on key objectives. Some are strategic, some tactical. All are in varying stages. The CCO is the central hub – interlocking and inter-relating all change across the enterprise to ensure better alignment of resources (time, money, resources) with corporate objectives. For example, the CCO might offer up:   – That it might be wise to cancel or cut back some initiatives because of replication elsewhere. Value: saving money and time while using scarce resources for higher priorities. – That, perhaps, some other initiatives should be combined since the return, chance of success or timings of each, separately, are less than stellar. Value: saving money, concentrating resources, consolidating risk. – That some objectives can be realized quicker and more simply by reusing components elsewhere from past change. Value: saving time, money and conserving scarce resources. Maximizing potential  

Typically large-scale change initiatives are highly resource-intensive, very costly and mission critical. These tend to last many months. The knowledgeable CCO CAN constantly review all change – conceptual, planned, in process or completed in part or in whole – across the organization in order to maintain cohesion, clarity, benefits and risk mitigation.   This will lead to questions such as: Are these linked? Does each know what the other is doing? Is this wise?   Mapping conceptual change maximizes future success potential. Take the example of an organization that is considering a new value laden business model that will require its major business units to re-engineer quickly in a smooth, synchronized fashion. The concept is still a work in progress and under wraps yet leaders are eager for the strategic benefits that will result. The CCO highlights potential issues and opportunities that the organization will face in getting to the end state. This is extremely valuable in determining how to execute:  – Simulated change – modelling “what is,” “what will be” and the “waves of change” the organization must pass through to get to the new model– Change receptivity – assessing how all or similar change worked before, where it was bad, where it was good, what worked and what failed– Change under way – examining the implications of all change under way that would be impacted by the new concept; analyzing the value, cost, need and priority of each, adjusting and refining focus, perhaps recommending Stop!

– Change replication/ reusability – assessing the potential of reusable components, processes or knowledge across the organization that can be utilized for this change initiative, to save time and money.  

Here are three illuminating illustrations of what happens when a CCO is not at the helm of change:

Nike has suffered through a $500 Million global ERP implementation underway for over five years with virtually no bottom line contribution and still needs hundreds of millions and more years to complete AND it is simply laid on top of the enterprise with no process integration or re-engineering costs or benefits, yet! Oh, by the way, it cost Nike $100 Million in lost sales and the stock went down by 20%. Goodness knows what the eventual cost will be and when ROI goals will be met. A CCO would have brought sanity to this before it started, segmenting the effort into manageable chunks, ensuring technology and processes were integrated for value and quick victories, a stepped progression toward the global objective. 

A global financial institution headquartered in Toronto was surprised to find it had over 1300 account opening processes worldwide, each developed with painstaking precision and accuracy at an estimated, fully burdened cost of at least $2,500,000 each. Over 900 of these had a possible reusable factor of 30%; meaning 30% of the cost of each of the 900 was used to build either mutations or direct duplicates of software, processes or collateral available for reuse elsewhere in the enterprise. Potentially, this outfit could have saved as much as $675,000,000 with CCO knowledge and guidance of past, present and future change.  A New Jersey based Enterprise Telecommunications Company used an outdated version of an application, heavily customized, in its US domestic operations. The CFO ordered a roll-out of the next version of the application to the rest of the world, vanilla flavour – no customization, with the order that all processes and practices around the world (except the US) were to be changed to fit this new application. Previously all international regions had home grown, customized systems. Chaos ensued globally; customers departed in droves, service levels plummeted, costs skyrocketed; process disconnects multiplied, language and culture impacts compounded. When the CFO tried to force US operations to use the new version; business units refused to accept the new application without radical customization. A CCO would have ensures cohesion and clarity and practicality of change saving countless millions from being wasted.   These examples are not extreme, similar debacles occur all the time, everywhere. 

In my world a Chief Change Officer ensures clarity and cohesion in all change planned and underway; the CCO extracts incremental value from previous change, using it to advantage to reduce cost and shorten timelines of future change; the CCO blends and mitigates the pressures of change into achievable, realistic projects that align with corporate objective exactly. A CCO is right for every industry, for every culture, for every enterprise and government.

You should consider a CCO in your world.