Successful change management

Johannesburg, 21 Nov 2017
Read time 5min 20sec

The current global economy is fast-paced and dynamic. Organisations need to stay ahead of their competition by being able to adapt promptly and efficiently to rapidly changing market forces. If not, they will likely become obsolete. As Charles Darwin once said, "It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change."

Adaptation is a result of successful change and change is usually implemented through various projects. Change management is a broad field and can come from a number of sources; new IT systems, change in organisational procedures, acquiring new businesses, expanding or cutting departments, launching new products, etc. These are all examples of individual projects that an organisation may execute in order to adapt.

Due to our ever-changing economy, managing change has thus become a popular topic of conversation. Organisations are becoming more aware of the importance of successful change management, as the benefits of change will not be achieved if change management is not executed correctly and effectively.

According to the international change management firm Prosci: "Change management is the process, tools and techniques used to manage people during change to achieve the required business outcome. This incorporates the organisational tools that can be utilised to help individuals make successful personal transitions resulting in the adoption and realisation of change."

It is important to note that it's not an organisation or the business that changes, but the people within it. Change management is about implementing the transformation into the company culture smoothly, in a planned approach so that the long-term benefits of change can be realised.

The Project Management Institute states that "Organisations that manage it [change management] effectively will pull ahead of their competition. By approaching change management with a disciplined approach, organisations can survive and thrive."

The process of implementing change starts at the top. Hannes van der Berg, Managing Director of ProjectLink South Africa, highlights this as the key point to embrace when considering change management. "It's important to get the buy-in from the management and leaders, otherwise positive change will not be implemented."

Taking one step back, change management should preferably be part of the fundamental building blocks (the nature) of the company.

"One of the major pain points that many companies experience when trying to implement change, is not having planned for change from the inception of the project. This fuels the 'resistance to change' as employees do not have enough information about the change and have not been prepared for it. Employees will not support or embrace anything that they do not see the benefit in," says Hannes.

The key is to integrate change management and the culture of change within the DNA of the company. Organisations often battle with the human behavioural aspects of change, it's not all about structures and processes. The plan for change should be focused around the organisations people and getting them to invest in the change.

In many organisations, change management is usually left to the last minute, this is often too late. Implementing change effectively takes time as you are dealing with human emotions. Therefore, organisations need to take time to be transparent and communicate with employees, because if you fail to consider human behaviour, your employees will be left unsettled and they will revert back to what they are comfortable. This failure will result in the change becoming stagnate.

"To be adaptable, you need to bring in new initiatives and this is usually done through projects. To ensure successful change, one needs clear and strong management to guide the change," says Van der Berg. Furthermore, he states that managing change is done by using tried and tested methodologies that provide checklists, toolkits and outlined plans.

The ADKAR Model is one example of a goal-oriented change management model to guide individual and organisational change. Created by Prosci founder Jeff Hiatt, ADKAR is an acronym that represents the five outcomes an individual (or company) must achieve for change to be successful: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement.

When a maturity assessment is conducted, it provides information to assist an organisation in determining and selecting paths to navigate from its current state of project management maturity to a more desired state of maturity. Should the organisation choose to improve its current state, there will then be a need for change management as you are changing the organisations culture and the way in which they approach and conduct projects.

As part of the change initiative and methodology, Van der Berg says it's very important to have an internal change manager, especially if change is a new concept for the organisation. A consultant can assist and facilitate the change; for example Project Link hosts a 'masterclass' in change management, which integrates the organisation's existing and trusted manager into the methodology and process to change.

"First you have to identify the changes needed and the direction the company is heading by bringing in a new strategy for instance, and then identify the projects that will make the new strategy work," explains Van der Berg.

Whether it is embracing a new project or division in the organisation, or growing as a business completely, it's imperative to embrace change and adaptation from as early as possible and to be transparent about it on all the different operating levels. People are at the core of your business and reputation - they are your company's DNA - and by prioritising them and managing their expectations, you will be able to adapt stronger and live longer as a business.

For more information about change management and the benefits of using a consultant visit

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