, , ,

Change Happens—How Do You Manage It?

Change Management is a planned approach to transitioning the people of an organization through a business transformation.

A unique problem with the implementation of a new system, program or strategy, is the natural resistance of certain individuals to change of any kind. Frequently, this resistance results from personnel not understanding the issues involved. It is important to reach out to users early in this process so that they will feel a sense of ownership in the project and feel that their issues are heard and addressed.

A thorough change management plan should emphasize the impact that a new program, strategy, such as CRM (Constituent Relationship Management) will have on people, processes, and technology.

Remember: Frame a new program/strategy as an organizational improvement initiative, not a technology solution.

I recently worked with the City of Cleveland and Montgomery County, MD supporting their enterprise-wide CRM (Constituent Relationship Management) deployment in conjunction with launching a 311 call center. In both instances, these municipalities developed and deployed a thorough change management plan which helped meet

the following objectives:

• On-time launch of the call center
• Project completed within the allocated budget
• Deploying call center best practices

There are multiple Change Management models and approaches available. The key is finding the one that works best for you.
Sample models include:

Regardless of the model chosen, there are key steps which every
plan should encompass:

1. Planning for change
• Define the strategy
• Identify executive sponsorship
• Size and scope the change
• Build-out the team

2. Managing the change
• Craft the team and individual plans
• Implement the plan
• Pursue a sound risk mitigation strategy
• Ensure enterprise-wide collaboration

3. Sustaining the Change
• Evaluate results
• Develop feedback loops
• Conduct gap analysis
• Implement remedial actions
• Collect new advocates

The bottom line is that the more effectively your organization deals with change, the more likely you are to flourish. A client of mine in Cleveland once told me that his definition of change management is “Either you get on the train, or get hit by it.” Perhaps a bit extreme, but the point is well taken. If you have difficulty adapting to change it could be overwhelming and it could have adverse affect on the organization as a whole.

Also in this series:

“The Impact of Ignoring Change”

Spencer Stern specializes in assessing the business and process impact of new technology-based solutions, ranging from enterprise-wide software systems to wireless communications networks. In 2008 he launched Stern Consulting and where he continues to focus on assessing the financial impact of large-scale strategic implementations.

Please email any feedback to:
[email protected]

For more information, please visit:

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Daniel Honker

Great post, Spencer, and way to distill lots of thought into such a concise summary!

I couldn’t agree more with the recommendation to treat a new program/strategy as an organizational improvement initiative, rather than a tech project. There is a switch that flips in people’s/groups’ perceptions when a project is approached as important to the organization rather than just the rollout of another tool or requirement. And that change in perception impacts the adoption of the change.

Spencer Stern

Hi Steve,

I worked with both public and private sector organizations and found public sector more challenging from a change management perspective. Drivers include: job protection/security, not being asked adapt frequently to new situations, and a general fear of accountability which change management initiatives typically bring. In future blogs I will discuss resistance strategies, but as a preview, some tips to help you overcome employee resistance include:

  • Achieve active involvement in process
  • Recognize, support and reward effort
  • Supply adequate training
  • Avoid creating “losers” where at all possible

I think a lot of IT departments don’t want to hear about proactive organizational change management because their comfort area isn’t with people, but machines. Human nature doesn’t fit into the SDLC quite so neatly. This is how you can have a technical success and a business flop at the end of the project, and both sides walk away wondering “how could they not get it?”

I had someone in a management position tell me once that it wasn’t the PM’s job to manage the organizational change aspect and to stick to nagging the coders about their tasks. They didn’t want to hear any further reasoning. All I could do was shake my head and feel sorry for that person. They’re going to under utilize every PM they ever get, and it’s more lost potential than I like to think about.

Mark Hammer

Take a look at Larry Terry’s benchmark book “Leadership of Public Bureaucracies: the administrator as conservator”.

One of the key things about public sector institutions is that internal and external stakeholders have to perceive that institution as the source/fountain of authoritativeness in a particular domain in order for it to be able to do what it does. Especially if that organization has any sort of enforcement/regulatory role or applies policies.

A major chunk of its authoritativeness comes from the constancy of its adherence to its mandate; it remains true to itself. That is not to say that the particulars of the agency could and should never budge. But it has to remain steadfast. Grandma is free to get a new table lamp and curtains, and maybe even a new carpet, but at the end of the day it still has to smell and feel like grandma’s house, or else you feel like you don’t have a grandma anymore…..and that’s upsetting, and undermines engagement.

So the challenge in change management within public sector organizations is getting people to feel like only the superficial has changed, and underneath it all the agency/institution is still devoted to the task it has always devoted itself to. “Change” without “change“.

That does NOT mean rejecting any and all change. What it means is being able to recognize the constancy underneath the superficial. It means drawing employees’ attention to what has NOT changed and will not change, and reminding them with authentic examples that YOU are mindful of this.

Debra Farmer

I think IT installations follow the Pareto Principle (the 80-20 rule). 80% of the success of the project relates to the human beings and 20% to the technology itself. Thus the great need for change management. What do you think?

Spencer Stern

Hi Debra and Steve,

I agree with both your points. Debra agreed that 80% of the success of the project relates to the human beings and 20% to the technology itself. The problem is that time actual time spent (and dollars (Steve)) is not commensurate with those factors. I have seen municipalities call a project a success if it was completed on time, even if it was not fully functional. But, hey they met their metric 😉

Overlooking the human aspect comes back to haunt many project managers, and I will detail some of those issues in my blog next week. . . Stay Tuned.

Spencer Stern

Hi Mark,

Great post, and thanks for the book recommendation. Excellent closing thoughts on how to address employee concerns regarding change.