In the past decade increasing attention has been given to managing the
human aspects of change an essential part of management responsibilities.
Managers live with the challenge every day, the pace of business change
is accelerating and becoming increasingly complex as significant improvements
depend more and more on impacting every aspect of the working environment.
The ability to change will therefore sift out long-term survivors from
those that also ran. The challenge for managers is to acquire the competencies to
implement change, whilst continuing to deliver day-to-day performance.
Change Management Frameworks
Most managers will now be acquainted with increasingly well known change
frameworks. The concepts of sponsors with the power to legitimise change,
and change agents empowered with actually managing change implementation
are widely understood. So too is the notion that to move an organisation
from its current state to some future state depends upon establishing
enough dissatisfaction to make people willing to abandon the current state
and enough attraction to draw them towards the future.
The phenomenon of resistance and the need to anticipate and explicitly
plan for it is also widely acknowledged. Resistance to change is a natural
reaction to disruption and loss of control caused by change. We feel comfortable
with stability and predictability - change threatens that stability.
These frameworks and concepts must be translated into practical actions
to have a bearing on the real world challenges of implementing desired
changes on time and within budget. Here is a three step template:
Human Resource Enablers
Step one is to determine what changes to the way people in the organisation
are managed are needed to achieve the desired future state. This means
looking at Human Resource Enablers:
- Is the structure to be changed? Are people to be organised differently?
Are work groups to be reduced in size, or in some way rationalised?
- Are the performance measures applied to employees to be changed? Are people
to be changed? Are people to be set different objectives? Is their appraisal
to be against different criteria?
- Are pay and benefits arrangements to be changed? Will employees be rewarded
differently, perhaps in line with new performance measures?
- Are job profiles to change? Will employees need to develop new skills?
Is new training a prerequisite for change is to be implemented successfully?
- Is the management style of the organisation to change? Will people detect
a change in the required behaviour, as modelled by their managers? Will
managers adopt different roles (such as refocusing from controller to
Inevitably, change will impact on at least one, and probably all, of these
Step two is to map out a Communication Strategy, which, given the impact
on the enablers, answers the questions:
- Which people are affected by the proposed changes?
- When are they likely to be affected?
- What information and messages do they need to be given and when?
- Who is the most appropriate person (or people) to give them the information
- How and when should that information on those messages be given?
- Who else needs to be given some information about the changes, because
they are indirectly affected?
- How is consistency of communication to be managed, including the control
of informal information sources?
- How are recipients to give their feedback?
- What reaction is anticipated and how is that reaction to be managed?
This process will identify which individuals need to fulfil the roles of
Sponsor and Change Agent and provide them with specific tasks. Equally important,
it will also test their commitment to the change.
Prepare Sponsors and Change Agents
The third step in the process is to prepare the Sponsors and Change Agents
for their roles. This is likely to involve some or all of the following
- Defining the responsibilities and levels of authority of both Sponsors
and Change Agents.
- Agreeing the detailed Communication Strategy.
- Determining which individual will take responsibility for each action
in the Communication Strategy.
- Investigating all appropriate methods of communication and deciding
which should be used with each target group.
- Providing training and/or rehearsals for individuals prior to delivering
- Constructing a comprehensive process to capture all feedback and to
monitor the Communication Strategy.
- Conducting debriefing sessions with communicators and agreeing the next
People will always behave in unexpected ways. Planning and careful preparation
will not prevent unpredicted reactions. However, the approach outlined
here reduces the uncertainty in the change process and prepares you for
Sources and Recommended Reading
Kotter, J P, Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,
Harvard Business Review, Mar-Apr 1995. A brief and readable introduction
form an acknowledged authority.
Conner, D R, Leading at the Edge of Chaos, Wiley, 1998. The sequel
to Managing at the Speed of Change expresses the current thinking
of an influential figure whose frameworks have been applied in many organisations
Frith D, Smart Things to Know About Change, Capstone, 1999. An
accessible, well written and entertaining guide to give you instant savvy
in this relatively new field