Who needs Change Management? Why is Change so hard?
Numerous business books have been written about change, it’s a growing industry, universities have started offering it as a discipline and I’ve seen my own change-focused team expand three-fold over the last couple of years.
Clearly, organizational change is recognized as a big thing. Yet when it comes to describing change management, or providing a winning roadmap to successful change, suddenly you see arms waving – “it’s hard to explain, because it’s not something you can put your arms around,” is a common answer.
Change is considered hard – but on the flip side, management tends to place little emphasis on qualified and devoted change resources. There’s a “we can do this ourselves” attitude. Time and again, without a concerted change effort, you see projects fail – a PwC study showed up to 75% of change initiatives fall short of expectations. This does not mean that change is hard. Change, when done right, can be straightforward.
People, not processes and technology, are at the core of change, and this makes change more an art than a science (without diving into the neuroscience behind change acceptance at the physiological and psychological level). At the same time, because of this belief, the focus can easily veer off the science altogether. This is why a framework is critical for implementing change.
The industry struggles to explain the pain of change precisely because there is no universally accepted process or methodology as a solution offering. The project management community has PMI; the change community does not have the equivalent standardization. While the industry is taking steps toward this, it is still young and methodologies are often dispersed and convoluted. It’s like choosing amongst millions of “best brownie recipes”.
My own experience has shown that there’s a core recipe for change. You need to be prepared with the critical ingredients – urgency, vision, leader alignment and support, stakeholder engagement, cultural awareness, communications and training, behavior change, benefits realization – and have the metrics to keep you on track. Sometimes you need to finesse or modify the recipe when certain inputs are difficult to come by. You become a better change chef with the experience of using the recipe across different environments (and ovens!) and getting to know your clients’ culture and tastes, to know what works, where.
Change is hard when there’s no common understanding of the change process, when there are too many tools and methodologies to choose from, when you’re operating in a different environment and when you’re not doing it with your audience in mind. With an experienced change practitioner to orchestrate the process and slice it into relatable terms, change can be a piece of cake.
 PwC “Human Change Management: Herding Cats” (2007)