An analyst’s role in change management

Change can inspire those in an organisation and it can also bring fear. It can introduce positive emotion and can create feelings of dread and hopelessness. At best, change excites and delights. At worst, it leads to physical and emotional burnout and drains performance.

The one certainty about our careers and workplaces is that things will change, and in the current environment of disruption and data-driven insight, change is arriving more quickly and regularly than ever. The analyst, as a central player in every vital organisational function, will likely be one of the core managers of this change. As such, they must ensure they first look after themselves, before developing a strategy to make the process a smooth one for others. 

“At different points in our career, we may be leaders or champions of change. At other times, change may be imposed on us and we may even be resistant to change,” says UNSW Senior Lecturer Dr Janis Wardrop, who teaches a unit in UNSW’s online Master of Analytics, specifically related to an analyst’s role in change management. 

“By building our own interpersonal awareness, we build emotional intelligence. That is our interpersonal awareness, which is fundamental to being a successful change leader and agent.”

Why is emotional intelligence important to change management?

Organisational change occurs at three levels. The first and most important is the individual level. The second is the team level and the third, quite logically, is at the organisational or strategic level. 

The second and third cannot occur without the first, because individuals are the building blocks of teams and organisations. 

Knowing this, it’s important to recognise that individuals can instinctively resist change. As a member of the team that is managing and driving the change, the analyst must first consider and come to terms with their own reasons for potential resistance.

To embrace the change and to role model the right behaviours around that change, the analyst must first know what they are working with. That’s where self-awareness comes in.

A report from Harvard Business Review, called How to embrace change using emotional intelligence, recommends a four-step process to help see the positive side of change.

1) Understand

Begin by developing a deep understanding of the reasons for your resistance and develop solutions for the perceived problems. For example,  if you’re worried about not knowing enough to create the change successfully, book into a training course or find a mentor rather than feel negative about the change.

2) Question

What is driving your emotional response? What interpretations are influencing your reasoning? What stories are you telling yourself? For example, if you’re feeling angry because you feel you have no control over the change, how can you take on leadership responsibility in the process to create more of a sense of control?

3) Take ownership

Self-awareness is immensely valuable not just during a change program, but in all aspects of work and life. It means you become more aware of how you react in specific situations. That high level of mindfulness allows you to own your reactions. Awareness of negative reactions and behaviours helps you to make adjustments to minimise and replace those reactions. 

4) Be positive 

Having the ability to recognise when you’re having a negative reaction is a competitive advantage for a leader. By having a positive outlook and aiming to see a challenge as an opportunity, you will be much more receptive to change and quicker to adapt.  

Analysts are opportunity finders

Once an analyst has mastered their own responses to change, they are well equipped to plan and manage that change, role model positive behaviours and help others with their perceptions.

The analyst’s role in the change management process is broad and varied. It can involve, for instance, the identification of trends in staff usage of a particular system, in product or service patterns, or in the broader market and its changing demands.

If the change involves an internal system, the analyst’s role might be to identify opportunities for employees. It could involve the development of a close understanding of how people use the current system, then the use of that data to identify improvements that will empower the staff to do less repetitive work and more tasks that will challenge, empower and engage them. In this case, the analyst is identifying opportunities for the users of the new system, which will lead to those users having a more positive perception of the change program.

As an example, think of a digital transformation in the field of HR.

The last thing an HR professional wants to be doing is chasing forms for sick leave and for annual leave, etc. They became an HR professional to help develop people, and to play a strategic role in business management – not to manage a filing system.

So if that frustration can be identified, and a system built that will free up their time to do higher value and more engaging work, it’s a win for the business and a win for the HR professional. It’s change management based on opportunity and minus the fear and loathing. 

At the same time, such leadership from the analytics professional develops a growth mindset not only in themselves but in those affected by the change program. 

The importance of having a growth mindset

What is a growth mindset? It was originally defined by respected Professor of Psychology Carol Dweck, whose work since the 1970s identified vital differences between various types of human motivation. A person with a growth mindset will see a challenge as something they have simply not yet solved. They will see effort as a path to mastery and will realise they are in control of their own perceptions, outlooks and success. A person with a fixed mindset, on the other hand, will give up easily and have a deterministic view of the world, feeling that nothing is in their own control. 

A report on the Modern Analyst website says most analysts, as they come from IT or finance backgrounds, tend to focus on the technical aspect of the job when change is occurring because that is their safe space. However, with little self-awareness they can become a truly valuable and valued part of the process, making the change management project more positive and enjoyable for all involved.

Learning how to manage people, analytics and change is just one of the core areas of study in UNSW Online’s Master of Analytics. This accelerated, 100% online course is one of the most comprehensive postgraduate qualifications in data analytics available. Get in touch with our student advisors on 1300 974 990 to learn more.