Category Archives: The Change Management 101 Model

The Return on Investment for Change Management

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Our clients ask us all the time about the return on investment for time and money spent managing change. Studies conducted by McKinsey several years ago showed a correlation between successfully managing change and increased returns from the changes studied. But the study provided no clear formula or way of calculating the increased value of future changes. We know that the benefits of investing in change management come from increased speed of adoption, adoption rates, and the skills or abilities of people who will take on new ways of working. So we were wondering… how do you measure the return on the investment in change management?

We asked past Change Management Certification Participants the following questions about their return on change management investments.
How do you justify the use of change management on your projects?

Lots of respondents said that they basically don’t justify the use of change management on projects. For some, they don’t because they don’t need to. Their leadership teams just know intuitively that it helps. For others, their lack of justifying the use of change management is a problem that they are continuously battling when resistance to change management arises.

A few justify change management with surveys and sharing the successes of change management in previous projects.
Have you measured the return on investment for change management? If so, what did you measure in order to determine the ROI of change management?

Most of you haven’t measured the return on change management investments. For those that have, measuring productivity of the workforce before and after a change was suggested, along with measuring adoption rates and surveying people about their engagement in a new way of working.

Several folks commented on the “soft” or “intangible” benefits of change management and the difficulty in measuring it.

In which change management activities do you invest the most money?

The most common things noted were communications (planning, executing, and materials), bringing stakeholders together for communication and engagement, and training.
Thanks for those of you that shared your experiences with the ROI of change management. There is no formula that we can point to just yet. But if you are thinking about measuring the benefits of the change management work you are doing, look to the cost savings or benefits for the organization that result from: faster adoption of new ways, greater utilization of the change, and greater skill or ability to use the changes. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

Our Change Management Pocket Guide is now an App!

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change-pocket-guide-app-iconMany of our customers have asked over the past year about offering our Change Management Pocket Guide as an eBook. We listened. Change Guides is very excited to introduce The Change Management Pocket Guide in a mobile App format!

Here is some information about our new App:

The Change Management Pocket Guide mobile application is a practical resource for anyone tasked with making change happen. The tactical, hands-on electronic pocket guide is a fully functioning and integrated mobile app solution for Android and Apple devices.

Like the hard copy book, the Change Management Pocket Guide app uses the Change Management 101 Model to step you through three major phases of managing change: Plan, Do and Sustain. These three major phases are broken down into the two specific stages as you move from one phase to the next. The tools in the Change Management Pocket Guide are used to interactively gather information, set milestones, and measure progress. There are over 30 valuable change management tools and templates that are integrated within the mobile solution so that they can be purchased, downloaded and easily customized to match the requirements of your specific change challenge. Each tool in the change toolbox is detailed, flexible and scalable.

Use the In-App purchase functionality to download the tools you need directly from the Change Management Pocket Guide and customize them for your project. Each downloadable tool has already been created in Word and Excel and can be used as they are explained in the Change Management Pocket Guide.

Overview of App Functionality

The Change Management Pocket Guide mobile app allows you to use the “tools for managing change” in an interactive and useful format. You can read and learn about the Change Management 101 Model™ and use the tools, answer key questions and build your own change management solution with an actionable plan for each change initiative you encounter. The mobile app is designed around the following functional areas:

  • PDF Reader format: A consistent format with the ability to search, bookmark pages and zoom in/zoom out
  • Integrated Change Pocket Guide companion templates: In-App purchase functionality for all Change Management Pocket Guide templates
  • In-App share integration using Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

To Purchase the Change Management Pocket Guide App: Visit the App Store ( or the Play Store ( today to buy the app for your mobile device.

About the developer: Apptimize Group is a mobile application design and development company that creates general and enterprise internally deployed mobile client solutions. Our focus is to create simple and useful mobile apps that make for a memorable customer experience. For more information visit and contact John Gurnick at

So How Big of a Deal is This Change, Anyway?

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During the first few weeks of a new project it is not unusual to hear concerns expressed about how impacted employees can take on more, or refocus their attention or even survive a major change initiative.  Typically these concerns are expressed from an intuitive or empathetic perspective.  Management or team members may not know for a fact that the stresses of change will be challenging, but their first-hand knowledge of their team or unit can typically be right on target.   So the question becomes:  How can the change management team capture the data needed to identify the impact to the people of the organization?

Well, there’s a tool for that!  The People Impact Assessment tool, newly added to the 2nd edition of The Change Management Pocket Guide is an assessment that measures the impact that a change will have on people within an organization.  A well implemented assessment will show how the changes will impact people who work in the organization, identify where within the organization to focus change management activity, contribute to the Change Management Workplan, and ultimately help the team get people in the organization ready, willing, and able to work in new ways.

Dimensions that need to be explored in order to assess the impact of the change on people include:

  • Roles – How will the changes impact primary roles and job tasks?
  • Staffing – Will the size of the workforce be impacted?
  • Relationships – How will the organizational structure change?  Will there be new types of workgroups or interactions?
  • Employee Competencies – Are new skills or knowledge required?
  • Decision Making – Will there be changes in scope and decisions that employees and managers make?
  • Culture – How must the culture change to support new behaviors?

Assessing the people impact of any given change can become a huge effort.  It may require more than a spreadsheet to manage the data and could include several people to help gather the data needed.  And like many change management tools, the people impact assessment will grow and evolve as the project progresses.  New data that surfaces as the project progresses will require updating the assessment.

But, it is worth the effort.  A complete understanding of the impacts of the change on people is really the basis for most of the work that a change manager or change management team does.  If you have limited resources and can only focus on a few change management activities, consider a people impact assessment.  Knowing how people will be impacted and where to focus your time and change management resources will be well worth the effort.

Assessing Effort to Manage the People Side of Change

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For years, people have asked us how we “scope” consulting work on projects. So we finally decided to create a tool that captures how we decide how much effort will be required to manage the people aspects of a change. The tool is called the Change Management Effort Assessment.  The tool will be included in the upcoming second edition of The Change Management Pocket Guide.

Sure, we would love it if you ran out and go the book, but you can think about these same ideas on your own to assess how much effort will be involved in managing the people side of an organizational change.

Of course, like any tool, it is not a magic bullet. But it provides the process and the critical considerations to define how much effort will be required to plan and execute an effective change management strategy.  When deciding how many resources to apply to a change management project, it is important to consider both the degree of the change, as well as the expected difficulty of managing the change.

The degree of the change is an assessment of how broad the change will reach, and how different the new ways of working are from the current ways. The things to think about when assessing the degree of the change are: how many people are impacted by the change, the severity of the gap between the way things are done today and the way they need to be done in the future, and the extent to which there are other projects or changes going on within the environment that will add complexity to the change.

The difficulty of managing the change includes many factors that make changes more challenging to manage. They include things such as the involvement of unions or legal issues, the volume and frequency of communications that will be needed, the level of training that will be required, and the degree of changes in performance measures and HR structures that will be needed to support the change.

Situations that involve a “low degree of change” and a “low difficulty of managing the change” naturally require less resources than situations that have higher degrees of change or more difficulty in managing the change. Based on the results of the assessment, managing change could be an activity that is managed by a team member along with their other project responsibilities, or a full change management team that is dedicated to managing the people aspects of the change.

Of course, every change is unique. A change that impacts 30,000 people around the world by asking them all to change one small thing that they do on a weekly basis has a high degree of change, and is very complex (think about the language and time zone issues, the different leadership structures that need to be involved, etc…). At the same time, a change that impacts only 50 people but changes their entire jobs from top to bottom also has a high degree of change, and is very complex (think about the changes in compensation and benefits that might result, the potential for letting some people go, etc…).

Don’t forget to use what you know about the organization, the change, and the people involved. But using a Change Management Effort Assessment will help you get a good head start on defining how much effort will be needed to manage the people aspects of the change.

If you want to see our version of a Change Management Effort Assessment, check out the Change Guides website ( to find out when you can get a copy of the upcoming Change Management Pocket Guide.   And let us know how it is working for you!

Managing Change during ERP Implementations

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A friend of mine if the President of a mid-size company.  We were having dinner recently and he mentioned that they were evaluating ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) vendors.  Put simply, ERP systems are complex computer software programs that integrate all functions and departments across a company onto a single system.

ERP systems bring together most if not all ofthe data used by an organization into one place.  They link up business processes across an organization as they share information.  Not every department of an organization needs to be part of an ERP system (although the more the merrier in the ERP view), but at least a few functions such as finance, the shop floor, the warehouse, or HR are often included.

One integrated software system for people planning manufacturing runs, taking orders, and generating purchase orders for new raw materials is a powerful tool.  It can have a tremendous payback if used well.  No more taking orders for items that are actually out of stock; no more taking orders from customers who are past due on payments; and no more telling customers they have to call someone else to figure out where their order is.

Although ERP systems can be fantastic for organizations when implemented well, they are not always all peaches and cream.  Customization to reflect a specific business can be hard and expensive.  ERP systems are generally not cheap.  And they aren’t simple to use.

Most importantly, ERP systems require people to change how they do their jobs.  If people don’t change the way they work, the value of a the system be minimal, and the organization can even suffer a hit to productivity and effectiveness as people work around the new system to keep doing things the way they have always done them.

The effective use of an ERP system requires a level of discipline and willingness to share information across departments.  Accountability and communication are key cultural attributes in ERP environments.  If an organization is not a cultural fit for ERP at the outset, the amount of change in store is even greater for people.

To overcome some of these limitations of ERP, it helps to focus on how people work.  Make sure you know very clearly what will be different for each person or role in the organization.  What will Mary have to do differently?  What new information will she need?  How specifically will she need to use the new system?  What decisions will she have to make?  Who will she have to interact with?

To make sure that people are ready willing and able to effectively use an ERP system give them specifics about the changes coming as soon as you know them.  Demo the system so that people can see what the ERP looks like.  Let people do some role-play exercises or games in the system to see what happens when they get things right versus make mistakes.  Train people according to their specific roles.  And create training that is based on business processes, not just the system.

When considering an ERP system, think about the total impact on the business – not just the new software.  Consider the process changes that need to go along with the software, the culture of the organization, and the people who work there.

Are You Getting the Return on Your Investment?

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How much has your company spent on initiatives: cost reduction? quality? product launch? What were the business cases for these initiatives? What was invested in these efforts externally and internally – in terms of budget and people? What was the projected ROI of these efforts? Have you reached that promised ROI yet?

Odds are that you haven’t. Many times, the promised benefits are not reached in the projected time. Sometimes, they are never reached. So, maybe you’ve made it some of the way there. Maybe there are valid, unforeseen causes for not reaching your ROI.
You’re not alone. Google “project failure rates” and you find pages of articles and research. One example is the 2009 Standish Chaos Reports (research on client success and failure implementing IT systems). This report states that only 32% of survey participants characterized their projects as “successful”. 24% characterized their project as “failed” and the other 44% characterized their project as “challenged”.

Projects fail to meet objectives for many reasons but among the most cited reasons are related to people issues: leaders not aligned in support of the effort, lack of communication, lack of understanding, resistance, lack of support or skills, lack of reinforcement of the effort.

A people strategy is a required component to reach a project’s ROI. After all, it’s people who use the technology, adopt the new processes or sell the new product. Without a majority of people willing and prepared to make the change happen, it is doomed to fail. Influencing people to change takes a strategy. It takes a plan. It will not happen effectively just because you say so.

Change Management is the people strategy and planning approach that prepares employee to transition from how they work today to how they need to work in the future. Just like project management or Six Sigma, there are proven processes, tools and tactics that help company’s create a thoughtful proactive people strategy. A Change Management approach easily fits hand in hand with a project plan to implement a new technology, process or the like.

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” If you haven’t achieved the ROI on your past projects, don’t go about the next project the same way. Include a thoughtful, proactive people strategy and get a different result.

Lean and Six Sigma are Good, Adding Change Management is Great

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Six Sigma and Lean are all the rage with some of our clients.  If you haven’t heard of them, Six Sigma is a set of business practices (originated at Motorola) designed to improve processes by eliminating defects, and Lean is a business system (pioneered at Toyota) that aims to reduce waste and improve customer value.  Both can bring tremendous improvements to organizations.

(Those of us of a certain age remember similar process improvement methodologies like Reengineering and TQM.)

One client in particular is a devout follower of both Six Sigma and Lean.  And for good reason.  The processes help clarify issues, diagnose root causes, and pinpoint business solutions.  This client, however, has not always been great at implementing those great business solutions.

When they adopted these new business improvement methods, they jumped in with both feet.  They sent people to training on new tools and techniques, started measuring their use, and encouraged people to get certified in improvement methodologies.  All in, over
30% of their staff is certified in a business improvement method.

With a stable of Black Belts and a sizable budget for Lean consultants, the organization is well positioned to develop the best business solutions in their industry for their customers.  But it has not always been smooth sailing as they got used to their shiny new toolkits.

Their internal and external process experts worked on projects for months and even years, but the organization got stuck when leaders argued about business needs and budget priorities, middle managers questioned the data and the process used to develop the solutions, and front line employees just paid no attention to the new ideas.

They came face to face with the realization that the biggest challenges to making change happen within organizations are people issues.  They realized that they needed to spend a little time thinking about how people internalize the new behaviors required rather than dedicating all of their focus to processes and systems.

General Electric realized, years ago, that Six Sigma falls short unless people within the organization make the personal changes necessary to behave differently.  Some within GE use the equation E = Q x A.  The Effectiveness of the solution is equal to the Quality of the solution multiplied by the Acceptance in the organization of that solution.  The highest quality business solutions are not effective unless they are accepted by people who need to act on them.

The focus on the “people stuff” in and of itself is a discipline called Change Management (not to be confused with technical change management / version control).  Change management is the next frontier of business improvement for organizations of all sizes.  The newly formed Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) is growing quickly and globally.

Just as Six Sigma and Lean started with big companies and has since “trickled down” to smaller organizations, effectively managing change is starting to trickle.  You don’t have to be big or rich to be fast… you just have to be fast to be fast.

How did our client make the most of the huge investment they had made in Six Sigma and Lean?  They focused on Change Management.  They acquainted leaders with their role in driving change; included Change Management as part of basic skills training for managers; and certified a group of internal experts on how to make change stick.

Don’t forget about Six Sigma and Lean.  It is all great stuff.  But remember to include a focus on people.  Organizations with a Change Management competency help their people move from thinking and acting in existing ways to thinking and acting in new ways that are required for the organization’s success.  A great solution is no good if people don’t act accordingly.

The Eight Constants of Change

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If you are experiencing or leading change in your organization, you should know the Eight Constants of Change.  A change manager who doesn’t have a good grasp of these incontrovertible facts about organizational change will face an uphill battle making change happen.  

The good news is that learning about the Eight Constants is easy – and free!  Listen to this podcast on iTunes featuring Stacy Aaron and you will get a sense of the basics of organizational change in a jiffy.

If you are inspired, you can learn even more by reading the Eight Constants of Change – What Leaders Need to Know to Drive Change and Win (Aaron and Nelson, Change Guides, 2008).  Happy New Year and Happy Changing!

Change is not Death… So Long D-A-B-D-A

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Many say that when people experience change, they experience it like they experience a death.  But what if what people have said for years about how we experience a death was no longer accepted to be true?  The “stages of grief” originally born in Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s book On Death and Dying might actually not be as clear cut as some people believe. 

Most consultants and many business people can recite the originally postulated stages… Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance (DABDA).   I can’t even count the number of people talking about organizational change who have thrown out these stages as a way to get the ball rolling. 

Sadly, most of that conversation is misguided.  There are questions about the findings of the original research, there are questions about whether “stages” actually exist, and there are certainly questions about whether a change at work is equal to a death. 

What we know for sure is that people experience a broad range of emotions when faced with change in their workplace.  Some are excited, some are angry, some are sad, some are happy, some are anxious, some are combative, and the list goes on and on.  Most of the time, there is really no way of knowing who will react in what way.

So much of how an individual actually feels about a change is based on things that a manager at work is oblivious to.  How are things going in the employee’s marriage?  How is their child doing at school?  Did they experience something like this in a former job that went horribly or wonderfully?  Have they always wanted to move on to another opportunity that this change might afford them?  Did they hope that this might happen so that they could move up/out/around? 

When we work with organizations who are implementing change, we know that people in the organization will react emotionally as well as rationally.  They do that because they are human.  And that is perfectly fine.  But those emotions are not neatly packaged into stages that we can watch pass before our eyes.  As Forrest Gump would say – it’s like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re gonna’ get.

Outsourcing Means Big Changes for People Within an Organization

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Sure, go ahead and outsource. It makes good business sense sometimes to focus on your core competency and let someone else handle some of the necessary business functions (HR, IT, data management, etc…) that just have to get done.

If you do outsource, however, don’t underestimate what it will take from the people within your organization.

We have a client who has been trying to work with an outsourced HR service provider for over a year. So far, the move has been a gigantic failure because the client completely underestimated the changes in mindset, attitude and behavior that would be necessary to make it work.

We also have a client who outsourced most of thier information technology work to an offshore provider. They knew they would have to lay people off, but they didn’t realize how much work would be involved with shifting the way they worked to match new processes and changing roles and structure to work in the new way.

If you decide to outsource work, go in with your eyes wide open. Don’t forget about the people. Proactively manage the change to help people become ready, willing, and able to succeed in the new way of working.