Managing change successfully

Change management means different things to different people. But at its core is a journey from a current situation to a desired future state, e.g. a change in culture or behaviours (‘the way things are done here’) perhaps prompted by a change of ownership, strategy, or technology.

Employee engagement and involvement are critical in successfully managing change at work; according to PwC, nine out of ten of the key barriers to the success of change programmes are people related. Change management is a process that works by identifying the current situation, what needs to change, what can change, and how the change will take place. The core principles of successful change management are thus:

• understand the current situation and where you want to be

• establish when, why and how you will know you’ve achieved the desired change

• plan how to get where you want to be in measurable stages

• communicate with and seek involvement and support from people affected by the change as soon as possible.

Elements of change

In his book Making Change Happen, Ian Coyne describes the four elements important in any change programme:

excitement – the enthusiasm for the change 

how hard making the change feels

energy needed – the energy needed to keep the change on track increases throughout the process

risk of failure – reaches dangerously high levels at certain stages – see how this follows the opposite trajectory of ‘excitement’.

By engaging early with people, you are sure to get off to a good start. Excitement is high, it doesn’t feel too hard yet and the risk of failure is still low. The danger zone is in the middle, when the initial excitement is at an all-time low and driving through changes in this stage requires a lot of energy. The sense of risk, of possible failure, rises: it’s starting to feel hard.

The end phase is likely to be an emotional rollercoaster, with varying levels of excitement. All the elements are in place, but the extra push will mean the difference between ‘good’ and ‘great’ change. Both excitement and the risk of failure fluctuate greatly during the end phase: it is at this stage that all the hard work can fail if the foundation – laid in the middle phase – is weak.