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  • Writer's pictureEd Polaczuk

Mastering Change: The Benefits of Effective Change Management

A man touching the virtual change management tile
Change Management


It was a trick question; ‘What’s the single most important factor in a successful systems implementation project?’

I should have known the answer he was looking for, given that he was standing next to the program’s Change Manager. But I was a brash young Project Manager, part of what used to be called ‘the arrogant IBMers’ and I said, without a pause, a strong group of experienced developers working with a competent PM.

‘You’ve got it all wrong son,’ said the experienced IBM Partner ‘If you don’t get your change management right, your project will fail every time.’

I scoffed and argued, but he was right of course, though it took me a couple of years and a tough project or two before I got it. I realized long after that my early career at IBM had been a succession of ‘implement and run’ projects, where we’d do the ‘heavy lifting’ during the build phase and typically be gone long before go-live – I hadn’t seen the outcome of my ‘great work’. Happy project team, happy client, what’s the problem?

The problem is that without effective Change Management, the most beautiful, flawless, ‘killer’ app or well-intentioned digital transformation can crash and burn, costing millions and causing heartache.

So, What is Change Management?

Wikipedia defines Change Management as ‘…a collective term for all approaches to prepare, support, and help individuals, teams, and organizations budget making organizational change’.

The term is also often used to indicate change control procedures for managing project changes – either to scope/budget/schedule – or changes to software and hardware configurations. But for the purposes of this blog, we will focus on organizational change management.

Over the years different models have emerged that look to manage organizational change, and they all share one common aim – to ensure that the change will result in the best possible outcome.

The change concerned might be ‘the bitter pill’ – the thing no one wants to happen, but it can’t be avoided (think ‘Covid Lockdowns’), or it might be the ‘I know you’re going to love this’ change (think ‘the next version of the iPhone’).

All changes, no matter how seemingly benign or seemingly positive, run the risk of upsetting those impacted, and encountering the dreaded ’resistance to change’. As Abraham Lincoln said, ‘…you can't please all people all the time.’

Hence the importance of Change Management.

Common Types of Resistance to Change in Organizations

Resistance to change in an organization can take many different forms and often demands many different strategies to overcome that resistance. So, it’s important to understand the types of resistance that can occur in an organization, and, at a lower level, the reasons for resistance.

Types of resistance are often divided into three categories:

  1. Logical Resistance: This is resistance based on seemingly logical grounds. For example, ‘I’m already working 20 hours overtime to get my daily work done, I just don’t have any time for this change.’

  2. Emotional Resistance: This is resistance based on people’s emotional attachment to the status quo. For example, ‘I love the way we do things around here, I’d hate to change.’

  3. Sociological Resistance: Like emotional resistance, but oriented more towards the impact on a group than an individual. For example, ‘We’ve got the ‘A Team’ here, and now you want to break us up into different departments?’

Understanding those basic types will give you an idea of the reasons for resistance you are likely to encounter. Some of the more common ones:

  1. Failure to properly communicate the six W’s (What, Why, When, Who, Where, and How), leading to fear of the unknown.

  2. It’s easier (and less work) to hang on to the old ways of doing things

  3. It makes people unhappy to know that things will change

  4. Lack of ongoing support for the change leads people to revert back to the old ways of doing things

  5. Lack of trust in the people behind the change

  6. Potential loss of status within the organization

A skilled Change Management team will not only identify the key reasons for resistance to change in their organization, but they will also devise multiple strategies for dealing with each of those reasons.

Change Management Models

Over time Change Management consultants have developed structured models that provide frameworks for organizations looking to embark on major changes.

Some of these, like John Kotter’s Change Management Theory and the Prosci ADKAR Model, are specifically focused on large organizational changes. While others, such as the Kübler-Ross Change Curve (borrowed from work done on dealing with grief), focus on the human element of dealing with changes.

These models are all tools that an effective Change Manager will use at different times, depending on the nature of the change being introduced. This could be a large organizational change (such as a restructuring or a move to Agile Ways of Working), or something much smaller (such as a change to a single employee’s job role).

Sounds good, where do I sign?

Benefits of Positive Change Management

It’s easy to see the benefits of good positive Change Management:

  • happy, or at least, not disgruntled employees;

  • faster, smoother uptake of changes, leading to a faster realization of their benefits;

  • lower turnover as a result of the change;

  • less stress on the change agents;

  • lower overall cost of change implementation

Embracing Change Management And The Benefits That Come With It

So why do we see so many companies doing a poor job of it, or don’t bother with it at all? The irony is that in our world of rapid technological advancement, where change has become the norm, the focus on managing that change is all too often absent. There often simply isn’t the time, will, investment, or energy to ‘be kind’.

But companies would be well-advised to heed the words of Machiavelli (who knew a thing or two about the politics of change), ‘There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.’

If you're in need of professional Change Management services, we are here to help. Our experienced team can guide your organization through successful transformations and ensure a smooth transition. Contact us today to learn more about our Change Management services and how we can help your business grow.

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