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Organisational Change Management

Why, What, How?

Almost all people are nervous about change. Many will resist
it - consciously or subconsciously. Sometimes those fears are
well founded - the change really will have a negative impact
for them. In many cases, however, the target population for
the change will come to realise that the change was for the

The pace of change is ever increasing - particularly with the
advent of the Internet and the rapid deployment of new
technologies, new ways of doing business and new ways of
conducting one's life. Organisational Change Management
seeks to understand the sentiments of the target population
and work with them to promote efficient delivery of the
change and enthusiastic support for its results.
There are two related aspects of organisational change that
are often confused. In Organisational Change Management
we are concerned with winning the hearts and minds of the
participants and the target population to bring about changed
behaviour and culture. The key skills required are founded in
business psychology and require "people" people.
Contrast this to Organisational
Design where the roles, skills,
job descriptions and structure
of the workforce may be re-
designed. Typically that is a
more analytical and directive
activity, suited to tough-
skinned HR professionals. It is
not a topic for the ePMbook.
Organisational Design may be
a specific objective of the
project, for example where there is to be a reduction in the workforce, or it may just be a
consequence of the changed business processes and technology.
Organisational Change Management issues are often under-
estimated or ignored entirely. In fact, people issues
collectively account for the majority of project failures.
What Caused The Project To Fail?
This survey looked at disastrous
projects. One of the questions
asked for the prime cause of the
Although the result did not spell
out "people" as the cause, it is
interesting to note that many of the
causes were to do with the
behaviour and skills of the
participants. Arguably all but the
"technical issues" were related to
the capabilities, attitudes and behaviour of people.
Why were the Benefits Not Delivered?
A different study examined
whether package
implementation projects'
benefits had been achieved.
Where they had not been
delivered, the question
"why?" was asked. Top of the
list was "organisational
resistance to change".
Again, several other causes
were related to people, their
skills and their behaviour. "Lack of business ownership" is a major responsibility of the
Organisational Change Management work. Such things as "unstable requirements", "not meeting
expectations", and "poor project management" would also be partly due to behaviours and skills.
Organisational Change Management is a vital aspect of
almost any project. It should be seen as a discrete and
specialised workstream. Why then, you might ask, do we
discuss it as part of the Project Management work.
Unfortunately, it is common to find that the human
component of the project is not recognised as a separate
element of the work. The project management team
frequently have to do their best to ensure that a technological
change is successfully implanted into the business. In the
worst-case scenario, the project leadership do not see this as
part of their responsibility either and blame the organisation's
line management when their superb new technical solution is
not fully successful when put to use.

Organisational Change Management at project start-up
Many Organisational Change Management issues need to be
clear at the start of the project so that appropriate activities
can be included in the plans, and so that appropriate roles
and responsibilities can be established. Here are some of the
key issues:
Is there a compelling "Case for Change" that all
participants will buy in to?
Who are the owners and sponsors of this change? Will
they actively promote the change and apply pressure as
What are the populations involved, eg the overall
leadership of the organisation, project participants, sub-
contractors, end-users, other departmental managers,
other members of the workforce, suppliers, customers
etc? For each population (or subset by role, function,
etc) what will their attitude be? Will they resist the
change? How can we encourage them to act in a way
which will support the project's objectives?
What style of participation will work best? Should we
involve a broad section of the target population or keep
everything secret until the change is forced upon them?
How can we communicate these messages to the target

The Case for Change
As part of the project definition, there should be a
compelling "Case for Change" which can convince all
participants and, in due course, the target population. If
everyone agrees that the project has good and necessary
objectives, they should be far more supportive of the
This is not the same as the project's main business
benefit case. The business case is likely to be founded on
business strategy and financial results - often not a
compelling argument for the individuals in the workforce.
In a "Case for Change", it should be clear that there are better
ways of doing things - better for the organisation, better for
the workforce, better for customers and (maybe) better for
The Project Sponsor is usually the person who saw a need
for change and had the authority to make something happen.
There may be several sponsors who collectively have this
The precise ownership of the project is more a matter for
the Project Definition work. What counts from an
Organisational Change Management perspective is not the
actual ownership and rationale for the project so much as the
perceived sponsorship and purpose. For example, the project
might exist because the Finance Director wants to cut costs,
but it could be a better message that the Chief Executive
wants to build a slick organisation that can beat the
The original Project Sponsor will often have the power and
status to create and deliver the project and may be able to
deliver the change messages to the areas of the organisation
directly involved. In many cases, however, the change is
broader than the immediate influence of the Project Sponsor.
Other supporting sponsors may be required to promote the
project in other areas of the organisation.
Make a Sponsorship Map - initially to show who is involved
and what support they are offering. Use this to identify who
else needs to participate and what they need to do.
In major change programmes many parts of the organisation
will be involved, for example:
the line business unit that houses the changed process,
other departments involved in the process chain,
senior management and general management of the
organisation who will be critical judges of this
initiative's success,
the IT department who build and operate the
the finance department where the financial implications
will be seen,
customer-facing staff who will reflect the changes when
dealing with the clients.
Stop / Start Animation
A significant project will require a cascade of
sponsorship, such that all affected parts of the
organisation hear strong support from their
leadership. If the message is delivered from the top
and reinforced by the immediate management, staff
are far more likely to believe in the case for change
and to act in support of the changes.
For critical business change programmes the
message should come from the very top. Get the
Project Sponsor to engage the Chief Executive as the
prime source of sponsorship messages. (You may
find yourself writing the words for the Project Sponsor to give to the Chief Executive - but the
key thing is that it is then seen as the Chief Executive's personal message.)
Not everyone listens attentively to their Chief Executive, so
it is important that these messages are cascaded down to all
parts of the organisation, with local management echoing and
supporting the party line.

Case Study
A large, multi-divisional professional services firm was changing its
timesheet system - affecting every member of the organisation. They
recognised the need for acceptance and compliance from everyone so they
built an all-encompassing sponsorship cascade.
When the team was finalised it was apparent that the sponsorship team was
considerably larger than the project team building the new system.

Resistance to change
By definition, people are affected by change. A few will
comfortably accommodate any degree of change, but most
people have a change journey to undertake.
Part of the art of Organisational Change Management is to:
understand what journey you want which populations to
take (it may not be the same for everyone),
assess what their attitude is likely to be, and
use that knowledge to guide them in the right direction.
Many people will hide their negative feelings. It is not wise
to be openly critical of your bosses and their new ideas.
Some people will not even be aware of their own resistance
which, nevertheless, affects their behaviour sub-consciously.
Understanding their position requires more than listening to
what they say. Organisational Change Management
specialists use an array of diagnostic tools to uncover the true
characteristics and attitudes of the target populations.
The most common response to impending change is a
negative response where, initially at least, the target
population sees the change as a bad or threatening thing.
Psychologists have researched these "bad news" responses
and found that there is a common emotional response. This
chart shows how the individuals oscillate between inactivity
and high emotion. Assuming the final outcome can represent
a good thing from their perspective, the goal is to leave them
in favour of the change and highly motivated to make it
The "Bad News" Curve
Here are some thoughts
that might be expressed by
someone passing through
the "bad news" curve:
Oh no!
It can't be true!
You cannot be
Can we sort this out
some other way?
That's it - after 20
years of service they want me to...
Am I going to be part of this?
Yes, I can live with this - it's not bad really.
The "Good News" Curve
A different emotional
curve may occur where
individuals are initially in
favour of the change. In
the "good news" curve,
the risk is that they will be
disappointed by the reality
of the change or the effort
it will take to achieve it.
In these cases, you should
recognise the likelihood of
disappointment during the
change process. Be ready
to lift them out of the
trough in time to benefit
from their enthusiasm.
Resistance to change is
normal. The Project
Manager should expect
to encounter it and deal
with it. The worst time
to encounter resistance
is during the cutover to
the new solution.
Transition is usually a busy, critical, high-risk period when
the last thing you need is a lack of co-operation from the
target population.
Try to surface issues and resistance earlier in the project so
that there is time to get the target population engaged before
any damage is caused. Some Organisational Change
Management experts suggest that you should deliberately
upset the target population early in the project so that you
can guide them through the emotional curve and change their
attitude. That may be taking the principle too far - but, if
there is going to be resistance, try to deal with it early.

Using the right change style
The design of the project's approach should take into account
the optimum style of addressing organisational change
issues. In general, the target population will be more
supportive of the changes if they have been part of the
change process. The cynical view is that you should make
them feel part of the process even if you prefer to ignore
what they have to say. In fact, their active participation is
likely to add to the quality of the solution - it should be taken
seriously. Conversely, if they feel their views were sought
then ignored they are likely to become more resistant.
Working with a broad selection of the target population adds
time and cost to the project. The degree to which you involve
them will depend on the magnitude of the change. A
straightforward non-controversial change may require no
previous contact. If, for example, you are simply introducing
a new set of expense codes you can publish the message
"with effect from 1st April, new codes must be used as per
the attached book". Conversely, if you are making huge
changes to the job and lifestyle of the target population you
will need to work with them to gain their co-operation, for
example, if you wish them to re-locate voluntarily and re-
train for substantially altered jobs.
Here are some change styles that may be appropriate:
Collaborative - The target population are engaged in
the change process, typically through cascading
workshops or meetings. They will be kept up to date on
the issues. Their views will be actively sought and acted
upon. Feedback will demonstrate how their input has
been acted upon.
Consultative - The target population is informed about
the changes and their views are sought.
Directive - The workforce is informed about the
changes and why those changes are important.
Coercive - The workforce is told that they must obey
the new instructions.

Case Study
A computer hardware and services supplier needed to restructure the
workforce to achieve dramatic cost savings. They decided upon a fully
collaborative approach where all employees were invited to a series of
workshops to examine the case for change, analyse the problems and define
By the end of the process, not only were the employees fully backing the
restructuring, but individuals were even recognising that they themselves
would be redundant and volunteering to leave.

Case Study
An Organisational Change Management expert was addressing an audience
at a conference. After some time, a senior member of the armed forces was
feeling highly frustrated. He stood up and asked for an explanation. "I don't
see the point of all this", he said. "I give an order and my people carry it out."
Who was right? Why should the workforce not just do as they are told?

One of the main tools for promoting change
is communication. Early in the project an initial approach to
communication will be formulated. It has two main
to convey important information that the audience needs
to know, and
to promote organisational change.
Messages supporting the project's change objectives should
be carefully constructed. The best media should be identified
to convey the right messages to the right people at the right
time. During the project, these messages and methods will be
refined based upon achievements, feedback and the changing
circumstances of the project.

Organisational Change Management at phase start
For each phase the change management plan will be prepared
in detail. Input and feedback from previous phases will
inevitably lead to modifications to the overall approach.
Update the Sponsorship Map to show who is involved at this
stage and what is required of them. As part of the launch
activities for the new phase, sponsors should be informed,
briefed and reanimated. Their continuing support should be
Often a new phase means new team members and new
participants from the business. Make sure there is a good
process to capture their support and enthusiasm.

Organisational Change Management during the project
Organisational Change Management techniques fall into two
main types:
input - analysing the problem, and
output - inducing organisational change.
It may also be appropriate to couple these organisational
issues and needs with the mainstream design work of the
project, so that certain issues could be solved by the way the
solution is designed. It may be easier to make the solution fit
the people rather than the people fit the solution.
The input activities are essentially forms of fact-finding and
analysis. Organisational Change Management experts have
many specialised tools to:
identify a population,
assess that population's capabilities, attitude, behaviour,
define the change goals, and
determine what is required to bring about that change.
In the absence of an expert you would fall back on basic fact
finding and analysis, coupled with common sense and
Output activities tend to be various forms of communication,
for example:
communicating messages
setting up sponsorship cascades
collaborative workshops.
Although the change management analysis, design and
planning may be specialist tasks, much of the change output
can be applied by other project team members. All team
members will have opportunities to spread the right message.
In many cases, the way they approach a given activity might
have a significant affect on the target population - increasing
or decreasing resistance.
Non-specialist team members should be given the basic skills
and understanding to promote organisational change. They
should also be guided by the specialists (if any) and by the
project's change management approach and planning.

Case Study
A Project Management expert was hired to coach the IT project managers of
telecommunications service provider. In a "collaborative" style, he led a
conversation about the relationship with the business, trying to draw out a
consensus that the business and its end users were essential players in
building a successful IT solution.
But the project managers were unanimous. One summed it up - "what we
need is a big brick wall to keep the users away from us".
That is a problem with a collaborative approach - what do you do when the
population turns in the wrong direction?

Organisational Change Management at phase end
The end of a phase is always a good time to review progress.
Many organisational change activities are imprecise in their
effect. It can be hard to measure whether the target
population has now become sufficiently supportive for the
project to succeed.
Take a fresh look at the organisational issues:
did we really understand the barriers?
how effective were the actions taken?
what more do we need to achieve?
The conclusions will be fed into the planning for the next
phase of work.

Organisational Change Management at project end
The test of change management is whether the new business
solution can be launched successfully in as efficient and
pain-free a manner as possible. The lead up to the transition
is often the most intense period. In many cases it is the first
time the affected populations really become aware of the
changes (although, as you saw above, it is not wise to tackle
change issues late in the project). Now they are confronted
with changed jobs, new procedures, new skill requirements,
training courses, and maybe even physical re-location.
In some projects not all the current workforce will be
required for the new solution. Dealing with the painful
process of redundancy is normally left to the HR and line
management functions. There are, however, two big issues
for the Project Manager:
The redundant staff will be required to operate the
current systems and processes until the new solution is
ready - and maybe for some period of parallel running.
Since it is a legal or contractual requirement in most
countries to announce potential redundancies well in
advance and to give individuals notice before their
departure date, the question is how to ensure they give
good service and do no damage to the organisation or
the new systems.
There may also be implications for the survivors - those
people who you are relying upon to deliver the new
solution. They may be affected by the bad news
concerning their colleagues. They may even go through
a period of uncertainty when they do not know whether
or not they themselves will be retained. What needs to
be done to maintain their support and enthusiasm? Bear
in mind that the same issues could confront project team
members as well as the target population.
By this stage in a major change, there needs to be a
substantial support mechanism for the target population. As
the key messages are communicated, the project team needs
to be ready to help and prepared for the inevitable issues. By
this time, the sponsorship cascade should be complete and
solid - often extending down to local champions carefully
placed in the users' teams. Support mechanisms will ease the
users' troubles, for example with appropriate training at the
right time, desk-side coaching, good help desk / call centre
Organisational Change Management should not stop with the
end of the project. During the Benefit Realisation stage of the
lifecycle, continuing emphasis will be needed to encourage
the community to adapt to the new ways of working and get
the most from the change.