Chapter 1 excerpt
Why manage change?
Whether you are an executive, supervisor, coach, consultant, project team leader or
manager of any type where your job is to manage people, you likely have experienced
resistance to change from employees. However, you may not recognize the role that you can
play in preventing that resistance and leading change. Most managers do not make this
connection until they have personally experienced failure in an important change project.
I should have communicated better.
Next time I will involve more people.
If the CEO had just been more public in his
I was undermined by managers who felt threatened
by this change and did not understand the vision.
These common reflections by business leaders after an unsuccessful initiative have one
common theme: each represents a failure to manage the people side of change. They are not
alone. In a general study of companies implementing major business changes, 327 project
leaders, consultants and managers answered the following question about their project
"If you had the chance to do it again,
what would you do differently?"
The most common response was:
"Utilize an effective and planned
change management program."
Surprisingly, these study participants did not emphasize design or
technology issues. They did not say they lacked vision or an understanding of the
marketplace. The most common barrier to success was a lack of change management. They fell
short when managing the people side of change and encountered:
1. Managers who were unwilling to assign the needed
resources to the project or would not allow
representative adequate time to participate
2. Managers who filtered out important messages [the
neutralizers] or started negative conversations
about the change
3. Employees who became distracted and lost interest
in their current work responsibilities thereby
impacting overall productivity and customers
4. Valued employees who left the organization
5. More people taking sick leave or not showing up for
6. Unforeseen obstacles to the change that seemingly
appeared from nowhere
7. A lack of funding for the change
In other words, things did not go exactly as planned. The unexpected happened. Not
managing the people side of change impacted their success and introduced risk into their
Change management can not only mitigate these business risks, but in
many cases avoid them entirely. Business leaders have the potential to not only manage
resistance once it appears, but to prevent it in the first place. Unfortunately, many
business leaders and project teams do not appreciate their role in managing the people
side of change until after resistance impacts the success of their change.
Two case studies show the potential consequences of not managing the
people side of change. These case studies were selected because they highlight two common
leadership mistakes: first, believing that change management is someone elses job;
second, ignoring the people side of change until major resistance stalls a project or
causes the project to fail.
Case Study 1 - The Reluctant CEO
To reduce cost and improve customer service, a financial group wanted to consolidate its
customer contact centers across several divisions. A consultant was hired to support the
effort and to prepare implementation plans. The project no more than began when rumor
spread through several departments that this organizational change was not good for the
Supervisors and key managers in the existing customer care centers
began resisting the change. In some cases they would not show up for design reviews or
miss key decision-making meetings. Information requested by the consultant and the design
team was withheld or half-complete. At breaks and around the coffee pot, employees
complained about potential leadership changes. Both employees and managers were distracted
from their day-to-day work and productivity suffered. Key managers were rumored to quit if
the change was implemented.
The consulting firm met with the CEO, repeatedly
warning that this resistance would undermine his change and would ultimately begin to
affect customers. The CEO, however, was reluctant to become personally involved. He viewed
change management as the job of his project team and the consultant, and not the
responsibility of the head of the company. After several months of difficulties and
delays, the consultants finally declared the consolidation in jeopardy.
With the project at a stand-still, the CEO requested an emergency
briefing with his leadership team. To prepare for this status report, the consultants
conducted interviews with key managers throughout each department. They quickly identified
a manager in an existing customer care center who viewed his job at risk with the
potential change. Arguments against the change initiated by this manager were spreading
throughout the ranks. His supervisors were the same people who were presumably threatening
to leave the organization.
Even armed with this information, the CEO remained reluctant to take
definitive action. The only recourse at this stage was reassignment or termination of this
manager. Both options could have negative fall-out for the company and the affected
manager. The CEO was faced with a stalled project and a potentially lose-lose decision for
a long-tenured manager.
In this case, the CEO made two mistakes that are common in major changes. The first was to
assume that change management was someone elses responsibility. In a change
management benchmarking study with 288 companies, the number one research finding related
to an executives role in change is active and visible sponsorship at every phase of
the project. The second mistake the CEO made was not managing resistance when it first
surfaced. Resistance to change can spread like wildfire when not managed effectively.
Waiting, in this case, only resulted in a more difficult situation later on.
Case Study 2 - Stripes and Tar
The president of a business association had facilities maintenance as part of his overall
responsibilities. The association included multiple businesses that each had condominiums
in a single large office complex. The president of the association decided that the
parking lot needed resurfacing and new striping. He arranged for a local contractor to do
One day the construction company showed up at the office complex and
started blocking off the parking lot. The contractor was getting his equipment ready and
was trying to clear the lot of cars when disgruntled business owners confronted his
workers. The business owners wanted to know what was happening, why it was happening and
who authorized the work. Not happy with the uninformed answers from the contractor and the
immediate demands to remove the cars from the lot, the business owners instructed the
contractor to pack up his equipment and leave. Since the president was not on site to
resolve conflicts, the contractor had no choice but to abandon the job.
Even when the president finally intervened later in the day, enough
business owners were upset about the unknown financial impact and the disruptive process
that the contractor never returned to resurface the parking lot.
In this case, the association president knew what needed to be done,
took charge and moved ahead. The change was small, and in terms of maintenance, he was
doing the right thing for the association. However, the president neglected to make the
business owners aware that the lot needed resurfacing as part of normal maintenance. He
did not communicate the financial benefit to the association and therefore the financial
benefit to each business owner. Finally, the president did not inform the business owners
about how and when the work would be done, and what the business owners needed to do to
support the project. The result was resistance from the business owners, who, in this
case, had sufficient authority to stop the work. The association president simply ignored
the people side of the change and the project failed.
Both complex and simple changes can fail. With many projects, the
evidence of failure from not managing the people side of change is not as black and white
as the absence of new blacktop with freshly painted white lines. Failure can come in many
forms including project delays, loss of valued employees, significant declines in
productivity and customer dissatisfaction.
In Case Study 1, the CEO did not think that managing change was part of
his job. It was not until a crisis emerged that the CEO became involved. Mid-level and
senior managers can make this same mistake. They often look upward, thinking that change
management is someone elses responsibility. In Case Study 2, the association
president viewed the change as small and simple, a change that he did not think required
Why do many business leaders believe that managing the people side of change is not their
job? At the onset of a new change, managers are typically focused on issues besides change
management. Executives want the change to happen as soon as possible. Their focus is on
results. They are aware of the business issues facing the organization and are accountable
for financial performance. When a change is needed, they want action quickly. Their
primary concerns are:
What is the required investment?
How will this change impact our financial
What is the return on this investment?
When can the change be completed?
How much improvement will be realized?
How will this change impact our customers?
If the answers to these questions are favorable, then the directive to a project manager
or project team is typically "lets get it done." The executives
focus is not on change management.
The perspective of front-line employees (and in many cases their
supervisors and managers within the organization) is very different. They generally do not
have detailed insights into the business strategy and financial performance of the
business, nor do they share the same accountabilities as business leaders. Many employees
cannot connect what they do everyday with the performance of the company; therefore, it is
difficult to convince them to change based only on company performance. Their focus is on
the day-to-day job. Serving customers, processing orders, getting their work done
these are their primary areas of interest. When a change is made, their primary concerns
What will this change mean to me?
Will I have a job?
Do I have the needed skills and knowledge to
succeed in the new environment?
To complete the picture, consider the consultants or project team who encounter both of
these different perspectives yet have the job to design and implement the change. They are
accountable to the business leaders that authorized the change, yet must work with
employees to implement the change successfully.
Employees, the project team and executives have different priorities,
different knowledge sets and different motivations. Change brings these different
priorities, knowledge sets and motivations together in a potentially volatile mix.
Employees feel threatened. Executives expect results. The project team is caught in the
middle. The business enters a period in which the risk of productivity loss, customer
dissatisfaction and employee turnover increases dramatically. It is at this critical
juncture that change management plays a crucial role for business success.
To survive in todays marketplace, a business must constantly
examine its performance, strategy, processes and systems to understand what changes need
to be made. At the same time, an organization must also understand the implications of a
new business change on its employees, given their culture, values, history and capacity
for change. Employees ultimately perform the new day-to-day activities and make the new
processes and systems come to life in the business. Change management is about managing
people in a changing environment so that business changes are successful and the desired
business results are realized.
The challenge for todays leaders
These two views of change, the top-down executives view and the bottom-up
employees view, create two distinct challenges for managing change. These two
challenges can be referred to as organizational change management (from the managers
perspective) and individual change management (from the employees perspective). Both
are skills that todays leaders need for success.
Organizational change management is the perspective of business
leadership from the top looking down into the organization. The focus is around broad
change management practices and skills that will help the organization understand, accept
and support the needed business change. The emphasis is on communications, training and
the overall culture or value system of the organization.
Individual change management is the management of change from the
perspective of the employees. They are the ones who ultimately must implement the change.
The focus for individual change management is around the tools and techniques to help
employees through the transition. Managers and supervisors must provide the coaching
required to help individuals understand their role and the decisions they make in the
Overall, change management is about helping people through change. It
is the process, tools and techniques for proactively managing the people side of change in
order to achieve the desired business results.
Getting up to speed
Change management is the application of many different ideas from the fields of
engineering, business and psychology. As changes in organizations have become more
frequent and a necessity for survival, the body of knowledge known as change
management has also grown to encompass more skills and knowledge from each of these
fields of study. While this may be a good trend overall, the result for many business
leaders is growing confusion about what change management really is.
The purpose of this book is to bring the meaning of change management
into focus. Written for executives, managers and consultants, this book will provide you
with a solid understanding of the principles and processes around managing change in
todays competitive environment. Case studies, examples and even a personal exercise
will help bring the concepts to life.
Copyright 2003. Prosci. All rights reserved. Used with
Change Management: the people
side of change: a solid foundation in change management perspectives,
theories, activities and practices - available now - email a Prosci analyst or call 970-203-9332 for