Common Sense Advice on Change Management

      Donna Fitzgerald

I normally tell clients that one of their most frequent mistakes is under investing in what I call change enablement, and then I encounter an exception to a rule.  According to the program manager, I was speaking with, his dedicated well-funded change management function made things worse than they would have been without any change management at all.  I’ve rarely seen this happen, but when it does, it always exists because of an organizational alignment error.  In theory, there is no problem with locating CM people in a process excellence group.  In practice, if they are going anywhere near a major strategic initiative – they need to be embedded with the rest of the program team.

Here are some other quick thoughts on making change enablement work for you:

  • Understand the potential change impact and call it out as part of the initial business case.
  • If too many projects impact a single user area either lump everything into a program or very carefully sequence the start of the individual projects so that they do not cause change fatigue
    1. There is an art to sequencing projects under these circumstances. Get the right people together for at least one meeting, so you aren’t just making multiple simplifying assumptions to get to an answer.  People and change is a complex algorithm.  Treat it with respect.
    2. Make sure your change staff is competent. Like many other disciplines, there are a lot of people who claim to have knowledge but lack talent.
  • If you have placed these efforts into a program (which I recommend) make sure your program managers understand how to sequence the project efforts.
    1. Sometimes big bang works but from a user perspective I’ve become increasingly sure it’s a bad idea. If a big bang is the only alternative, then communicate, communicate, communicate.  Also, remember that effective communication is bidirectional.  Simply talking without listening and responding to what you hear is probably worse than doing nothing.
    2. Sometimes incremental change, with time for the change to become ingrained before the next change, is the answer. Pay particular attention to how the people who will be impacted THINK about the work they are being asked to do.
    3. Make sure your program team is filled with people who are high on the EQ scale. Most change problems can be avoided if the people making the change know how to listen to the things that aren’t said.
  • Change Facilitation is NOT some airy, fairy, touchy, feely undertaking and it’s rarely successful if it exists as a stand-alone undertaking. It’s most successful in the context of supporting a specific strategy or a program.


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