Managing Change in the Workplace: 5 Essential Questions to Ask

Posted by Paula Alsher on Fri, May 08, 2015 @ 09:06 AM

Most organizational change fails to deliver the intended value realization. Don’t believe us? Just take a look at a few of these statistics: Questions About Managing Change


  • 90% of all companies fail to execute strategy successfully – Balanced Scorecard Collaborative
  • 60% - 70% of technology insertions are ineffective - SEI
  • 8 of the 10 largest mergers over the last 10 years failed, destroying over $700 billion in shareholder wealth – Fast Company


Installation vs. Implementation
Why do so many projects fail to meet their return on investment goals? Quite simply, it’s because there is often greater financial and resource investment in the achievement of business and technical objectives compared to the investment in the human objectives. In order to achieve ROI on any change project, an organization must reframe its definition of success from installation (go-live), to implementation (business and human objectives are also met).

Installation vs Implementation

Questions to Ask
If you are looking for value realization for your organizational change projects, here are 5 questions that MUST be answered as you work your way toward a successful implementation:

Do you have the Sponsorship required for this organizational change?  Change Management Solutions: Using AIM to Generate Sponsorship
Sponsorship is the single most important factor in implementation success!  Sponsors must do more than sign a check authorizing funding for an initiative and show up at the project launch meeting. They must authorize, legitimize and demonstrate ownership throughout the lifecycle of the project. It is critical for Sponsors to be consistently expressing, modeling, and reinforcing their personal and collective commitment to the change.  This includes management-level personnel in the middle to upper layers of your organization.

TIP: Educate your sponsors on what behaviors are required from them, and be sure these behaviors are reinforced at each organization level. 

Is there agreement on what the organizational change actually is? Change Management Solutions: Defining the Change Using AIM

The second most important element for implementation success is a clear, concise definition of what is actually changing. If the change definition doesn’t clearly state what the objectives are from business, technical, and human perspectives, it will fall short. 

TIP:  Develop a comprehensive project foundation statement that is more complete than a project charter.  The statement should include the human objectives, which will be modified at the local level to reflect how the change will impact varying business groups. 

Does the project have the correct prioritization within your organization? 
Virtually every organization today has too much going on, creating a huge amount of stress.  Senior level teams may not see that the enormous number of projects dilutes resources and makes it extremely difficult to get the “mindshare” required for active Sponsorship.  There is great value in having a clear focus on 3 to 5 key strategic priorities that can be successfully driven through the organization. 

TIP:  Make executive teams aware of the benefits of prioritization and sequencing.  Use heat mapping to identify how project implementations are hitting the business, and what the implications are. 

Are you developing an explicit reinforcement plan? Change Management Solutions: Developing a Reinforcement Strategy Using AIM
A fundamental principle of human behavior is that people follow the reinforcement. That's why Don Harrison tells clients that "every time you see a behavior, there either is or was a reward for it."  This being said, the only way to sustain a transition is through the application of positive and negative consequences.  Reinforcement must be done by the individual's manager or by someone who has responsibility for evaluating that person's performance.

TIP: For some Sponsors, spending time on reinforcement doesn't come naturally, but an effective Change Agent can make a real difference in the speed of adoption by helping Sponsors develop a menu of reinforcements that will be used specifically for the change.

How are you planning to manage resistance to your organizational change? 
Resistance to change is part of the natural change process. If you don't see resistance, rest assured it is there! If you are attempting business transformation, you should anticipate up-front that you are going to create high levels of disruption, and consequently high levels of resistance to change.

TIP: Involvement leads to higher-level feelings of control! Involve Targets of the change as much, and as early as possible to minimize uncertainty. 

During any change project, it’s easy to get seduced into thinking that lots of activity means things are going well. But it is important to ensure that all the activity is the right activity!  How did you answer these 5 essential questions?

Free eBook:  Mini Guide to Installation vs Implementation

Topics: Sponsorship, Installation vs. Implementation, Reinforcement, Resistance to change