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What is Change Management?

An incredibly high percentage of the changes introduced in business organizations do not reach their full potential—that is, they’re not fully implemented or do not produce the benefits envisioned by their sponsors.

Changes usually don’t fail because of technical reasons, such as something inherently flawed about the change itself. They usually fail for human reasons: The promoters of the change did not attend to the healthy, real and predictable reactions of normal people to disturbance of their routines.

It’s often said that people don’t resist “change” so much as they resist “being changed.” So the job of change management is clear: In a nutshell, you have to explain why the affected people should want to change, and thereby cultivate readiness instead of resistance.

Tutorial: A Model for Overcoming Resistance to Change

Figure 1 depicts the elements of a change model and the sequence in which they occur.

Figure 1 Change model for making change work Figure 2

In the center of the figure, all changes move from the current state, through a transition phase, into the desired improvement state.

  • In the beginning, it’s important to create, or affirm, a broadly understood need for the change (creating a shared need).
  • You also need to create and disseminate an idea of what the outcome will look like (shaping a vision).
  • As the change effort gets underway, and until the end, there must always be sufficient resources dedicated to it (mobilizing commitment).
  • As work gets completed, you must have a way to track it (monitoring progress).
  • You also must assure that it reaches completion (finishing the job).
  • From the very beginning until the end, the change effort must have the backing of management, and leadership from an accountable person or people (leading change).

At all stages, you must assure that the change will fit in the environment: the organizational structure, the business culture, the work processes, etc. For example, if you are automating a paper-based system, you must make sure that the users will not simply keep using the old paper system as well. You need to address work-flow changes, including training and education, rewards and recognition and transition planning, so that the new system will be aligned with the work environment.

For the highest assurance that a particular change will succeed, all seven steps of the change model should be in place. (See Figure 2.) If one area is weak it doesn’t necessarily mean disaster, but it does present a real risk. If you do choose to take a risk, you should do so in light of the potential consequences.

Figure 2 Elements of the change model Figure 2

Excerpted from Brien Palmer, Making Change Work: Practical Tools for Overcoming Human Resistance to Change, ASQ Quality Press, 2004, pages xv-xvi, 7–9.

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