Change management vs. managing change: subtle difference in wording, massive difference in mindset

By Jeff Holland | October 1, 2019

But while a game has rules to abide by, there are variables at play–all affecting the course of the game. Enter the domino effect: everything is connected.

When organizations go through major changes–whether by choice or requirement–most significantly underestimate what it really takes.

Things like:

  • The magnitude and the impact of the changes at every level of the organization
  • The breadth and depth of behavioral changes required at every level of the organization
  • The breadth and depth of the infrastructural changes required at every level of the organization
  • The skill-sets needed to manage the changes
  • The effort and resources needed to ensure that the changes are adopted and stick for the long-term

As a result, change management is often overlooked–an after-thought or add-on to the work that’s required. Most organizations stop at the implementation stage and don’t understand what’s needed for the organization to adopt these changes on a continuous basis.

But what is change management?

Change management is the methodology for making sure that changes within an organization are implemented efficiently and that the long-term benefits are fully realized. But while it can be referred to as “doing change management” we prefer to define it as “managing change”–a subtle difference in wording, but a massive difference in mindset. Managing change isn’t a separate function of implementing change. Change management needs to be built into every strategy as an integral part of the plan. Correspondingly, it needs to be designed, executed, and managed with the same respect and rigor as the rest of the program. It’s much easier to design in the change from the onset, rather than managing it after the program has started.

What does it take to recognize and respect that change? First, you have to do your homework and be able to see the magnitude of the change from every angle. You need to be able to articulate to your organization what the vision is, what the changes will be, and the difference between the “now” and the “what needs to be.” What’s changing and why? What’s expected of the organization and all the people within it? Understanding the change and assessing where the organization is in comparison to the change is the first and most critical element of the initial change management process.

Changes can be simple, or they can be highly complex. But regardless of the change, the emphasis needs to be on the broader impact of change, particularly on people–both individually and as part of collective teams. Change is always met with a required behavioral adjustment, so everyone in the company needs to understand what’s in it for them and choose how to adapt. If not done right, change can be tremendously disruptive.

And the consequences of getting this wrong?

Well, for starters, behavioral changes might not be identified and consequently might not stick, resulting in an unsuccessful change program–a waste of time, resources, and money. Second, you can overpromise and underdeliver as an organization. This creates a gap. Without a clear mission, people will face increased confusion, cynicism, and uncertainty. Friction. And let’s face it–nobody likes feeling that way. The bigger the gap, the bigger the confusion.

In order to understand what’s required, you need to apply the same rigor of problem-solving as you would with any technical problem. When you talk about change needing the same respect as the technical, that carries implications in terms of how you manage a program, and ultimately, how you manage a business. You need discipline and problem-solving in place. And on top of that? The big “L” word: leadership. A forthcoming blog will look at lessons in leadership with respect to managing change.

Stay tuned!