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Harbinger Mythbuster: Use the same CM approach for everything

Change management (CM) is picking up steam – organizations have begun to understand the discipline and importance of having a strong CM strategy to help LEAD their business and people through change. Having more than 18 years of experience in this field, it’s refreshing to see the evolution of this area but it’s also important to keep this momentum going by dispelling a very important CM myth:

You use the same CM approach for all types of change.

What’s the same

Yes, there is an overarching CM approach common to all methodologies regardless of the one you use and yes there are fundamentals that need to be followed. This includes doing the proper work to understand the change including magnitude, type and impacts. This can be done by developing a plan with clear activities like communications, training and readiness or impact assessments. It’s also beneficial to do your due diligence by completing a stakeholder analysis so that you can understand the culture and who you will be working with.

Another similarity for all CM initiatives is not wanting to instill fear in people. You want to strike the right balance with strong relationship management and by ensuring impacted stakeholders understand why the changes are taking place, the direction of the business and what this could mean for them, all in a timely planned manner.

The activities above form the foundation of CM, but it’s important to note that there are many variances depending on the type of change you are supporting. Your approach to managing the change needs to reflect this.

What’s different

There are constant changes occurring within the workplace such as acquisitions, new products, change in strategy and more. However, the two that we are seeing more frequently include technology or system implementation and organizational design (OD) change. Both examples are significant changes that could negatively impact the direction of a company if not done right.

System implementations such as ERP are amongst the most challenging changes to manage for a number of reasons. For one, it is rarely simply a technology change. Most system implementations impact people which leads people to immediately fear how the new system will impact their jobs. Words like increased efficiency and automation are immediately associated with job loss or change. What’s more is that this is among the most expensive changes for any company. It’s no secret that system implementations require many resources, take a long time and are very expensive to implement. Lastly, technology changes at a much faster pace than people do.

So, what’s the solution? In addition to following the best practices and fundamentals of CM, it’s critical to look at these pain points and enhance your focus on learning and training, communications and stakeholder engagement.

Learning and training is amplified here because it’s crucial to ensure adequate time is spent on training people on how to use this system in the future state. It’s also important to remember that everyone has different learning preferences and you need to ensure that you have developed a learning and training plan that reflects both the intended behaviour change as well as everyone’s diversity.

Communications is always key but the pace and content is different for system implementations. This is because you will likely be required to communicate to a large number of different audiences, will need to communicate on a number of changes or activities, and will need to do so in a non-technical, easy to understand way.

Stakeholder engagement is also different in this circumstance as you need to have insight and buy-in from key stakeholders from the get-go to get this off the ground. Identifying, supporting and engaging key stakeholders such as sponsors, executives, and leaders is the recipe for success, but it takes a lot of planning, coordination and relationship building.

Organizational design change is another important one to highlight as this usually makes significant ripples throughout the company. These types of changes do impact the whole organization but rarely at the individual level the way a system implementation often does. Most commonly, the organizational structure has already been determined due to the number of individual contributors to managers or leaders, but the gap here is to ensure you have the right spans of control, and roles and responsibilities in place to make this successful. Finally, one of the most challenging aspects to consider is that OD will likely have the highest impact on the leadership group.

The first step in the CM process for OD involves understanding the direction of the organization – what does the organization look like today and what does it want to be? Do they have the right people and skills to reach this goal or is more work to be done?

Again, stakeholders are important but in this case it is more stakeholder management than engagement as you need to tread carefully and be mindful of what you are communicating. It’s true that some structural decisions will have already been made, but more often than not, more work will need to be completed to understand if an individual has the right skillset for certain roles or can have the right skillset to succeed in this structure.

Another significant difference with how you should approach OD is with learning and training. Unlike other CM initiatives such as systems implementations, there is traditionally minimal learning and training required with OD.

It’s great to see CM at the forefront of business and technology changes and being given the spotlight it deserves, but we need to begin dispelling the myth that there is one-size-fits-all approach to manage change. In addition to staying true to the fundamentals, every CM project will require its’ own unique approach as demonstrated by system implementations and OD examples above.

I’m happy to share a bit of my insight and want you to know that this is one of many CM and Learning mythbuster’s to come. Stay tuned!



Krista Schaber-Chan Managing Partner Toronto



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