Changes ultimately come to life through the individuals who have to do their jobs differently as a result of a project or initiative. Whether the project involves a process impacting 15 people, a new technology impacting 150 or a transformation impacting 15,000, the success of the project is inextricably linked to the successful adoption and usage by those individuals. Did they get on board, or did they stay on the shore?

To help visually depict this, imagine two ships: one that represents a completed project where the people side was managed effectively, and one where it was not. In both cases, a beautiful ship was constructed, and it now needs a full working crew. However, one ship was left isolated and empty while the other ship was full of life and people who "got on board." Below are the types of things you might hear from a project leader in each situation. 

The Empty Ship The Full Ship
We thought we could just 
tell people to do it
We made a compelling case for why 
the change was needed
We designed the perfect solution 
(process, technology, etc.)
We spent as much time managing people through the transition as we did developing the "right" answer
Things were so bad before, we thought 
they would just jump on board
We recognized that the desire to 
change is a personal choice
Our executives signed the check, signed the 
charter and then moved on
Our senior leaders were active and visible 
sponsors throughout the project
We just expected that middle managers would be on board and figure out what to do We engaged middle managers as change leaders and as critical feedback channels
We told people what would happen to them 
if they didn’t comply
We anticipated resistance and worked to 
proactively address objections and concerns
We communicated project timelines, milestones, progress and design details We communicated the messages people wanted to hear – why the change was needed, how it aligned with the business direction and the "what's in it for me" or WIIFM
We ignored the people side of change We applied effective change management


Think about the projects and initiatives you've supported - have they been more like the comments on the left or the comments on the right?

It is your choice: Have you done what is needed to get people on board, or have you just built a beautiful ship? Use the 4 P's Exercise to begin connecting the people side of change to the results of a current project.

New Call-to-action

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.