Is There Actual Value in Change Management?

Even though in the last 15 years, progress has been made in acceptance of the value of change management, it is certainly not universal. There is a tendency to underestimate the complexity of change – perception being change is simply removing the old, installing the new, and things magically fall into place. Wouldn’t that be perfect?

In change management, we regularly hear our practice as being referred to as ‘fluff’, and a level of widespread skepticism targeting us practitioners as ‘do good’ers, who only slow things down and cost a pretty penny.

If you are an executive who feels this way, are on the fence about the value of change management and unsure whether to invest in it – read on.

The Numbers

Leaders are reluctant to reach out and engage change consultants perhaps because they fear that will be seen as a personal weakness – after all, it seems fairly simple. Or maybe they philosophically buy into the importance of Organizational Change Management (OCM) but don’t know what to do about it.

The fact is that change management isn’t simple, and viewing it as such makes it even harder to get it right. Statistics from Gartner, Inc. show:

  • Getting enterprise change initiatives right can be extremely challenging: 60% of large, structural changes end in failure and consequent losses in revenue, productivity, and competitiveness.
  • Employees feel the stress of change initiatives directly, and change-stressed employees perform 5% worse than the average employee.

If leaders never needed to work with a change management consultant before, there is no shame in bringing one in now. The business landscape is rapidly changing, and organizations are struggling to keep up.

  • 70% of firms say these changes are more complex than they’ve ever been.
  • 60% of managers say they don’t have the right experience to guide them.

Challenging some of the implicit assumptions that lead to the oversimplification of the effort required to get people functioning optimally (if we build it they will come!) and questioning whether the risks involved in ignoring people’s ability to transition to the ‘new normal’ is the best course of action, will help with some executives making the move even if grudgingly!

Progressive Thinking

As an organizational leader, you wouldn’t think twice about hiring an expert on e.g., logistics or a particular technology platform. You might think change management doesn’t need specialized expertise; after all, it’s about people, communication and training and any good manager should be able to handle that if they get some help.

Let’s revisit one of those statistics:

60% of managers say they don’t have the right experience to guide them in managing change through their people.

Organizational Change Management (OCM) is uncomfortably complex and can’t be tackled with ‘general management skills’.

  • It requires specific expertise.
  • That expertise is something you need to invest in.

When project management first appeared on the scene there was a similar reluctance to buy into it because it was ‘new and unknown’. Now, there isn’t an organizational leader in the world that would embark on a project without applying the discipline of project management and assigning a competent project manager.

While the practice area of OCM is comparatively new, it has become more widely recognized in the past twenty to twenty-five years. Before that it was hit or miss, driven by the heroics, ability, and influence of forward-thinking organizational leaders, much like project management in its infancy.

Early adopters and thought leaders have brought OCM to where it is today, a powerful combination of both:

  • Science (e.g. the theories of related neuroscience),
  • And Art (e.g. contextual application of EQ).

OCM has now been refined to the point where it is just as vital during a change initiative as project management.

The Value for Leadership

This isn’t a completely unbiased outlook, those of us in change management believe deeply in the value of focusing on the people side of change.

Personally, I and many others like me at Watershed CI, have been on the other side of the desk, held leadership positions in businesses, lived in your shoes, and had similar doubts and fears.

One of the best parts of change management is getting to use this experience to work with organizational leaders to:

  • Understand and relate to their challenges
  • Increase their confidence level.

There is value in building self-awareness of what you as a leader know and do best,  highlighting how these strengths can be applied to a change integration effort; as well as where your knowledge and experience gaps are. It is important to determine how those gaps can be filled using right fit solutions adapted to best fit you and your organization.

One solution may be to reach out to external experts on people change. You may be pleasantly surprised that these ‘do-gooders’, who are slowing things down and costing a pretty penny, are really:

  • Ensuring the change initiative runs smoothly
  • Saving time and money overall
  • Enabling organizational leadership to do what’s needed to bring about effective change.

To learn more about Change Management and effective communication read our blog: Organizational change: the power of communication


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