What is change management? It's all about people!

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Change management is the support and leadership for the introduction of a new process, product, system, software or strategy to a team or organisation.

There are four main elements of successful change management:

  • Understanding when, how and what to change

  • Taking an innovation from an idea to a business case

  • Driving the change through the business

  • Managing relationships to make it stick

In this series of articles, I’ll summarise the current thinking and techniques used in change management and I’ll share some triumphant successes and catastrophic failures in change management. I'll also suggest a few ways you can humanise change management to help make it more successful for everyone.

Simple challenge activities for you to share

But first, a challenge to pique your interest! These are my favorite activities to illustrate the challenge of change. You can try it yourself at home or in the office, share it with your friends and family, or experiment with your team. It takes only a couple of minutes to share and debrief.

Challenge 1:

1.    Cross your arms

2.    Now try crossing them the other way

Challenge 2:

1.    Clasp your hands together

2.    Clasp them the other way

How did it feel when you had to alter your usual way of crossing your arms or clasping your hands? Could you do it without thinking? Was easy or difficult? Were you surprised? Uncomfortable? What happens if you try it a few more times? Does it get easier?

Why is change so difficult?

It’s amazing that even small changes can make us feel unsettled and even physically uncomfortable! We’re very used to doing things one way and that means that doing things a different way actually feels different, and in some ways quite unnatural. If we’re not used to change, we sometimes even rebel!

Change management is fraught. From enormous projects such as launching a new, worldwide system, managing climate change, developing renewable forms of energy, to personal projects like losing weight or quitting smoking, humanity seems to change slowly with backward steps and resistance.

We push back, we fail to execute, we lose motivation, we put it off, we rationalise our incapacity and in particular we seem to fail to support each other through a change process. Many of us don’t reach out to others when we see our change efforts failing. Defeat is better managed privately, an no one really want to share the bad news.

Failure comes from many links in a long chain of activities or behaviors. However, failure is primarily the result of one or more of poor planning, communication, execution or follow through. Above all a change management project usually fails because we fail to reach out to others, support people through the change and bring others along on the journey. The human element of the change is the key element to success or failure.

In the next article in this series I’ll discuss some catastrophic failures and brilliant successes in change management and how people respond.

Dr Katherine King is Chief Operating Officer and Product Owner for the Dazychain at Yarris. She manages the Dazychain team and product roadmap, new customer business requirements, product configurations and change management.