The results and outcomes of workplace changes are intrinsically and inextricably tied to individual employees doing their jobs differently. A perfectly designed process that no one follows produces no improvement in performance. A perfectly designed technology that no one uses creates no additional value to the organization. Perfectly defined job roles that are not fulfilled by employees deliver no sustained results. Whether in the workplace, in your community or in government, the bridge between a quality solution and benefit realization is individuals embracing and adopting the change.
Change management enables employees to adopt a change so that business objectives are realized. It is the bridge between solutions and results, and is fundamentally about people and our collective role of transforming change into successful outcomes for our organizations.
But what does it mean to manage the people side of change and what exactly is change management? How does change management create successful change? To answer these questions, it is necessary to establish the foundational tenets for change management. This grounding in the reality of how change actually happens will enable a better understanding and more robust application of the tools and processes for managing the people side of change. Each of these tenets will build on the other, and together they form the basis for the what and why of change management.
It is easy to think about change from an organizational perspective: the optimization of business processes, a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) application, electronic medical records, new accounting systems, the release of a new software tool, the move to a new office complex, the installation of a new piece of equipment in the manufacturing process, the shift toward paperless operations. These are all examples of changes that organizations are undertaking to improve performance, capture an opportunity or resolve an issue. But each of these changes ultimately requires certain individuals in the organization to do their jobs differently.
This is not to say that new technologies, improved processes, better tools and new organizational designs are not enablers of change, as these are certainly essential building blocks. However, change ultimately results from people adopting new skills and demonstrating new capabilities; and, while this may seem like common sense, we often assume that change at an individual level will just happen. For example, it is easy for a project manager or business leader to make the following assumptions: If I build it, everyone will use it; If I build it, everyone will use it immediately; and, If I build it, everyone will use it effectively. If these assumptions were always true, then each change would yield the desired outcomes every time.
Most change management models in use today are in the form of a process or set of steps. These processes or activity lists were developed through trial and error, and are based on experiences of experts in the field of change management. In some cases these experts have created a standard process based on their consultancy models. These experts often use the same processes with their clients that are published in their books, articles and training materials.
Unfortunately, the underlying lessons and concepts that resulted in these change management processes are not always clear. In many cases the concepts are not even discussed as part of the resulting model. In a sense, what you learn is the how but not the why. The years of practical experience and knowledge that form the basis for these processes are not readily available to business managers.
In summary, the key concepts are:
- Change agents must be conscious of both a sender’s meaning and a
- Employee resistance is the norm, not the exception. Expect some
employees to never support the change.
- Visible and active sponsorship is not only desirable, but
necessary for success.
- Value systems and the culture of the organization have a direct
impact on how employees react to
- The size and type of the change determines how much and what kind
of change management is needed. Just because a change is small does
not mean that change management is unnecessary.
- The “right” answer is not enough to implement change
successfully and does little to mitigate resistance.
- Employees go through the change process in stages and go through
these stages as individuals.
To put these concepts into practice, two
change management approaches are necessary: the employee’s perspective
and the managers perspective. Managing change with a specific employee
is called individual change management. Managing change with an entire
group or collection of employees is called organizational change
Individual change management is often
overlooked by many change management models. Individual change
management includes the tools and processes that supervisors use with
their employees to manage individual transitions through change. This
employee-oriented component of change management is the critical
ingredient that allows a project team to:
- Help employees through the change process
- Create a feedback loop to business leaders and identify points of
- Diagnose gaps in communications and training
- Implement corrective action
Individual change management is the process of providing tools and
training to employees to enable them to manage their personal transition through change.
This includes training for managers and supervisors to equip them with the tools they need
to assist their employees through the change process.
In this chapter, a model for individual change management called ADKAR is
presented. You will have the opportunity to create an ADKAR profile for someone close to
you and find out how a graduating daughter unlocked the door to change for her
The chapter will be dedicated to four change
management objectives that can be achieved using this individual change management model:
Manage personal transitions. Employees can assess where they are in the
change process and identify their own personal barriers to change.
Focus conversations. Communications with employees about the change can
be separated into the stages of a change model to enable productive and focused
conversations centered around their area of interest or conflict.
Diagnose gaps. Collective input from employees provides a diagnosis of
why a change may be failing or is not as effective as planned.
Identify corrective action. The model provides a framework for
identifying corrective actions during the change process.
Too often business leaders fall into the trap of communicating broad and general
messages about change. Employees reactions can also be generally broad. The
resulting conversations are non-targeted and often unproductive. Take for example the
announcement of a new software tool for customer order taking. If the change is
implemented and employees believe it was not needed (i.e., they were not aware that any
changes were required), then their reaction might be:
"This is a waste of time."
"Why change if it was working just fine before?"
"They never tell us whats going on!"
Our old system was better than this one.
The natural reaction to change, even in the best circumstances, is to resist. Awareness
of the business need to change is a critical ingredient of any change and must come first.
Businesses tend to have more managers who believe they have the right
answers to business problems than managers who can effectively implement good ideas. As a
leadership competency, change management is often lacking. The political environment
combined with employee resistance stops many managers from being true leaders of change.
Organizational change management is the
application of a systematic process for managing change across an organization. It is the
top-down, managers approach to taking an organization through the transition from
today to a new future state.
In this chapter we will provide an overview of a
comprehensive, research-based change management process. We will discuss how individual
change management tools and organization-wide tools are combined to effectively manage the
change. We will also show how damage control can end up being the focus of the day if
change management is started too late.
Recall from the theories and principles of change
discussion that change is a process. Managing change from an organizational viewpoint is
also a process. Based on Proscis research in change management over the course of
three separate studies with more than 500 organizations, the most effective change
management process consists of three phases:
Phase 1 - Preparing for change
Phase 2 - Managing change
Phase 3 - Reinforcing change
Phase 2 - Managing change includes the design of the organizational change management
plans and individual change management activities. This second phase of change management
involves the planning and implementation of:
Resistance management plans
Communication plan - Many managers assume that if they communicate clearly with their
employees, their job is done. Recall from Chapter 2 and the principles of change that
there are many reasons why employees may not hear or understand what their managers are
saying. You may have heard that messages need to be repeated 6 to 7 times before they are
cemented into the minds of employees. That is because each employees readiness to
hear depends on the many factors discussed in Chapter 2.
Effective communicators carefully consider three components: the audience, what is said
and when it is said. For example, the first step in managing change is building awareness
around the need for change and creating a desire among employees. Therefore, the initial
communications should be designed to create awareness around the business reasons for
change and the risk of not changing.
These early communications should not be cluttered with details that will distract from
the key messages. Likewise, at each step in the process, communications should be designed
to share the right messages at the right time. Communication planning, therefore, begins
with a careful analysis of the audiences, key messages and the timing for those messages.
The change management team must design a communication plan that addresses the needs of
front-line employees, supervisors and executives. Each audience has particular needs for
information based on their role in the implementation of the change.
As a starting point, the following communication checklist taken from the
Management Toolkit provides a summary of the most important communication topics
for managing change.
Part 1 - Messages about the business today (shared during the earliest stages of the
The current situation and the rationale for the change
The business issues or drivers that created a need for change
Competitive issues or changes in the marketplace including customer issues
Financial issues or trends
What might happen if a change is not made (the risk of not making the change)
Part 2 - Messages about the change (shared after employees understand the business
situation and business reasons for change)
Throughout this book, the term change management has been used in relation
to managing change with one or more business initiatives. But what happens when change
becomes the norm? Current economic conditions have placed a premium on an
organizations ability to be flexible, quick to market, scalable and responsive to
unique customer demands.
An organization that faces constant demands to
change and uses effective change management over and over with each new initiative may
experience a fundamental shift in its operations and the behavior of its employees.
Sponsors begin to repeat activities that made the last change successful. Managers develop
skills to support employees through the change. Employees see part of their job as
navigating these new changes. Each level in the organization will have internalized its
role in change and developed the skills and knowledge necessary to react to constant
change. The organization has become ready and able to embrace change; it has developed
Change Management: The People Side of Change presents the foundation
needed to effectively manage change.
The book began by creating Awareness of the need for change management and
Desire to use change management techniques to avoid project failures or business
disruptions. Change management is used for one reason to ensure business success.
Many changes do fail in organizations that do not appreciate and manage the people side of
change. We presented research results that showed change management as the most critical
and important activity for business improvement projects. We discussed the many forms of
employee and management resistance and showed how this resistance can severely impair or
stop a change project. Project teams that introduce change but do not use change
management run the risk of missed project objectives, productivity losses, and sometimes
One of your key responsibilities as a change agent it to be the champion
of change management in your organization. You must demonstrate the importance of actively
managing change and build support within your peers, leaders and reports. You must provide
guidance to senior executives and managers and supervisors. You must help the organization
embrace and thrive during change.
Resources are provided in the Appendices to help
For a limited time, receive a free copy of this book with any Change Management
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