Why Invest in Change Management?

By Gordon Brockway

This is another question that comes up when I am working with clients. But perhaps the subtext or nuance to the questions in more recent times is, “why should I invest that much in change management?” It is often not about the cost of any particular services that may be involved. It is usually about the investment of the time of the people impacted by the change, their leaders and their senior leadership, that is being questioned.

I would like to provide three broad perspectives in my answer to this question. The first two have a harder edge business focus, and the third, while still having business impact, has a more humanistic focus.

Perspective One - Return on Investment
A couple of factors have to come together to achieve the business benefits of a change. Bear in mind business initiatives are never invested in because of one or more outputs of the change. Initiatives are invested in because of the positive business outcomes of those outputs.

Those factors that have to come together, our reader won’t be surprised to hear, are the technical factors and the people factors.

The technical aspects of change, in my experience, are usually managed well. The disciplines of project management are well developed and there are many capable project managers and other project specialists, that when put together with the operational people, deliver a sound project. The delivery of the outputs in change management speak, is the installation.

Installation alone does not achieve the outcomes for the business. That requires implementation by the people. Implementation is the effective adoption, or application, or utilisation, of the technical outputs.

Implementation is the role of change management.

Installation and implementation, in my view, are not mutually exclusive if the business outcomes are to be optimised. They need to be managed collaboratively. They are not parallel, they are intertwined.

So, if you want to see a return on your business investment in an initiative, astute business leaders will ensure effective change management is in place.

Perspective Two - Protecting the Intangible Asset
The second perspective is about developing or protecting an intangible asset of your business.

I define an intangible asset as something that adds value to your business, but can’t be sold as a separate item. Examples of intangible assets are reputation, culture, customer loyalty, employee engagement. Of course intangible assets, can become intangible liabilities if they are not effectively managed.

The capacity of an organisation to adapt to change is one of the intangible assets. Adaptable businesses are quite simply more valuable.

If a change is effectively managed, consider what the experience of the people in the organisation will be. The experience will include:

  • Feelings of respect
  • A sense of being heard
  • Clarity on what the purpose of the change is
  • Clarity on what their role is
  • Clarity on what and when things will happen
  • Leaders leading well
  • People taking accountability
  • And, a successful outcome for the business, the customers and the community.

So, the next time people hear a change is coming along, there is a greater propensity to at least engage with the change and give it a go, if not get right behind it.

If a change is Ineffectively managed, consider what the experience of the people in the organisation will be. The experience will include:

  • Feelings of disrespect
  • A sense of being being ignored
  • A lot of confusion
  • Blame
  • Customers and other stakeholders being inconvenienced
  • And, an unsuccessful outcome for the business, the customers, the community.

So, the next time people hear a change is coming along, there is a greater propensity to at best avoid the change and at worst, prevent the change where they can.

So the second business reason for investing in effective change management is to protect and develop the intangible asset of the organisation’s ability to adapt to change.

Perspective Three - Humanistic
I think there are many leaders who will relate very strongly to this. And by the way, even this humanistic focus has a business edge, when we consider factors such as the ‘social licence to operate’.

We are all part of many communities. One of the biggest communities for most of us, is our community at work. It is bigger than our co workers. It includes our customers and the various stakeholders we have.

Change, when managed well, optimises feelings and experience of well-being. Good change management will create positive feelings and minimise, not eliminate, but minimise, the negative feelings.

Good change management therefore, is just the right thing to do by the community which we are a part of.

In summary
If you want to see how important change management is to the business, Try this. When you next allocate accountability for an initiative, make the person in charge of the initiative fully accountable for the business outcomes of the initiative and the indicators of the intangible assets of the organisation. Not just the outputs of the change, but delivering the business impacts that the investment in the change has been based on. They are fully accountable for implementation, not installation. Give no opportunity for deflecting responsibility for non delivery. To assign such an accountability, it is only reasonable that an appropriate level of resourcing is provided to enable this level of accountability. In my experience, when you do this, you will see the project planning will incorporate a serious commitment to quality change management.

September 13, 2019 Gordon Brockway