Overlook the "Human Factor" During Transformational Change at Your Own Peril

Posted by Paula Alsher on Mon, Nov 24, 2014 @ 11:25 AM

What happens when change overload confronts transformational change?  Too much going on, with resources diffused across too many projects-- if this sounds like your organization, you are not alone! The result is that in the rush to "get it done," the project team becomes focused primarily on meeting milestones and technical objectives, with pressure to not add resources that could affect given budget constraints.  Human Factors During a Change

As a result, the "human factor" is overlooked entirely, or may be given very limited attention, often by one lonely resource who is assigned as "change management."  One resource for a program of change that can impact literally tens of thousands of individuals across geographies, cultures, business functions, etc!

And then we wonder why changes aren't adopted and untold hours are spent trying to manage resistance.


It's Not About Liking the Change  

We know that business transformation will not be achieved or sustained for the long haul unless we pay attention to how the changes impact each individual.  Addressing the human factor is a must-do, and it is
not about getting people to like the change by communication alone!

By definition, transformational change is highly disruptive.  The more someone's daily work activity is going to be disrupted, the more likely they will be to resist the change.  

Tip:  Identify the impacts of the transformation, not from the "corporate" point of view, but from the Frame of Reference of all the people who will be impacted.

It is important to understand every Target of transformational change from the top of the organizational structure down to the direct reports have the same two questions: What does this change mean for me personally? And second, what’s in it for me? These questions are the same company-wide, but remember…the answers will be different across the board.

Resistance isn't just at the front lines. Based on our 30 years of experience in change management consulting, we can predict with a high degree of certainty that you will spend more time, and have more challenges from the middle of the organization up, compared to the middle of the organization down!


Tip:  Treat these managers as "Targets" of the change first.  These mid to upper managers (Reinforcing Sponsors) won't be committed until those questions are answered for them personally.


Transformational Change Success

In order to address the human side of business transformation, you must first understand the difference between installation vs. implementation.  Installation of a change meets 3 measures:

  • It’s on time
  • It’s on budget
  • It meets the technical objectives 

What's the end-goal for your transformation?  Is it just installing a new process, or a system, or structure?

In order to have a successful implementation there are two additional factors. The change must meet the business objectives AND it has to meet the human objectives. These human objectives are the observable, behavioral impacts of the change.  

Tip:  Achieving these behavioral impacts, the human objectives, are a critical success measure. Unless you are working to change behavior, you will not achieve benefit realization!

Develop a blended plan, where the technical and human side of the transformation are managed in an integrated way. The blended plan should include at a minimum these inputs to behavioral change. 


Define the Change- To measure whether you’re achieving the human elements of change you need to first define the behaviors you want to see.  How are people behaving now and how do you want them to behave after the change?

Generate Sustained Sponsorship- A cascade of committed Sponsors is the most critical factor in implementation success and speed. Sponsors must Express, Model, and Reinforce commitment to the change. 

Build Readiness-  Develop strategies and tactics to manage resistance to change and to use proven techniques like involvement to pro-actively create readiness.

Develop Targeted Communications- Absence of communication can cause fear of the unknown. Make sure all communications are cyclical, provide a feedback loop and are in the language of the targeted audience. 

Develop Reinforcements for Change- Reinforcement must address what’s in it for me and what it means to me. Managers should reinforce very early on the proper behaviors, and then publicly recognize the "early adopters."  


When the human objectives of transformational change are addressed in the same purposeful way as the technical and business objectives, a successful implementation is achieved.  

 Free Whitepaper: Leading People Through Business Changes

Topics: Transformational Change, Installation vs. Implementation, Value Realization/ROI, Implementation Planning