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The Hard Stuff Is The Soft Stuff

In complex business and governmental enterprises, many large projects encounter serious resistance from management and staff. A recent study indicated that over one half of Business Reengineering projects fail to meet their objectives. The problem is not the technology, the job design, or the organization design. The problem is the people's acceptance of the change. The truth is that no matter how good the design is, attitude and commitment will always be the most important elements in large scale organizational change. The hard stuff is the soft stuff. It is a political problem, and, frequently, nobody is managing it.

In fact, many people don't know how to manage it. We take for granted that, just like raising children, all our managers will know how to implement big organizational change. But like raising children or winning a political campaign, true success in Change Management requires a strategy, good tactics, and practice.

The term Change Management describes the focused effort of helping people through a transition or change cycle. The goals of Change Management are to minimize resistance to the required change and to develop commitment to the desired end state.

 Change Cycle
People proceed through a predictable series of stages in coming to terms with important change.

The feelings and beliefs of stakeholders create behaviors ranging from indifference, on the one hand, through resistance, to commitment. Change Management must influence the inside of people to succeed. The newsletters may be sharp, the executive speeches upbeat and persuasive, the behaviors of the staff correct in procedural terms, but if the heart of the organization has not been won over, then the Change Management effort has not been successful.

Change Management begins with stakeholder assessment. To effectively manage change, stakeholders need to be segmented based on their interests. Stakeholders may be internal or external to the company. The level of acceptance or resistance of each stakeholder needs to be periodically assessed and appropriate techniques applied to move them forward on the change cycle.

Key Change Management principles to keep in mind are:

Based In Feelings

Change Management is about dealing with people's emotions and feelings.

More Than Communications

Change Management is often thought to be simply communications to the affected players. Change Management is about much more than communications, but much of Change Management is effective and frequent communications.

Participation By The Targets Of Change Is Critical

The rule in getting people to accept change is to have them participate as much as possible in the design of the change or in the planning and execution of the implementation. Participation builds ownership. When your young daughter participates in helping to position the furniture in her room, she is less likely to move it out of place later.

Dynamic Plans

Every big project should have a Change Management plan as part of its overall project plan, but a Change Management plan is just that - a plan. Change Management is more like a political campaign than like a facilities project. The actions taken to help stakeholders along the change journey cannot all be pre-planned and must respond to the dynamic developments in the overall organization and within the project.

Everyone's Responsibility

Change Management is everybody's responsibility. The sponsor and key members of the project governance structure have the most critical responsibility for Change Management. The line managers and supervisors in the areas the change is affecting bear the responsibility for successful implementation of the change. Every member of the project team is responsible for facilitating the change process, even though some members may be earmarked to develop specific tools and communications. At the beginning of a project, it is critically important to deal with the Change Management issues on the project team iself, to successfully enlist the hearts and minds of the team.

Six Types of Technique Are Required

Six types of intervention technique are required to effectively manage change. They are:

Attention to the soft side of projects is often the most important, yet least managed part of large scale business changes. Make room in your project plan for Change Management. It will pay for itself in shorter implementation, smoother functioning new systems, and an organization motivated to make the new ways a success.