Why is change management not simple?

By | March 17, 2018

Change management should be relatively simple. Ideally it should take little effort or at least the effort is proportional to the complexity of the change.  Results from change management should be achieved faster.  Who wouldn’t want changes to be simple? Is my personal perception wrong?

I do not consider myself an expert in change management. But I have enough experience to intuit when something does not seem right. My perception is framed by a background dominated by implementing and managing business use of information and network related technologies.  My experience in change management ranged up to changes affecting international networks.  So, I have made enough mistakes and worked with enough experts, and not-so experts, to sense when things are going to get complicated and, either pro-actively or re-actively, try to eliminate or minimize the impact.

How do we make it simple and successful

There are several approaches which on their own or in combination can make change management simpler, easier and more successful.

In no particular order:

  1. How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”  In other words, take the single, large, complex goal and break it down in smaller, simpler goals. Transition the changes rather than have a “big boom” from one change.
  2. Don’t mix fixing and improving the existing with introducing significant change.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate.  Whether it is simple or complex, if you have not successfully communicated the nature and impact of the change than you are in for a surprise.  That surprise will not be pleasant.
  4. Have the active support and participation of the change sponsor and key stakeholders.
  5. Get early and frequent feedback from those who will be impacted by the change.

How to approach change management

My process diagram for change management simply consisting of only two actors and one use case:

Those who want the change > the change > those who will be impacted by the change.

So, perhaps naively,  to make change management simple:

  • Those who want the change – Get their active support and participation and ensure there is recognition that they are accountable for the success of the change.
  • The change – Success increases proportionally with the clarity and agreement with the scope and the simpler and less complex the change.
  • Those who will be impacted by the change – Get their active support and participation and ensure they understand what is being changed and that “Those who want the change” understand the concerns and impacts identified by “Those who will be impacted by the change.”

I recognize that there is a third actor, those who implement the change, but thoughts on that actor is for another article.