Strategy & Leadership

Why change management is trickier than it seems

October 1, 2015

Major change processes will not work if the consequences of the change for the everyday practice of the employee have not been well thought out. Be clear about that, advises Geert Heling, teacher of the TIAS Change Management Master Class.

Change processes are often launched with the idea that, once the change is in place, all problems will be resolved. With that expectation in mind a change project will never deliver for the expected result. Change management is more difficult than it seems and many organizations run into problems. Implementing changes remains "wicked stuff" in practice. 

There is no general, generic approach to implement changes. Each case is always slightly different. Participants of TIAS' Change Management Master Class learn that every change requires a situation-specific approach. Hence the varied program of the master class. Change management involves many different disciplines, such as project management, leadership, organizational management, psychology, etc. 

Any organizational change requires a change in people's behavior. This means that every person involved needs to make a choice: do I participate in the change or not? The choice is up to the individual and that choice is not the same for everyone. The basis for deciding whether or not to participate in the change varies per individual. This calls for an individualized approach. 

The question for many managers involved in change projects is how to motivate the employees. By asking that, the manager already makes a distinction between himself or herself and the employees. It then becomes "I" versus the rest, which is a false dichotomy. Many employees seem to be tired of change. Even when they would actually love to change. That is understandable if you have already gone through several change processes and they have not brought any benefits for you. 

You also often come across a misleading positioning. Many changes are introduced with cost savings in mind, while being "sold" internally as a more efficient, better, and more pleasant new way of working. The promise to the employees is that the change will, for instance, reduce their administrative burden or that the new IT system will save them a lot of time. But it is often not entirely clear how this method works out in practice. The employee does not know in advance how his or her own work will change. Not enough attention is paid to that. Management is often not transparent about it either. And there is the danger that, once the change process is over, the employee will simply continue working as before. The employee notices little or no change. And this increases aversion to yet another change initiative. 

Telling employees that the next change will be the last one is an empty promise. The reality of most organizations is that there is a constant flow of change. The idea that a problem requires one simple solution is outdated. A good change process should be simple, small-scale – divided into small parts – and realistic. A process in which employees should always be involved. It is, therefore, imperative to be realistic and transparent about the objectives and approach. And think especially carefully about what it means to the everyday work of all those involved. You do not just want to persuade them, you want them to own the change. 

Do you want to implement changes effectively?
Do you want to change your organization permanently? The Change Management Master Class gives you a thorough understanding of the various processes involved in organizational change so you will know how and when to intervene appropriately.

Read moreabout this Change Management Master Class 

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