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Change Management FAQs

Why do organizations need to manage change?

In our modern and interconnected world, organizations must respond to increasingly shifting demands. The pressure to respond better and faster is very real – so much so that it has become a primary driver in for both commercial and non-commercial organizations today. Organizations invest heavily in making the best possible use of their available resources. They purchase software platforms to encourage collaboration. They work hard to streamline how the work itself gets done.

However, despite all the planning for the necessary business changes, very little thought goes into how these changes will be introduced to the people who are expected to carry them out. And even less thought goes into how best to sustain these changes over time. We plan the change – but not how to change. So, after the time, effort and cost of implementation, teams go back to their old ways 70% of the time.

… even though some people clearly see the need, (change) fails to be completed, even though some people exhaust themselves trying, or (change) finishes over budget, late, and with initial aspirations unmet... A 70 percent failure rate is an enormous drag on a company … (John Kotter, A Sense of Urgency).

The key phrase in Kotter’s statement is 'some people'. Business leaders have clear vision and understand organizational mission and objectives. They invest significant effort planning the to-be state. Because most employees and frontline managers live in the as-is state, it is from this current situation that they derive meaning and pleasure in their work. In other words, most people are as heavily invested in the present situation as leaders are in the future (desired) situation.

Some typical reasons changes fail:

  • When stakeholders don’t know that change is coming – or why it was planned
  • When stakeholders are not prepared for the change and do not feel that they are able to perform at their desired level
  • When stakeholders believe that the old way will work just as well
  • They will not change and the investment will not yield the desired outcome

They will not change and the investment will not yield the desired outcome.

Organizations need to manage how change is implemented as carefully as they plan the change itself. This ensures the successful implementation of improvement projects and maximizes the likelihood of the efficient achievement of their organizational objectives and goals.

What is change management?

Change management is an approach to moving organizations and their stakeholders, in an organized manner, from their current state to a desired future state. Effective change management tries to do so in a manner which causes the least anxiety and resistance and therefore is the most likely to succeed.

Change Management identifies, addresses and mitigates the impact of change on people within an organization. Change Management applies a structured approach, customized to fit an organization’s culture to identify and engage all levels of stakeholders who will be impacted by the change, involve them in the change process, ensure that they understand the ‘why’ and that they are willing and able to adopt the change.

How does change management help organizations?

Successful organizations are often successful because their policies and procedures are clearly understood and followed by their workforce. Employees know what is expected of them and how they are expected to accomplish this work. Routines are predictable and predictably followed to ensure the outcomes for which they were designed. This strategy may work well – until there is a need to do things differently – either because of an external threat or opportunity. Because organizations are often structured to continue functioning in the same way day-in and day-out, those seeking to promote different ways of operating typically encounter resistance. Employees and frontline managers will continue to work as they have always worked unless something compels them to act differently. In other words, organizations demonstrate a form of inertia. Change management helps organizations motivate employees to work differently and adopt positive change behaviors.

In a 2010 study of 120 organizations, the return on investment for Change Management was estimated at 6.5 times the initial investment. “ If you add in the positive change in behavior and customer service then it begins to look as if change management is a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’ (Changefirst, The ROI for Change Management).

What do change managers do?

Change managers are multi-skilled individuals who work in and with organizations to promote activities that assist the organization to successfully transition from one state to a future desired state.

Change Managers ask:

  1. Where is the organization today or what is the as-is state?
  2. Where does the organization want to be or what is the to-be state, and by when?
  3. What do the organization’s stakeholders need to know and do differently in order to get there?

Change managers understand that change adoption requires effort. Most people need to be motivated to change. Stakeholders need to understand why and when change is coming and how they will have to change as a result. Traditional organizational practice involves communicating via memo and meetings. Whilst important messages trickle down along hierarchical lines, often they are filtered, distilled, or simply not passed on.

Change managers listen to the questions that stakeholders ask to gauge where they are in their level of awareness/adoption, pay close attention to for hints at resistance and early adaptors. They understand that organizational change happens one person at a time. They use stakeholder mapping to develop strategies to leverage credibility from those people that are highly influential and supportive of the change to help engage those that are neutral. They develop resistance mitigation strategies and roadmaps.

Change Managers develop customized and scaled plans and communication strategies that build support for the change and aim to mitigate resistance. They identify key spokespeople for the change, called 'sponsors', and provide coaching and mentoring so that these sponsors can become effective spokespersons for change. Change Managers help sponsors avoid treating changes as a single meeting or announcement and help them to develop clearly articulated vision statements that paint a picture of the future that gets people excited. Change Managers also provide sponsors with framework for targeted change-related communications, via organizationally relevant communication channels throughout the project’s timeline.

Change Managers also conduct training assessments, depending on the complexity of the change being implemented. They develop training plans and ensure that training is delivered 'just-in-time' so that team members have the new skills when they need them and when they are able to practice them.

What is the interaction between Project Management and Change Management?

Change Management and Project Management have the same objective – the successful and sustained implementation of a specific change that was designed to help business– but work towards it from different perspectives.

Project Management starts and ends with the outcome scope, time frame and budget in mind. A project is considered complete when the outcome is delivered or implemented.

In contrast, Change Management seeks to support successful project implementation by ensuring that the groups and individuals who will need to adopt different behaviors are willing, prepared and enthusiastic to do so. It seeks to minimize performance dips by preparing for, managing, and sustaining the change at both organizational and individual levels.

Change Management activities can be easily integrated into the 5 phases of Project Management (Initiate, Plan, Implement, Monitor & Control, Close). A change management methodology is a roadmap that integrates assessment, evaluation and planning activities, the development and evaluation of communications and training plans, all tailored to the organization's culture - and all designed to work in lockstep with project management. The earlier that change management activities are integrated into project management activities, the higher the likelihood of effectively mitigating resistance by ensuring that stakeholders are appropriately engaged throughout the project timeline.

What is a change management model?

A change management model is the theoretical foundation that guides and structures the change management activities. There are several popular models of change management – each with relative advantages and disadvantages that can be evaluated within the context of the change to be implemented and the organization’s culture. The most commonly used models include:

  • ADKAR - a 5 stage goal-oriented model (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement) that supports teams through change by focusing communication and training activities sequentially based on where they are in their level of awareness, understanding and ability to implement the change.
  • Kubler Ross – a model routed in the psychology of death and dying which minimizes resistance by supporting individuals and teams through their grieving process and facilitating their acceptance of the loss of their as-is state.
  • Lewin’s 3 stage model – a model that helps motivate teams to change by developing compelling messages that Unfreeze their thinking (or way of working), Change, and then Refreeze the new ways of doing business.

Change managers typically determine which model best suits model and then develop their approach to change management.

The change management model that change managers select will influence their approach to activities during the change process including stakeholder analysis, communications planning and resistance mapping.

What is a change management methodology?

A change management methodology is a system or approach that guides Change Managers in implementing a change within an organization.

There are numerous proprietary and non-proprietary change management methodologies, such as Prosci (ADKAR), Change Leader’s Roadmap, John Kotter’s 8-step method and the Change Acceleration Process.

Generally, however, all change management methodologies include:

  • Change readiness and stakeholder assessments to understand who will be impacted by the changes, how this will impact them and how much change they have already experienced;
  • Training assessments to determine the level of training that is required, the best mode of delivery, and the optimal timeline;
  • Communication strategies that leverage the support of Sponsors for the change using effective communication channels and along pre-determined change networks
  • Conducting a gap analysis between the as-is state and to-be state as inputs to communication and training

Please see https://changeactivation.com/change-management-model-comparison/ for more information on the phases of the most commonly used change management methodologies.

What is change maturity?

Change maturity describes how integrated change management activities are into the way an organization functions.

Change mature organizations integrate Change Management in a structured and consistent fashion that is understood and supported by everyone in the organization. All stakeholders understand how change is communicated and how they will learn about change that will impact them directly. Leaders are coached and they mentor front-line managers to align and engage everyone around a shared vision. Change Management is applied consistently, scaled and customized to all projects across the organization.

What is change agility?

Organizations are faced with a myriad of challenges daily. Some are able to quickly gather the right people around the table – those who can understand the challenge and its impacts, the constraints and can even see potential solutions. These people usually refer to the challenges as opportunities. Other organizations study the challenges and have difficult moving beyond. They may study the causes of the problems, but the conversation usually gets stuck at “We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work!” Why is this?

An organization requires agility much in the same way an athlete does. An athlete practices the standard or basic moves that make up his or her sport. The agile athlete is able to flexibly apply the fundamentals to changing conditions. The gifted athlete makes this look easy. In a business context, agility is the strategic mix of standardization and flexibility, (Price Waterhouse Coopers) Change agility is an organization's ability to respond flexibly and appropriately to shifting circumstances as they arise, Change agile organizations take risks, reflect on what worked, learn from what didn’t, and thrive on innovation.

Change management activities help organizations become agile by providing frameworks, structures, language and tools with which to respond to shifting circumstances and demands.