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Change Management … Why is it so hard to change?


Change Management studies and practices began in the 1960’s, gaining business momentum in the1980’s and is commonplace in 2017.  Change Management incorporates communication, education, training, and deployment as part of the change management process.  Although consultants, corporate change management practitioners, and advisory organizations have developed multiple change management implementation methodologies and best practice recommendations, organizational change remains elusive and difficult.

With all the emphasis on change management and organizational change, why is it so hard to effect change in an organization?  Cultural anthropologists who study the cultural change in non-state level societies view change as gradual and undetectable to the members of the culture.  However, from the study of History, we know that some cultures have been forced to change quickly because of invasions, wars, climate change and famine.  The result is that many cultures could not change quickly enough and became extinct in a few short years.

In today’s global corporate environment, program and project managers with a defined scope, budget and timeline are not able to wait until people gradually change to the “New Way” over multiple generations of employees.  Business cases are based on rapid and successful change,  limiting the time to change is critical to the overall business success.  Like ancient cultures, lack of timely organizational change has caused corporate extinctions.

Given the success rate of change management initiatives, why spend the time and money to try to get people to change?  Bottom line; because the organization must adapt and change to be successful in the global marketplace.Based on my three decades of corporate and consulting experience managing change, I believe there are four key factors that increase a company’s chances of creating real change.

Communicate the Change Early and Often

Many communication plans wait until the program or project is nearly done before they communicate how the change will impact stakeholders. Do not wait. It takes time to change, so start the change before the project team has been assembled. Use the business vision and/or strategy and the business case to develop a conceptual picture of what “the world will look like in the future”.  Make it simple and personal for all stakeholders.  Communicate it over and over as it becomes better defined throughout the project.

Education is different than Training

Many business leaders and managers confuse education and training. Young people who want to learn to drive have weeks of classroom education learning about driving rules, regulations and impacts of poor driving before they get behind the wheel of a car. After driver’s education, they have multiple weeks of behind the wheel training and practicing with their parent before they can test for a driver’s license. We all know that it takes years of practice to become a good driver.Many businesses skip the education component and go right to the training.  Bad mistake.  People cannot conceptualize how the training pertains to their new job responsibilities.  People need both education and training to affect the positive change.

Are Stakeholder’s ready for the Change

All tasks are completed on the work-plan and it’s time to implement and change.  Really? That’s the way it works? It seldom works that way. Rather, spend time with the affected stakeholders and assess if they can make the change before you force them to change. At Reveal, our oVo® Methodology, has us working with key stakeholders in an intensive and deliberate working approach that allows us to individually assess whether an individual is capable of the change. If they are not ready, we make sure we understand the impact and employ a revised approach to mitigate the personal and organizational impact.

Change Management NEVER Ends

The program went live. Consultants have left. Employees return to the day jobs. Change Management ends.  Wrong!! Change has just begun.  Monitor the change effectively and continue to communicate what changes are still needed.  It may take many months after the program go-live before people really understand how to consistently affect the desired change. Positive reinforcement is the key to change management success.


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