The Math, the Psychology and the Elephant in the Room: Understanding Change Management

Written by Watershed CI

January 28, 2020

The Elephant in the Room

If you’re a “give me the bad news first” person, read on. If not, skip the next sentence and revert back accordingly. Studies show that 50% of people are resistant to change. Want the good news? Implementing change and namely getting everyone “on the bus” is not impossible. Ok, fine, maybe that’s not super good news, but the truth is if you have taken the first step of identifying the elephant in the room, you are already one step ahead of most—and that is great news!

The Psychology

Assuming you are not running solo as the project manager/executive sponsor, your project team must do some form of assessment to understand the heartbeat of the department(s) that is going to undergo this transformation. We have worked with large organizations as well as small ones, so in the case of the latter, it might be right down to the pulse of each employee. That said, if managing employee emotions is not your strong suit, perhaps you can think of it as the “vibe”—the attitude, the moral or the mindset (so the “soft” stuff) that need to be honed in on. Why should we care? To properly prepare for change, you need to be proactive in accessing how people will react to change. So how do you face this “elephant”? Get the right people involved from the start.

Take a look at your “organizational chain”. Everyone has heard you are only as strong as your weakest link. When you conform to best practices (change), those weak links will undergo psychological stress and the result will be, as Walter Bradford Cannon coined it, to undergo the “fight or flight” response. The good news (yes, more “good news”!) is they will be very easy to weed out, which only improves your internal team. But what about the strong links? Many of them WILL do the same. Hence, why you need to be proactive.

The Math

When adopting positive organizational change, we are attempting to accomplish a multitude of things such as improving efficiencies, which in turn, improves revenue/cuts cost and allows the company to become more competitive in a constantly evolving marketplace. At the same time, it is imperative that through the transforming of processes, improving your team’s “day in the life” be a priority. Much like improving the company’s bottom line, the positive impact it is meant to have on your employees should hold equal weight.

Making it Work

So who do we involve? It’s not just your top performers; it’s those in the middle of the chain that should also be shadowed and interviewed to gain a detailed understanding of their pain points. Sometimes the middle folks have great ideas that aren’t heard. Sometimes they turn out to be a more important link than you ever thought. Regardless, involving them early (well before any process changes are implemented) creates that warm and fuzzy feeling of involvement, which has a positive effect on culture, and MOST importantly, helps create your end user champions. Acclamations by someone’s colleague on how something will make their work-life easier will be better received than those messages coming from the top of the organizational hierarchy.


In the end, everybody wins, including the elephant.

For expert help with a change management initiative or redefining organizational culture, contact us.