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Author: Stephen Warrilow

There are 2 quite different streams of thought that have shaped the practice of change management.

(1) The engineer's approach to business improvement with the focus on business process.

(2) The psychologist's approach to understanding human responses to change with the focus on people.

Consider what Michael Hammer, co-author of "Re-engineering the Corporation", has said about the people issues: "I don't regret saying anything [in the book]; it's more what I left out. In particular, the human side is much harder than the technology side and harder than the process side. It's the overwhelming issue."

The single biggest reason for the astonishingly high 70% failure rate of ALL business change initiatives has been the over-emphasis on process rather than people - the failure to take full account of the impact of change on those people who are most impacted by it.

Closely allied to that reason is the lack of process to directly address the human aspects of change.

A program management based approach to change

The traditional project approach to change management - sees it as a set of tasks which if executed successfully get a result. In other words the typical process led approach which has failed so consistently and so spectacularly over the last 20 years.

In contrast, I advocate a program based approach to change because, based on my experience, I have found that:

It is holistic and takes a wider perspective

It focuses you on addressing issues and aspects that otherwise get overlooked

It addresses the people impacts and issues arising as a direct and indirect result of your change initiative

It addresses the fundamental questions that people ask: "What is changing, when and why?" and "How is going to affect me?" and "How are you going to manage this?"

Universal principles

The broad principles of how you approach any business initiative or any activity that may require or instigate change are universal:

(1) Clarity in all areas - especially of the business need for the change, of the specifics of the change, the benefits of the change, and most importantly the impacts of the change.

(2) Communication - constant communication - two-way communication - communication that explains clearly what is change management and what is happening or not happening and why. Communication that listens actively and demonstrates to people that you have thought through the impacts of the change on them, and that you are prepared to work with them to achieve their buy-in and commitment to the change - by making it work for them.

(3) Consistency - in all aspects of the way in which you lead the change - manage the delivery - handle the communication - and ensure the realization of the benefits

(4) Capability - constant attention to the management of the tasks, activities, projects and initiatives that are delivering the capabilities into your organization that will deliver the benefits that you are seeking. Ensuring that your people have the full resources and capabilities they need to support them through the change.

Key success factors

So, what is change management - but the careful focus on these key factors that will determine the success of your step change initiative:

(1) Determining that you are embarking on a step change that sits outside of business as usual and needs to be handled as a specific initiative

(2) The quality of leadership that you provide

(3) Using a program management based approach to your step change initiative and very specifically to the process of how you define change management and what is change management for your organization

(4) The thoroughness of your pre-program review and planning process

(5) The extent to which you identify and address the cultural change in your organization that is required to deliver the step change and the desired business benefit.

So this is how I define change management: "It's all about people - and processes that work for people."

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About the Author

Stephen Warrilow, based in Bristol, works with companies across the UK providing specialist support to directors delivery significant change initiatives. Stephen has 25 years cross sector experience with 100+ companies in mid range corporate, larger SME and corporate environments. Stephen's services are specifically targeted at the non-expert director of 100 – 2000 employee organisations.


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