As hard as it is to hear, the easy part of change management is the technical part. It’s something that I learned over a decade ago, as we were called in to implement new technology. We found that, though the solutions were technically beautiful, organizations weren’t getting the right value out of the change. That’s where Change Management: The People Side of Change comes in. It’s Prosci’s CEO Jeffrey Hiatt’s guide for managing the people side of change in the organization.
Jeffrey Hiatt and Timothy Creasey start by reviewing three tenets about change:
- We change for a reason
- Organizational change requires individual change
- Organizational outcomes are the collective result of individual change
On the surface, these may seem like simple precepts. However, all too often, I find that organizations ignore these realities. They forget to explain the reasons for the change – in a way that employees can understand and agree. They fail to equip individual employees with the tools that they need to change themselves. They wonder why they aren’t seeing the value in the proposed change when it hasn’t happened because the individuals in the organization never made the changes they need to make.
Consider, for a moment, Fredrick LeLoux’s book, Reinventing Organizations, which describes different operating levels for different organizations, from the most authoritarian to the most mutually collaborative and empowered. The changes required of the individuals to work in these different environments is striking. Learning to be effective in the kind of organization you’re in can be challenging, and that’s without any change. Changing – particularly attempting to change operating levels – is fraught with personal changes that can be difficult to make.
Prosci’s trademark model for change is ADKAR: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. I’ve written about this before in my post on Successful Technology Change and ADKAR, so I won’t repeat more details about the model here. It’s a reasonable approach to managing change even if it doesn’t have all the answers.
There are, they believe, seven important change concepts:
- Senders and Receivers – What senders communicate, and receivers hear are different.
- Resistance and Comfort – We all want to stay the same because it is comfortable; resistance is everybody trying to keep their comfort.
- Authority for Change – Appropriate executive or management support is essential for change success.
- Value Systems – Organizations are no longer command and control, and we must help employees understand why the change is necessary.
- Incremental vs. Radical Change – Incremental change is smaller and therefore requires less change management.
- The Right Answer Is Not Enough – The right answer doesn’t matter if employees can’t be bought into the change.
- Change is a Process – Change isn’t an event or a thing but a process that happens over time.
Over and Under
It’s possible for change management initiatives of any type to fail in two ways: by paying too little attention to the people or by kowtowing to the people and never accomplishing the mission. The goal of change management should be to recognize people and their need to change without forgetting the fact that the change needs to happen – even if that means changing some of the people in the organization.
Every organization faces change. Change Management may be a way that you can navigate that change more successfully.