Back to Blog Posts
Back to Blog Posts

Change Management Series – Part I: Your Practical Guide to Change Management

by John Zettler

March 29, 2016

I’ve recently been reaching out to readers of the Accelerated Talent Development blog to thank them, and to ask what challenges they have in their business and what other topics I could write on that would support them. One of the things I’ve consistently heard is the need for a practical guide to Change Management.

Well, here we go – the next several issues of the Accelerated Talent Development blog will be dedicated to Change Management. For the remainder of this issue, we’ll focus on describing change management and go through the high level processes of change management. Subsequent issues will focus on seeing change management through the following different lenses: Senior Leadership, Project Team, Leaders (Directors, Managers, Supervisors), and Employees.

Engaging change can be a very unpredictable experience, because processes and people evolve in diverse ways as they undergo change. No two individuals will respond to change in exactly the same way. Identical changes implemented in multiple areas of an organization often produce distinctly different results.

Here’s what you’re up against. Think of an elastic band, think of change as you stretch the elastic band. You’re changing its original state by stretching it. The challenge is, even if the elastic knows that stretching it is the best thing for it, it’s pretty comfortable in its original state, and it will have no problem reverting back to that. In our words, “Tension seeks Resolution and sometimes that resolution is to go back to what’s easy and comfortable”.

Change Defined: “Change is the ability of the organization to: plan, design, and implement all types of change efficiently; engage and secure commitment of stakeholders throughout the full change process and minimize negative impacts on people and operations so business and cultural results from change are consistently achieved.” – Beyond Change Management – Anderson and Ackerman, 2011

There are many widely recognized change models out there today, the Kotter and Prosci models being two of the most recognized. Below we’ll describe our model and the significance of each step.

The Truth about Change – The reality of change is that it’s painful and even when you do everything we describe below and in subsequent articles, the fact is that change is disruptive to your workplace and will distract and destabilize your people. Here’s what you can expect:

• Morale and commitment will drop
• Productivity and performance will dip
• Absenteeism and sick time may increase
• Interpersonal conflict will rise
• Relationships will become strained
• Impacts of the change will be felt before, during and after the change.

Your role is to mitigate the implementation dip by using strong and committed change practices.

ATD - Motivation for Change

Step 1: Motivation for Change – Any change initiative starts when an organization finds a motivation to do something different. Change initiatives can arise from internal or external factors. Some external factors include: change in economic conditions, changes in customer needs/wants, mergers/acquisitions, etc. Internal changes include: technology innovation, expansion, continuous improvement, organization design changes, etc.

Step 2: Analyze the Situation – Once you have the motivation for change, an organization needs to determine the “why” around change. In Kotter’s model, he describes this as creating a sense of urgency around the change. What we know about people is they “typically” don’t like to change just because. They want to know there is a reason for the change and in most cases they want the change to result in doing something better. At this stage, an organization would ask themselves some of the following questions:

  • What are the benefits of making this change?(The “Why” if you will.)
  • What are the costs?
  • What are the risks to the organization of not making the change?
  • What are the risks to the organization of making the change?
  • What will be the concerns of our employees in making this change?
  • How will we manage the emotional side of the change?

The essence of this step in the words of Dale Carnegie is, “Arousing in the other person an eager want.” If you can give people a reason why the change is necessary and acknowledge what they might be feeling as a result of the change. you’re well on your way to gaining acceptance.

Step 3: Plan the Direction – This is the proverbial “rubber hits the road” stage. This is where an organization would develop the plan for implementing the change. Unfortunately this is where many change initiatives fail – we’re not very good at this part of change, in large part because we just want to get at it and assume that the little stuff will work itself out. It won’t! In order to ensure that you’re change initiative has a higher likelihood of success, make sure you consider the following when in the planning phase:

  • Look at each group individually and determine what level of impact the change will have on them. Where there is higher impact, make sure you plan for more resourcing and change efforts.
  • What will the communication strategy be for implementing the change? Who, what media, when, etc.
  • What systems or processes will be impacted by the change?
  • Building a step-by-step plan for integrating the change into the organization. This needs to include both the technical and soft/emotional part of change.
  • Define the mechanism for measuring the success of the change at different phases.

Step 4: Implement the Change – Depending on the type of change, the implementation might be long and drawn out or it might be abrupt. Changes such as layoffs or mergers/acquisitions are largely not long drawn out processes, where a technology implementation or reorganization will typically be completed over a period of time. Regardless, you need to go through all the steps in the same way. Some of our secrets for success when it comes to the implementation phase are:

• Be very supportive of each other
• Communicate expectations
• Have fun – yes, you can have fun during change implementation
• Announce and launch the change
• Adhere to timetables
• Promote the anticipated benefits of change
• Keep the lines of communication open

Step 5: Review the Direction – Once the change has been implemented, it’s important to measure success against the pre-defined criteria. The change will not have evolved exactly as planned and as we described earlier, every employee will not react in the same way. What we need to do now is observe and review the change in its new form and determine if any additional change efforts are required.

Step 6: Adopt – Once the change implementation has been reviewed and found to be succeeding as planned, the new concept, approach or process is adopted and becomes part of the new organization norm. The review process is not terminated, but it transitions to ongoing monitoring of the change system and relationships within the organization.

• How well is the change meeting planned outcomes?
• How well have individuals adjusted to the new normal?
• What aspects of the change have not met expectations?

So if you’re like I used to be, you might be doubting why it’s necessary to invest time and resources into a robust change process. Here is what you can expect if you do this well:

• Faster response to customer needs
• Increased ability for your business to innovate and move forward
• Contains costs of current and future projects
• Reduces impact to day to day business operations and morale
• Reduces time required to drive future change initiatives
• Increases trust/credibility for future change
• Increased ROI

Next week, we’ll be looking at change from the perspective of the Leader. What is your role in reducing the productivity dip and how can you keep employees engaged and motivated throughout the change?

As always, if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me at jzettler@dalecarnegie.ca or call me at 905-826-7300.

Best Success!

John Zettler, Director, Talent Strategy
& Development, Dale Carnegie Training®
Contact me at 905-826-7300 x 235 or jzettler@dalecarnegie.ca


Take a look at our previous Accelerated Talent Development Newsletters! 

NEW White Paper:
The 3 + 3 of Experience Innovation
We are excited to share with you our latest research project that we conducted over the past 6 months. We believe the trends and insights will help shape your thinking and priorities as it relates to the growth of your business, increasing the capacity of your talented workforce and culture.Experience Innovation

Change_management - free downloadWorkplace Solutions: EBooks

As a global thought leader in workplace training and development Dale Carnegie Training produces guide books.  The guide books provide you with useful tips to be more effective in the workplace. Download a Dale Carnegie Training Guide Book Today!   Learn more

About the Author John Zettler brings almost 20 years of human resource experience to the challenge of better leadership we all share. He has invested his skills and energies and debated leadership with some of our country’s best leaders. Through this, he has refined a style of management that focuses on leadership conviction, authenticity and caring as the cornerstones of a more nuanced set of management skills we can all benefit from. Instead of balance in our life, he challenges us to a new style of work life blending that both gives us:1. The rush of seeing our people grow and prosper in a company that truly cares about them and their dreams.
2. The time and focus to also contribute the same level of passion to the needs of our families.

To hear more of his insights, click here to view his video as he discusses, “Leadership is Hard Work”. 


Best practices in talent development are rapidly evolving and becoming increasingly critical to bottom line performance. If you would like to benchmark your performance in this area, and learn the tools and insights of Canada’s top talent development practitioners, please sign up for our bi-monthly newsletter on Accelerating Talent Development.


 Find out about local meetings and resources to help you succeed!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *