As change managers, we often find ourselves explaining what change management is and why it is important. This justification can sometimes feel like a never-ending cycle, which can drain our passion and energy. But we have compelling data to keep in our back pockets when we are convincing our senior leaders, project managers or clients why they should invest in change management. This data is the correlation of change management effectiveness and achieving project outcomes. Because the truth is that today, everyone wants outcomes.
The Bottom Line
Since 2007, Prosci has analyzed the correlation between change management effectiveness and what we all want from our projects: outcomes. The correlation has been positive since we started this research, and has even increased in strength over time. Here’s what we found in Best Practices in Change Management – 2016 Edition :
Only 15% of projects with poor change management achieved their project outcomes, whereas 94% of projects with excellent change management achieved their project outcomes. Bottom line: projects with excellent change management are more than 6x as likely to achieve their outcomes than projects with poor change management.
But it gets even better! We also see positive correlations between change management effectiveness and projects staying on time and on budget.
What Does "Effective Change Management" Mean?
If you’re a change manager, these correlations probably don’t surprise you, but rather validate what you already know because of your experience. But you may be wondering what 'better change management' means, and I can guarantee someone will ask you. Here’s how we determined "poor," "fair," "good" and "excellent" change management: each research participant ranked these twelve factors of change management effectiveness from strongly disagree to strongly agree, and their overall score determined their level of change management effectiveness.
We applied a structured change management process
We had sufficient resources on the team to implement change management
Our change management activities were customized and scaled to fit the change and the organization being changed
Our change management team had the necessary training and expertise in change management
We integrated our change management activities into the project plan
Our business leaders fulfilled their roles as effective change sponsors throughout the entire project
We implemented an effective communications plan
Managers and supervisors engaged in the change and effectively coached their employees through the change process
We provided the necessary training to employees on new processes, systems and job roles
Our senior leaders, mid-level managers and supervisors managed resistance to change effectively
We measured compliance with the change and our overall performance in meeting project objectives
We effectively reinforced the change with employees through recognition, performance measurement and celebrations
How Can You Use This Data?
If you’re really committed, you may frame these graphs and put them in a place of honor on your desk. Otherwise, use this data when making the case for change management.
To appeal to senior leaders
When we work with senior leaders, these correlation graphs are usually in the first 10 minutes of our conversation. Why? Because it appeals to the goals and mindset of our executives: investing in what gets results. We also like to sneak in there that their involvement as active sponsors of change is a major part of "excellent change management" and thereby, the results. The adage is that a picture is worth a thousand words, but in my experience, these graphs can be worth tens of thousands of dollars in funding and the immeasurable value of senior leaders who engage in change management.
To battle common objections to change management
We hear all the time that common objections to change management are "it will slow down the project" and "it is an unnecessary overhead expense". Not only is change management correlated with achieving results, but also with projects that come in on-time and on-budget. The data just does not support these common objections.
To secure funding and resources for change management
Build this research into your business case for change management when you’re trying to secure change management funding and resources for a project. Connecting these resources to greater effectiveness and a greater likelihood of achieving outcomes makes a more compelling case to fund change management.
To get a seat at the project table
Do you have to elbow your way into the project table? Many change managers do. Use this data to appeal to project leaders by connecting what you do to what they care about: delivering results on-time and on-budget.
Susie Taylor-Patterson combines years of helping private and public sector organizations develop their change management capabilities with a deep knowledge of Prosci’s research and approach. She leads Prosci’s new development portfolio with a goal of equipping leaders, practitioners, and change agents with the most effective skills and tools to optimize their change results.