One of Prosci's Master Instructors, Butch Alligood, came to Prosci following a career in the United States Air Force. Butch often speaks about the BLUF principle of communication. BLUF is an acronym that stands for "Bottom Line Up Front" - the idea that by beginning with a concise statement of the bottom line, a conversation or written communication can more quickly get to the point. This tutorial applies the BLUF principle to communicating the value of change management. By beginning with the bottom line, your efforts to demonstrate the value and benefit of change management can be more effective.

So, to heed our own advice, here is the BLUF for change management:

Change management drives project benefit realization and is necessary whenever a
project's results and outcomes depend on individuals adopting and using a solution.

What is the bottom line?

When an organization implements a change, no matter the size or nature or type, the bottom line is to improve the performance of the organization in some meaningful way. The change may be to fix a problem or to seize an opportunity. It may result from customer, competitive or internal pressures. It may be incremental in nature or it may be a radical new way of operating. It may impact a few workgroups or it may impact the entire organization. It may impact behaviors, processes, tools, technology, organizational structures or job roles. But, regardless of the nature of the change, organizations launch projects and initiatives to improve performance - to reach a future state that is better than the current state.

For a change to be "successful," performance must actually be improved in the meaningful way that was intended. There are various phrases used to describe this, including:

  • Benefit realization
  • Value creation
  • Return on Investment (ROI)
  • Results and outcomes

The bottom line of change is this: to realize benefits and create value.

How can you connect change management to the bottom line?

Over the last decade, Prosci has worked to define the value of change management in terms of project success, benefit realization, value creation and achievement of ROI. This shift has had a significant impact on the overall credibility and adoption of change management. However, many practitioners are still facing challenges about the value and need for change management. To engage a project team or senior leader, a change management practitioner needs to be able to directly and convincingly connect change management to the bottom line of the project.

You can make the connection in various ways. Below are four approaches you can use to make this connection:

Change management directly contributes to the bottom line of the project because...

  • In order for the organization to reach an intended future state, impacted employees must reach their own future states. The cornerstone of creating improvement is individuals doing their jobs a new way. Change management places the necessary focus on where change actually occurs - at the individual employee level.
  • When the people side of change is ignored or mismanaged, there are additional costs and risks. These costs and risks emerge at both the project level and the organizational level, and include things like active and passive resistance, morale declines, loss of valued employees, delays, and inefficiencies from rework. Change management can help avoid costs and mitigate risks on the project.
  • There are three people side of change factors that directly contribute to or constrain the project Return on Investment:
    1) Speed of adoption (how quickly employees get on board)
    2) Ultimate utilization (how many employees get on board vs. how many opt out or find work arounds)
    3) Proficiency (how effective employees are once they make the transition).
    Change management enables achievement of ROI through faster speed of adoption, higher ultimate utilization and greater proficiency.
  • Data from numerous sources show a direct correlation between change management effectiveness and likelihood of meeting objectives. Additionally, projects with more effective change management are more likely to finish on schedule and to be completed on budget. Change management effectiveness correlates to project success.

The bottom line of change management is this: to ensure benefit realization and value creation by addressing the people side of change and by driving required adoption and usage of change solutions.

Having the "right" conversation

Attendees of a Prosci webinar were asked if they were having the "right" conversation. The "right" conversation was defined as one that focuses on change management's contribution to project results and outcomes. The data shows that many practitioners still struggle with the focus of their conversation.

BLUF graph

When presenting change management to project teams and senior leaders, it is easy to fall back on describing the work you will do as a change management practitioner - conducting impact analyses, building communication plans, conducting training sessions. While these are important activities, they do not focus on what the project team or senior leader cares about.

A conversation that centers on project and organizational success will resonate and connect more with your audiences, and will start the shift of change management from a "nice to have" to a "must have."

Conclusion

BLUF means "Bottom Line Up Front" - it means starting your conversation or communication with the important conclusions. BLUF provides valuable insights for changing how you talk about change management. The bottom line for change is benefit realization and value creation, improving the performance of the organization with a project or an initiative. To use BLUF then, the bottom line for change management is how you can directly contribute to project benefit realization and value creation. By shifting your conversation from what you do to what you deliver - benefit realization through employee adoption and usage - you will be more effective in building the support and buy-in you need from project managers and senior leaders. When you introduce change management to a project team or a senior leader, are you starting with the bottom line? 

Five Levels of Change Management Maturity article

Written by
Tim Creasey
Tim Creasey

Tim Creasey is Prosci’s Chief Innovation Officer and a globally recognized leader in change management. His work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world on managing the people side of change to deliver organizational results.

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