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The Secret to Change Management

By Julie Brignac (1105 words)
Posted in Project & Process Management on February 4, 2013

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The phrase ‘Change Management’ has almost become a cliché in the corporate world.  Many companies and consultants claim to be experts on the subject, but indeed, it's doubtful that any have become masters. Why would this be the case?  Because every company, culture, environment and situation is different, there is not just one common recipe for Change Management that applies to all.


So what can you do to implement a Change Management strategy that works for your organization? You must start by understanding the critical elements of Change Management and then formulate your plan accordingly.


I can share a recent experience of mine that may help outline those elements.  We just finished an assignment working with a major utility company.  Their goal was to develop a one-day training course that would help support their recent Business Improvement program efforts.  It was interesting to work with them at this stage of their journey, and develop a unique course that would be effective.


As usual, I learn something new every time we work with a client.  In this case, it was interesting to see where their culture was in terms of driving change, and implementing processes that were intended to transform the way that they do business.


I learned a few things that can be helpful to others when considering a culture shift in your organization. 


Here are 5 Critical Elements of Change Management that you can use to set your own unique course towards change.


1) The journey has to be mapped out as a much larger exercise than developing a one-day training course to implement change.

  • Developing the material to share within the organization that provides tools and techniques is important.  However, it is equally important that a larger strategy and subsequent action plans accompany the expectations set in the training course.  Make sure that the team knows what leadership expects them to do in driving culture change when they leave the training class.  And have a follow-up plan to present at that time.



2) Don't make the class or initial roll-out discussion too long in length. 

  • For this course with our client, we elected to split it up in two four-hour sessions that will be held one month apart.  The point is to teach them tools and techniques in the first session, then after a month has passed, discuss their experiences in the second session: what they did, what they learned and how they learned it.  Sometimes sharing experiences is more powerful than any tools can be.



3)  Get the right people in the room for the first session so they can be the forerunners for future training.

  • People learn from leaders, and leaders lead by example.  Choose the first session participants carefully based on who will make the biggest impact and set the best example for the organization.  Make sure whomever facilitates these sessions has the ability to create the dialog to bring these leaders and their experiences into the discussion.



4) Conduct a pilot session.

  • Once you develop your training, conduct a pilot session to check your timing of the class delivery, presentation techniques, etc.  It will be well worth the time.  The better planned you are, the less people will feel like they are wasting their own time and the more engaged they will be in your discussion.



5)  Establish clear metrics to monitor the effect of your Change Management program.

  • To ensure the organization does not lose focus or forget after all the training that occurred, make sure you develop and roll out a tracking system for the changes you are expecting from your program.  This should be high level and can include sub level elements as well.  By making this visible you can keep the organization on track and modify your message to motivate your team in follow-up training sessions.



In the end, if these five simple guidelines are followed, a specific Change Management plan can be built and executed effectively.  And remember one last item - give it time.  As you may have heard, change doesn't happen overnight.  It takes a long time to shift an organization successfully.  But, keep at it - it can happen and always happens for the better of the organization.




Written by Julie Brignac, Principal, Vantage Partners, and a member of the firm’s sourcing and supply chain management practice.  She has worked as a transformational leader in globally matrixed organizations, with over 20 years of strategic and operational experience in supply chain management, international outsourcing, sales and operational planning, procurement transformations and business process improvement initiatives. She is the inventor of The RoSS Model®, an end-to-end project benefit financial validation process that helps organizations predict, report, and reconcile project benefits to financial statements, specifically in the supply chain arena. Julie is an Associate Adjunct Professor for the Undergraduate School of Supply Chain Management at the University of Maryland, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Online Learning for the Whitman Business School for Syracuse University. She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia, where she was a Bailey Tiffany Scholar, and a graduate degree in Business Administration and International Business from the University of Maryland University College. She is a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Lean Expert and a Certified Purchasing Manager by the Institute of Supply Management.


Here are some additional training articles you may be interested in:

Why Is It So Difficult to Implement Change?

Lessons Learned Templates & Guide: A Managers Toolkit for Continuous Improvement

Communication Essentials For Executives and General Managers 

Seven Steps to Improving Your Department’s Culture


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Comments (5)

LKR posted on: February 4, 2013

Thank you for the good insights; some new and some important reminders. I did not see "communication plan" as a key element. In my observation, this is a gap for many change efforts.

John Murphy posted on: February 5, 2013

Thank for this article and the secrets outlined are so valid. In particular, I like the advice to have clear metrics as to what success will look like. This is so often missed and then it comes down to personal opinion which is always varied.

Scott Simmerman posted on: February 6, 2013

I think that this misses a couple of key points, or it does not clearly anchor to them:

Change is linked to the attractiveness of the vision of the future. If that is not done, people are not interested.

There must be a current level of discomfort with the way things are now in order to generate a motivation to do something differently. Maybe the class can do that, but maybe not.


"Nobody ever washes a rental car." -- This is my anchor point for all leadership training insofar as the reality that if people do not have a degree (and often a high degree) of ownership, they will just simply not give a damn about your goals and desires to implement change.

Ownership is critical! They are much more likely to implement THEIR ideas than YOUR ideas. Realize that and do things differently.

It is not so much about tools as it is about Needs and Desires. I blog about this stuff all the time:



Rand posted on: February 12, 2013

Have working in change management for last 20 years. Couldn't agree with you more! My experience is that most leaders are looking only at the specific change and not considering the current and future politics, power, and culture - which are usually the issues that stop a change cold in its tracks! Also believe that managers don't believe they need to develop to be successful in change management. Here are 2 articles worth considering: The case for Leader Development and Better Leaders Produce Better Results (usually 200% More). You can read both these articles at http://www.upyourleadership.com/ReadingList/UYLArticlesonLeadership.aspx . Join first to get free access to site (no fees, hooks, come-ons - just free!)

ECW posted on: April 9, 2013

@LKR I agree that is a common denominator in any Change Management plan, often over looked and under utilized.

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