Change Management

Change Management – Why it is a Must Have, Not a Nice to Have

As change management practitioners, we are on occasion, still on the receiving end of statements from business leaders that go something like: “We don’t need change management – we communicate regularly with our people and they know about the changes we are making.” Or “We have a project team, they can communicate the changes.”

Fortunately, organisations are gaining greater understanding of the value of change management and how it is an essential component for delivering successful project outcomes.

Correlation between good change management and positive outcomes

Our experience demonstrates that when companies implement sound change management, positive business outcomes ensue. More and more companies are appreciating the correlation between effective change management and its impact on the three critical success factors: meeting objectives, staying on schedule, and staying on budget. [1] And as experts in organisational change management, we understand that these factors are more successful when the people side of change is prioritised.

Failure to identify and manage the change impacts associated with projects is risky; disengaged people are less productive people; it costs money! Leaders need to ensure employees adopt, embrace (and continue to embrace) the change – they need to make sure that employees will actually use the new policy/system/service and continue to do so. Lack of adoption by employees results in the inability to realise intended project benefits; it costs money! We know that investment in change management reduces project costs and risks; the investment is worth it.  

Our experience is also supported by compelling statistics from the Best Practices in Change Management – 2018 Study.[2]

Of the participants that had excellent change management programs in place, 93% met or exceeded objectives. 77% of those with good change management programs met or exceeded objectives, and 43% of those with fair change management programs met or exceeded objectives. Only 15%—or about 1 in 6—of those with poor change management programs met or exceeded objectives.

These statistics when simplified further, show that a project supported by very effective change management is six times more likely to meet objectives than a poorly change managed project. Fair change management still triples the chances of a project meeting objectives.

Change management and project management: working “hand-in-glove”

Change management and project management work ‘hand-in-glove’ but they are different disciplines. Both deal with change but perhaps at its simplest: change management is about the design and implementation of strategies to support and inspire people to embrace and embed the change; whereas project management is the application of processes, knowledge and experience to deliver a series of activities in a constrained time and budget; these project activities actually create the change.

Change management can be considered from two different perspectives:

  • Project Change Management; and
  • Organisational Change Management.

Project Change Management relies on the application of tools and techniques to identify change impacts and ultimately deliver a Change Management Plan which will complement the Project Plan. The deliverables are timebound and monitored in accordance with agreed milestones.

Organisational Change Management can extend over a period of years as the business moves from one state of being to another; the change may be structural, operational, cultural or strategic, or all of the aforementioned. This type of change management is often fluid and involves a number of initiatives and interventions which build on each other.

Timeframes, budgets and deliverables are often applied to the individual initiatives and the realised benefits can take a period of time before they become evident. The two forms of Change Management can be confused and for many used to being driven to deliver specific outcomes, the less structured nature of the organisational change discipline does not help dispel the criticism which can be levelled at it.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the people

At the heart of any change strategy is people – successful strategies are those that plan for the impact on the company’s most important asset, their people. Peter Senge, leading author on organisational development and systems thinking says, “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.” [3]

Effective change management looks at the needs of each and every individual at all levels of an organisation. While sceptics may relegate this to the HR area, for sustainable change to occur there has to be real behavioural change, at the individual level and across the whole organisation:

Just like raising a child, implementing successful change takes a village. Decades of research show just how important leadership, management and frontline associates are in times of change. Organizational change capability results not from a few expert specialists, but from within and throughout the organization.[4]

Change management is not ‘the soft, fluffy stuff’

Change management reduces risk; your people must understand the change, embrace the change and embed the change. No project, initiative, plan or idea can be delivered without people. Changing people’s behaviours and way of working is both an art and a science; in reality, it is the hard stuff.

Our experience tells us that a clear reason for the change, committed and available leaders, high levels of engagement (not just one-way communication) and timely education and development to embed the change results in project success where benefits are realised, and employees feel a part of the change process.  

Overlook change management at your peril.


[1] https://blog.prosci.com/the-correlation-between-change-management-and-project-success

[2]  https://www.prosci.com/resources/articles/change-management-best-practices

[3] https://www2.deloitte.com/de/de/pages/technology/articles/lean-change.html

[4] https://www.prosci.com/resources/articles/change-management-history-and-future