Prosci’s 2011 Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking study has reinforced the value of effective change management.

For the seventh consecutive study, active and visible executive sponsorship was identified as the greatest contributor to success. The second through fifth contributors to success paralleled the findings from the 2009 benchmarking study:

1. Active and visible executive sponsorship
2. Frequent and open communication about the change
3. Structured change management approach
4. Dedicated change management resources and funding
5. Employee engagement and participation
6. Engagement with and support from middle management

It was found that projects with effective change management programs were more likely to meet objectives, stay on schedule and stay on budget than those without effective change management. Projects with excellent change management programs were nearly six times more likely to meet or exceed their objectives than those with poor change management programs.

As in previous studies, an employee’ s supervisor was seen as the preferred sender of personal messages while senior leaders were identified as the preferred senders of business-level or organisational-level messages about why the change was needed. A principle that has been constantly repeated in every study since my university days! 


“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

According to that great oracle ‘Wikipedia’, “The core of Confucianism is humanism, the belief that human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and communal endeavour especially including self-cultivation and self-creation.”

I was reflecting on these principles and how in today’s workplace we tend to have them in reverse, with a primary focus on learning by doing, trying things out, or trial and error.

So, how could we follow these principles in practice?  Here’s some ideas….


Weekly reflection on what worked well and what could be done differently or better

Weekly reflection meetings with team members on events of the past week and what was experienced and learnt


Looking for best practice / role models in your field and adopting some of their methods

Learning and adoption of your organisation’s cultural traits and working in a way that reflects those values (assuming they are aligned with your own values of course)


Active experimentation

Learning by doing

Testing change management, communication and training methods with your colleagues to fine-tune and improve them

I was in a project zone workshop today where a group of IT project managers asked about how to ensure their system implementations were successful for the end users.  Well, that required a rather lengthy answer! In a nutshell though, I think it comes down to confidence and trust.

Each person needs to feel confident that they have the required skills and knowledge to effectively use the system from day 1 and they also need to trust that its robust and accurate in its operation.

I find the best way to help build trust and confidence is by involving people at various stages along the development path. People often resist change simply because they were not part of the decision-making or implementation design process. And then, using every communication channel to engage and involve people in the project.

John Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change remains a great approach for ensuring buy-in and success for a project. Here is a summary for you:

A great article in Forbes magazine, looking at the seven habits unsuccessful executives…and how to avoid them.

Forbes Magazine (Jan 2012)


High-performing organisations have well defined communication strategies so that employees understand the organisation’s business goals and their role in achieving those goals.

Communication is more than pumping out newsletters, giving presentations, developing intranet sites and hanging mission statements on the walls. It’s about building an efficient and measurable communication strategy that is part of the organisation’s business plan. Every communication activity should support the achievement of the business plan and be delivered to that suit the information needs of employees.

Research projects have highlighted special traits of organisations with successful communication programs. While these traits seem commonsense, it’s worthwhile reflecting on how many are regularly displayed in your organisation. Here’s the top ten:

  1. Senior management recognises the importance of staff communication in achieving business objectives.
  2. Communication efforts are based on a clear, defined and measurable communication strategy.
  3. Communication programs place a strong emphasis on helping employees understand the business and their role in achieving required business results.
  4. All communication items explain and reinforce corporate business objectives.
  5. The organisation provides regular and timely information to employees on how the firm is doing in meeting its goals and the contributions being made by them.
  6. Communication programs have benchmarks and their success is regularly measured and reported.
  7. Two-way communication is deemed as essential. Feedback channels are used.
  8. Senior management encourage and respond to feedback and suggestions from employees.
  9. Managers at all levels have well developed communication skills and are rewarded for communicating effectively with their teams.
  10. Communication programs have a strong emphasis on providing information and feedback to motivate and improve job performance.

Thinking about your business

Does your company have a well-defined employee communication strategy?

Do employees understand their role in helping to achieve business goals?

Are communication efforts measured to check their success?

Do managers seek feedback and regularly ask employees what types of information they need?

The Change Manager is responsible for the success of the change management strategy and implementation for the project.  The main responsibilities of the role are: 

  • Scope and prepare the change management plan

  • Identify the project’s change management issues, objectives and action plan

  • Manage the change management plan (incorporating training, stakeholder management, communication)

  • Provide status reports and updates to key stakeholders

  • Identify and manage risks associated with the change

  • Manage the change management budget, schedule and resources

  • Execute the tasks in the change management schedule

  • Assist in transitioning the change to “business as usual”

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the change approach

Highly experienced change managers usually have a mix of skills in business analysis, training, communication, project management and facilitation. Their core competencies include: 

  • Building partnerships

  • Interpersonal communication

  • Written communication

  • Consulting skills

  • Managing change

  • Problem solving

  • Project management

..and of course, energy, patience and a good sense of humour! 

speed-bumps.jpg  The road to change is seldom straightforward…you can bet there will be twists, turns and a few bumps. So how can we inspire others to learn, communicate and know more ?

Organisational change is a constant. The ability to successfully facilitate it is a core skill for any manager. Last week  I worked with a team of project managers who are implementing significant organisational change. We discussed some of the keys to help master the change process.  Here’s a summary of the “8 Keys” we identified that might also help in your teams.

 1. Organisations don’t change. People do or they don’t If your people don’t trust their leaders, don’t share the organisation’s vision, and don’t agree with the reason for change – it will fail – regardless of how well planned your strategy is.Focus on the people and make sure they understand and can buy into your change program. 

2. Accept that people react to change in different ways 

Everyone in an organisation has a different reaction to change. Some people are naturally more “change-adept” and comfortable with moving to a new way of doing things. Get them on-side as ‘change champions’ to support their colleagues. 

3. Never underestimate the emotional component of change 

 Over 70% of our decisions are based on emotion. The other 30% are a mixture of emotional and rational. You can show people all the facts and figures, but if it doesn’t ‘feel right’, they’ll resist what you’re trying to do.

 4. Set the scene 

Change is sometimes announced with little reason or rationale for what the organisation is trying to accomplish.  Set the scene and show how change (and staff involvement) is an integral part of where the organisation is heading.  

5. Forget the spin! 

If change is going to be painful with jobs lost and working conditions significantly different, then say so. Communicate honestly, without the management double speak.  

6. Staff commitment is vital 

To achieve and earn staff commitment, the organisation needs to demonstrate “what’s in it for the employee” following the change. If people are losing something, they need to see what they are gaining in the new way of doing things.

 7. Change communication comes from the leaders 

Lasting change communication comes from leaders – at all levels in an organisation. The way leaders role model behaviour and articulate change when working with staff is more important than what they’ll ever say in a formal meeting. Posters, newsletters, videos and intranet sites are only support tools. 

 8. Never underestimate human potential 

Once you’ve set the scene, communicated the change vision, started the training and achieved employee commitment, then comes the key moment. It’s when you have to trust the capability of your people to get things done according to the plan.  

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