The business of change


At the start of my career I was a computer programmer and back then software development projects were notorious for being late, over budget and often not meeting customer requirements.

Indeed, a famous “CHAOS” report produced in 1995 by ‘The Standish Group’ ( found that only 16.2 per cent of software projects were completed on-time and on-budget and for larger companies this was just nine per cent of all projects.

The report was instrumental in changing the way software and IT projects were planned and managed and even spawned a new methodology known as “Agile”, designed to provide early visibility to customers (and hence feedback) and tighter monitoring of the cost, schedule, scope and quality elements of a project.

As a result, there were definite improvements to software and IT project deliveries but still many still failed especially often due to a lack of take-up by staff.

Around about the same time that the Standish published its CHAOS Report, another methodology was beginning to take shape which we now refer to as ‘change management’ which focused on how to prepare organisations for change.

Whereas project management focuses on the technical side of a project (what has to be delivered, to what standard, by when and for what cost), change management focuses on the people side and provides tools and techniques for understanding the people impact of the project and how best to manage this.

This is neatly summed up by Ron Stewart, Executive Director of Prosci, Canada (Prosci is a leading change management practitioner and accreditation company):

“While the project team prepares the solution for the organization, the change team prepares the organization for the solution”.

Change Management is necessary because it recognizes that most people resist change in business. Why? Because when a change is significant and/or radical, it may actually represent a ‘paradigm shift’.

In such a scenario, knowledge and skills acquired under the old way of doing things may no longer be applicable or even useful and hence represent a threat to those who have achieved certain positions or status within an organisation based on these.

Without proper communication to the affected staff, it is easy to see how the proposed change is likely to be interpreted negatively and hence resisted.

In practice though, businesses still need good people and it is rare the threat leads to a wholesale change of staff.

Indeed, if the change is being made for the right reasons, very often it leads to improved conditions and business results, but it is very hard to achieve this if staff are rebelling against the change itself.

This is where the application of a proper change management process yields significant benefits and there are plenty of them out there.

They each has their own way of doing things but there are a number of common characteristics that I shall list below and which are well worth considering when you need to introduce an important change into the business:

– Be clear about the nature of the change and the reasons for doing it now

– Ensure people understand why the change is necessary and what the expected benefits are

– Explain the impact on all individuals affected (overall business impacts are best communicated by the CEO and personal impacts by the individual’s line manager)

– Communicate with staff frequently on progress and provide opportunities for feedback, Q&A

– Enlist advocates and influencers to help with the roll-out

– Ensure that staff are properly trained and check on their ability to apply the learnings

– Regularly check to ensure that people are not drifting back to their old ways

Ian Ash ACC, AInstIB

Managing Director OrgMent Business Solutions –