Archive for August, 2012


What is “Change Management”?

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Last year wrote two articles about what Change Management is to me.  Click here for a link back to my initial article and here for follow up article where I detailed the the breakdown of my definition.  As a refresher, here’s my definition:

Change Management (CM) is:

Moving individuals from where they currently are to where the business needs them to be.

Yep, just fifteen words.

If you are a “Change Management Practitioner,” you are likely aware that there are two emerging international associations representing change management.  The Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) and the Change Management Institute (CMI).

The ACMP recently released this definition:

  • “ACMP defines change management to be the application of knowledge, skills, abilities, methodologies, processes, tools, and techniques to transition an individual or group from a current state to a desired future state, such that the desired outcomes and/or business objectives are achieved. Change management processes, when properly applied, ensure individuals within an organization efficiently and effectively transition through change such that the organization’s goals are realized. Change management is an integral part of the overall change process and ideally begins at the onset of change. ACMP’s definition assumes that the organization has agreed upon the need for change and has identified the nature of the change.”

The Change Management Institute (CMI) does not currently have a formal definition of Change Management, but instead offers a definition of a Change Management Practitioner:

  • “A Change Management Practitioner has mastery of the change principles, processes, behaviours and skills necessary to effectively identify, manage, initiate and influence change, and manage and support others through it.”

I don’t know about you, but I get a bit lost in the ACMP definition.  While useful, it isn’t something that you could easily state during a conversation with a client, potential client, or during a conversation.  I got lost in the details…

For myself, I’ll stick with my 15 word definition for now.  I’ve concluded that for me it is really that simple.  In part, it’s because I’ve been doing this work for over 20 years.  I don’t need the details embedded in my definition of WHAT it is.  

To recap, here’s my definition…

Change Management (CM) is:

Moving individuals from where they currently are to where the business needs them to be.

As a refresher for how my definition breaks down…

  • Moving – implies a state change.  It does not talk about the activities or the pace at which the change is done.  To me, those are decisions that are made during the architecting and designing stages of the program(s).
  • Individuals – implies that the program(s) are focused on individuals and their specific needs.  I believe that it is critical to think about the individual’s needs, not just about groups.  That does not mean that you cannot group similar people together. That each individual needs their own unique program.  What I mean is that you need to conduct your analysis at the individual level.  You must ask questions and consider issues from the individual’s viewpoint. Looking at their experiences, not your own or the sponsors.
  • Where they currently are – this is the current state.  As part of that current state, you need to understand the historical situation. Why do people think and behave as they currently do?  What past experiences and situations are the drivers for their behaviors? What are the barriers? What conclusions have they reached and why?  What are the underlying reasons that the current state exists – the ones that no one wants to talk about?  If you don’t understand the drivers, you may overlook critical factors such as social and cultural pressures that may cause the individuals to “norm” back to their current state after a program is executed.  I often think about the who, what, what if, when, where, why, why not, how, and how much questions.
  • Where the business needs them to be – this is the future state. In the end, it really is about what the business needs.  In my view, if the focus isn’t on the business needs, the program will miss the mark.  Yes, as part of the business needs, you do look at the groups and the individual actions and behaviors.  However, you need to look at them within the context of the end goal, the results needed by the business.  I like to ask why, why, why at this stage. Drilling down three levels using why can help uncover interesting and pertinent information.

The HOW of Change Management can be complex, exciting, and frustrating, all at once.  That’s what makes it so interesting for me.  It’s not about just following a formula, process, or checklist, it’s about really understanding at a deep level what the business is trying to accomplish, where the employees are, and how I can help them.

Categories : Change Management
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Guiding Principles

- Think Holistically
- Seek the Root Causes
- Respect the Individual
- Demonstrate Accountability
- Collaborate with Clients
- Work with Integrity, Always
- Relate to the Business Strategy
- Ensure Alignment
- Demonstrate Responsibility
- Transfer Skills

Thoughts and Quotes