Building a Toolkit for your Change Initiatives

Bill Hoberecht - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters, Project Managers, PMOs and Executives are all in the business of introducing changes that provide benefit to customers, the organization and employees.  It is the rare team that listens to your outstanding transformation idea and immediately proceeds with implementation.  This journey of change is almost always faced with resistance, challenges and detours.  Familiarity with Organizational Change Management methods is a key enabler for success.  I gravitate to Kotter's Leading Change framework, but there are other methods and techniques that might be better suited for your transformation initiative.

 You've come up with a great idea that will bring tremendous value (e.g., to customers, to the team, to the company) and you've prepared a stunning presentation to share this idea with your peers and your manager.  An hour later, you're feeling a bit down.  Your presentation was pitch perfect, yet no one responded with enthusiastic support.  Worse yet, you felt that questions to you bordered on hostile, and signaled a rejection of your great idea.  With no agreed next steps, you're ready to set aside your proposal and stick with the status quo.


Change Management Practices Can Help All Transformations - Large and Small

Large transformation initiatives are particularly risky.  Often, they involve many teams and individuals, each with their own thoughts and priorities.  Even implementation of a solution that is well defined (e.g., Scaled Agile) has little chance of success if you are relying upon your domain expertise, your ability to influence and ad hoc change management techniques.

Sometimes a proposed change seems so straightforward (to the person with the idea) that it seems easier to jump straight into implementation, and that increases the risk of failure.  While a comprehensive multi-stage change program may not be required, elements of an organizational change management methodology can be the ingredient bringing success to efforts like these:

  • (Agile Coach) Introducing, refining and optimizing a Scrum implementation.
  • (PMO) Introducing a new intake process.
  • (Project Manager) Implementing a new project management tool used by team members.
  • (Program Manager) Revising status reporting for all projects.

Why Should I Use an Organizational Change Management Methodology?

Bringing change to an organization is much more difficult than just sharing a great idea or using authority to tell people the new way of doing their job.  While these can be successful in the right situations, you can be better prepared with a broader toolkit of techniques that will increase the effectiveness of your change projects.  The field of Organization Change Management is filled with ideas and methods that can help your change initiative.  They can help structure your activities to:

  • Determine the transformation that is needed (in support of a broader organizational strategy or goal).
  • Understand the organizations readiness for change.
  • Define the change, the anticipated benefits, and the impact on customers and teams.
  • Build support for your initiatives.
  • Understand and address the responses you'll encounter.
  • Pilot and deploy the change.
  • Institute a culture of continuous improvement.

 I've probably looked at a dozen frameworks and approaches aimed at helping organizations negotiate the many pitfalls of introducing change.  Here are two that bubble to the top of my list:  Kotter (I use this extensively) and ADKAR.


ADKAR Model  

ADKAR, from Prosci, is a roadmap for engaging with each individual employee and motivating employees to understand & accept a change.  The premise is that an organizational change can only be successful when each employee is successful in accepting and implementing their corresponding individual change.  ADKAR helps address the most important question in the minds of every employee: "How does this change impact me?" 

ADKAR helps an organization build a culture of continuous improvement.  Changes are incremental, giving employees an opportunity to process, accept and implement the change prior to launching into the next incremental change.  Broad organizational change goals are achieved via the introduced of multiple change cycles.

ADKAR refers to an individual progressing through five stages of change:

  • Awareness of the need to change
  • Desire to participate in and support the change
  • Knowledge of how to change
  • Ability to implement the change
  • Reinforcement to sustain the change


Dr. John Kotter's Leading Change

Leading Change is a straightforward, linear, 8-step approach to introducing change into an organization.  Fundamental to this approach is the notion that organizational change is a leadership responsibility, and Kotter's 8-step approach is a proven roadmap for leaders.

Dr. Kotter's analysis of why change efforts fail, published in a 1995 HBR article, led to the creation of his 8-step approach - which has been slightly revised since originally published:

  1. Create a Sense of Urgency
  2. Build a Guiding Coalition
  3. Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives
  4. Enlist a Volunteer Army
  5. Enable Actions by Removing Barriers
  6. Generate Short Term Wins
  7. Sustain Acceleration
  8. Institute Change.

This is my "go to" change model, with straightforward concepts that are easy to explain to others and quite effective to implement.


Other Change Models and Improvement Methods

While I have my preferred change management models, there are many others that are quite good.  Here's a sampling:

  • Lewin's Change Management Model.  Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze.
  • Managing Transitions - William Bridges.  Ending, Losing, and Letting Go; The Neutral Zone; The New Beginning.
  • Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM).  A ten-step comprehensive change management methodology.
  • McKinsey 7-S Model. Tom Peters and a couple of colleagues at McKinsey devised this diagnostic to help analyze your organizational design - it helps identify the interactions between three "hard" elements (strategy, structure, systems) and four "soft" elements (shared values, style, skills, staff).  In essence, this model helps identify those changes that are necessary for the organization.
  • Deming Cycle. (PDCA/PDSA).  Sometimes, and more properly, called the Shewhart Cycle.  A systematic and continual process for learning, introducing incremental changes, and learning.  (Plan, Do, Change/Study, Act).
  • IDEAL, from the Software Engineering Institute.  A five-step process improvement model (Initiating, Diagnosing, Establishing, Acting, Leveraging).
  • Lean Six Sigma/DMAIC.  A very disciplined approach to identifying & removing non-value adding activities, while also identifying and eliminating process variation. (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control).
  • The Kubler-Ross Model (Grief Model).  Although created as a model for describing reactions to a death (i.e., a significant change), it can be helpful in understanding the reaction over time of individuals and teams to a significant organizational change initiative (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance).


Parting Thoughts - Next Steps

The proliferation of models to guide your Organizational Change Management program can be overwhelming. 

How to choose the right approach for you?  Consider perusing 2 or 3 models, becoming familiar with their focus and approach.  The one that seems a natural fit for your leadership style and the organization's culture is a good choice to study in more depth.

When it comes time to make use of the model (perhaps supplemented with elements from other models), exercise care in adoption - balance the value in strictly adhering to the model's rigor with tailoring you may need for your application.

Best wishes in leading your organization through a transformation!