By focusing on the individuals impacted by a project or initiative, change management helps us to define change at the right level, and drive the adoption and usage necessary for projects to deliver results and outcomes. To achieve this focus, a shift from "process centering" to "individual centering" is necessary.
During the 1990s, organizations were swept up by process centering or rethinking their operations from the perspective of business processes instead of departments, functions or organizational hierarchy. As organizations have grown and evolved, and decision making and ownership have been pushed farther out in the organization, it is time for another shift.
Change is the new norm—no one expects the rate or amount of change to decrease in coming years. For organizational change to be successful, individual employees impacted by the change must make their own successful transitions. Each must engage, adopt and use the change in their processes, systems, behaviors and jobs. Instead of process centering, we must focus on individual centering of change in organizations—a task that effective change management directly supports.
Change happens at two levels: the organizational level and the individual level. We often think about change from an organizational perspective, e.g., installing an enterprise resource planning (ERP) application, re-orienting a sales team by vertical industry instead of region, or implementing electronic medical records. This is the perspective of projects and initiatives, and it is easier. However, an organizational change ultimately impacts how people do their jobs. Individuals must enter data into the new system, engage clients in a new way, or maintain patient records with the new software. The individual is the unit of change.
Organizational change is like a mutual fund. Although it is easier and more convenient to think at the mutual fund level, a mutual fund doesn't actually perform. The performance of a mutual fund depends on the performance of each of the stocks that make up the mutual fund. Organizational changes alone do not perform—their performance depends on the success of each individual, who must follow new processes, use new tools, or exhibit new behaviors.
Let's take a look at how Prosci's approach to change management addresses impacted individuals, or those who have to change how they do their jobs when an organization implements a project or initiative.
We introduced the 5 Tenets of Change Management in the second edition of Change Management: The People Side of Change nearly ten years ago, and they remain valid today. Together, the tenets offer a framework for introducing, defining and positioning change management within the context of the expected results of a change.
Tenets 2 and 3 address the impacted individual directly. Tenet 2 says, "Organizational change requires individual change." This means that when an organization implements a project or initiative, particular people will have to do their jobs differently. Sometimes it's a few employees, sometimes it's many. Sometimes the change is not that dramatic, other times it's very dramatic. In any case, organizational change requires individual change.
Tenet 3 says, "Organizational outcomes are the collective result of individual change." This means that we only realize benefits and achieve results when employees engage, adopt and use the change. If employees do not make their own personal transitions successfully, or make them slower than expected, project outcomes are compromised.
These two tenets help to set the stage for change management as the solution to support the individual transitions caused by an organizational change.
The Prosci ADKAR Model describes the five building blocks of successful change as:
When a person experiences a change, whether at home or at work, they begin the change process with an answer to "Why change?" (Awareness), followed by the personal decision to make the change (Desire). Next, the person needs to know how to change (Knowledge) and demonstrate the capability to make the change (Ability). Once the change has happened, a person can slip back to the old way of doing things, unless we take intentional actions to make the change stick (Reinforcement).
In the context of individual centering, the ADKAR Model gives us direction for supporting each of the individuals impacted by the change.
Although change ultimately happens at the individual level, there are actions that a project team or change management team can take to support those changes. Prosci calls this "organizational change management" and has a research-based process for developing the strategies and plans for applying change management to a project.
The Prosci 3-Phase Process provides the guidance and tools for applying change management at the project or initiative level. The notion of "impacted individuals" comes through in each of the three phases of the process.
Phase 1 – Prepare Approach
During this initial phase, practitioners prepare the change management approach to be applied across three stages:
We consider impacted individuals throughout Phase 1 – Prepare Approach, with activities such as connecting and aligning people to success, and looking closely at the impacts the change will have on people and groups. We also anticipate resistance to change and develop tactics to address it.
Phase 2 – Manage Change
During this phase, practitioners develop specific plans to move impacted individuals and the organization through their ADKAR transitions, and learn how to measure, track and adapt performance:
Preparing, equipping and supporting impacted individuals is a key focus of this entire phase. For example, we address impacted individuals when creating change management plans, enabling managers and sponsors for their unique roles in change, and when tracking ADKAR outcomes.
In this final phase of the Prosci 3-Phase Process, the organization achieves the project’s benefits and focuses on sustaining the outcomes. Key activities take place in three stages:
The purpose of this phase is to reach desired outcomes by ensuring that individuals are supported and equipped to adopt changes over time. For example, we consider impacted individuals when reviewing ADKAR outcomes, deciding who to gather feedback from, and identifying whose compliance we audit.
Organizational change management gives us the actions, steps and activities we take as change practitioners, but each can only be effective if the individual employees impacted by the change guide our work.
The final aspect of impacted individuals shows up in measurement. Although the Prosci CMROI Model does provide tools for calculating a return on investment for change management, it is really more about shifting the conversation about the ROI of change management. Instead of asking, "What is the ROI of change management?" we ask, "How much of a project's benefits depend on employee adoption and usage?" When we focus on impacted individuals and their contribution to overall project benefits and results, we can begin discussing the impact of change management (and individual change) within the context of project results and outcomes.
It is easy to forget the individual in times of change. We think about our goal as implementing a new system or creating a communication plan. However, for organizational change to be successful, individual employees must make a successful personal transition and adopt a new way of doing their jobs. Change management provides the focus and solution for "individual centering" change, resulting in more successful change and organizational outcomes.
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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