Breaking Down My Elevator Speech

I've reached my "final answer." Have you?

I've reached my "final answer." Have you?

A few articles ago I shared my “elevator speech” about what Change Management is and promised to break it down for you in a future article.  Click here for a link back to that article.  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.  I think of those fifteen words in four parts.  

  1. 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).
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

If you are counting, you will notice that I only discussed thirteen.  I did not include from and to in the breakdown above.  To me, these are part of the first item, moving.  So maybe that could be called moving from/to.  Alternatively, the “from” could have gone with 3 and the “to” with 4.  In the end, to me, it wasn’t critical for the analysis.  Rather it was a personal preference.  A key point about effective Change Management … focus on what’s important and don’t bother with the non-essential.  The specific placement of these two words is “non-essential” to the breakdown (at least in my view).

In the end, this is simply my definition of Change Management.  One of thousands out there.  This one has evolved over years of practicing, listening to people argue and debate, and participating in a myriad of on-line discussions related directly and indirectly to this topic.  I think we need to keep the definition simple.  I’ve observed that people often make it too complex.  Focusing on the “how”, rather than the “what.”  I want to keep it simple.  The “how” is part of creating the solution. 

I hope you understand my definition and breakdown.  I don’t expect or need you to agree with it.  Or argue about it.  I see enough of that already.  I am hoping that you take a few minutes to process it.  To think about the various elements and what they mean.  That’s what is truly important to me – that you stop and think.  It’s taken me 20 years to net my definition down to something this short and sweet.  As always, it’s subject to revision as I continue to learn.  However, I do think this one might just be my “final answer.”  Feel free to use this definition if it makes sense to you too.  I’m off now to ponder more on chocolates, rubber bands, metaphors, and analogies.

Categories : Change Management


  1. Bob Dodge says:

    Faith, I think you are on target by what you did not say. You did not exclude managers and leaders who also must change. You did not exclude the reasons why people might not make the change (by saying it is all about getting buy in, selling the desired state, or communications). You included history and culture, and the fact that the individual’s perspective is critical.

    Great job, in my view.


  2. Long Huynh says:

    Well done, Faith. As a matter of fact, I’ve put your definition on Twitter with a reference to this article. Hope that you get more exposure from that.

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