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Can your program survive without Change Management?

The purpose of this article is to provide a high-level understanding to change management in terms of Why, What, and How. Discover what you must know about Change Management: approaches, models, key references, challenges and pitfalls you can face when leading a program. At the end of the article you can find inspiring sources that will sharpen your in-depth knowledge.

Why the need for change?

Change is integral part of our lives and vital for the survival of any business. They are driven by different forces including customers, markets, technolo-gy and legal. If not well and effectively managed, changes can have long-lasting negative effects on human and economics (Glesson, 2017).

What is change management?

Change management it’s a complex topic covering several theories, ap-proaches, models and tools. It takes care of how people and teams are affected by organizational transitions/transformations (Prosci, 2019) (Teczke, 2017).

How?– approaches, models, tools

Each approach to change management focuses on different aspects and can be seen as complementary to each other. The models are focused on the practical processes of this management area.

Change management approaches

The classification explained here are by type and direction.

Approach by type of change:

Revolutionary: provides a fundamental change in processes, thus into the established methods and foundations. It’s also called reengineering.
Evolutionary: changes which occur within the or-ganizational development. The approach is based on systemic improvement aiming at the modification of the structures and processes (Teczke, 2017).

Approach by direction of change:

Theory E: change emphasises economic performance, as measured only by shareholder returns, “harder” approach. It boosts returns through economic incentives, drastic layoffs, and restructuring.
Theory O: change, “softer” approach, focuses on developing corporate culture and human capability through building trust and emotional commitment to the company via teamwork and communication (Kotter & Kim, 2011).

These two approaches can be combined though not easy to balance. Attention is highly required as employees dis-trust leaders who alternate between nurturing and cutthroat behaviour. However, if well done it could boost profits and productivity, and achieve sustainable competitive advantage (Kotter & Kim, 2011).

Change management models

Mulholland has done a great job in describing several important change management models. He not only gives the insights but provides in addition the pros and cons (Mulholland, 2017).

• Lewin’s change management model
• The McKinsey 7-S model
• Kotter’s theory
• Nudge theory

• Bridges’ transition model
• Kübler-Ross’ change curve
• The Satir change management model

Change management techniques

The collaboration of the UK Based CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) and the University of Bath has produced ten techniques, across three themes, applicable to a variety of change management scenarios that would enhance the effectiveness of change programs. Here are a few of them (George, 2019).

  •  Designing the transformation: first put in place initiatives to rewrite or rewire their context in a way that overcomes obstacles to enable the desired change.
  • Aligning strategy and culture: align strategic and cultural aspirations. Open discussion and debate when encouraged in the top team enables more proactive, opportunistic change to happen.
  • Techniques for building understanding:

Ambiguity and purposeful instability: “Transformation can be facilitated if a change vision is ambitious yet also presented in ambiguous terms, with the deliberate intention to encourage individuals to actively question and attempt to make sense of their situation” (George, 2019).

 Narratives, storytelling and conversation can be used as devices to make the content and implications of new strategies easier to understand.

Physical representations, metaphors and play can be introduced as alternative to traditional and often rather dry change workshops.

  •  Managing the transformation :

Relational leadership: transformational change is achieved through negotiations and social interactions with organizational members.

Building trust: change leaders need to emphasise their trustworthiness by demonstrating their competence to design change intelligently, and their benevolence and integrity.

 Voice, dialogue and rethinking resistance: see raised concerns not as resistance, but as the legitimacy of employee voice.

Emotion, energy and momentum: change is often an emotional process and so emotional awareness by those leading and designing change is required to anticipate and plan for reactions. Those managing the change must also maintain levels of energy and momentum throughout the change process (George, 2019)

Change management tools

A good comparison of change management software can be found on this site:

Change management Pitfalls to avoid

Despite all approaches, models, techniques and tools, change management remains a challenging discipline. Gartner has put together five pitfalls to be avoided (Gartner, 2019).

  • Inconsistent messages: When it comes to change, employees and management executives don’t have the same interpretation. In the absence of consistent information, people tend to assume the worst. Therefore, Portfolio and Program Manager (PPM) need to align everyone, particularly senior management, with a common story and message, be-fore cascading communications throughout the organisation.
  • One-size-fits-all mentality: In reality, the change process and the acceptance of change happens at different speeds for any group of people. Identify the different segments of the organisations affected by a change by their ability to adapt. The goal is to avoid frustration.
  • Turnkey adoption expectations: In traditional programs, efforts focus on the technology to support the team, with little emphasis on the coming changes for the user. A successful organisation change plan includes tactics to nurture and sustain fragile new behaviours and work skills. Budget for at least three months to six months for most business transformation efforts. Don’t neglect the organisational change management resources in terms of availability before, during and after implementation.
  • Change fatigue: For example, digital business transformation will have multiple projects, and a single stakeholder group often may be overwhelmed by multiple changes that are occurring at the same time. This creates change fatigue. It can result in employee burnout, turnover and errors. Ignoring change fatigue is a key contributor to change failure. PPM leaders must demonstrate an awareness of how much change employees are experiencing by sequencing periods of change followed by time to master new skills.
  • Confusing challenges with resistance: Often, change leaders embark on initiatives with the preconceived expectation that resistance is the greatest hurdle and threat to success. However, challenges and struggles are positive indicators of adopting a new way of thinking or acting. PPM leaders need to foster an open environment for questions, challenges and suggestions to not only engage, but also support, those who are struggling, rather than labelling them as “resisters.” (Gartner, 2019).


Recommended readings

Kotter, John: Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions

“An unusual take on change management guidelines, this charming story about a penguin colony in Antarctica illustrates key truths about how deal with the issue of change: handle the challenge well and you can prosper greatly; handle it poorly and you put yourself at risk.”

Cameron, Ester; Green, Mike: Making sense of change management

Making Sense of Change Management provides a thorough yet accessible overview for students and practitioners alike. Without relying on assumed knowledge, it comprehensively covers the theories and models of change manage-ment and connects them to practical approaches and techniques that organizations of all types and sizes can use to adapt to tough market conditions and succeed by changing their strategies, structures, mindsets, leadership behaviors and expectations of staff and managers.

Sources not used in article but useful

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