Making Change Management Work: Three Practitioners Offer Some Guidance

Change management from the people perspective is too often a forgotten component of business process transformation. Organizations focus on getting the new processes right and putting technology components in place — but helping people who will implement the new processes accept and even embrace change is usually an afterthought. Some organizations — small and medium-size businesses as well as global enterprise organizations — have realized how critical the people piece is to success and have addressed the people issue early on in the change process.

At Forrester’s Business Process Forum, we will bring together some of these practitioners that have made change management work in their organizations. We recently caught up with three of them: Tom Coleman, Chief Information and Process Officer, Sloan Valve Company; Wade Wallinger, GM Value Chain Optimization COE , Chevron; and Ronald Sharpe, Change Management Lead, Business Excellence Team, Cabela’s.

Q: How did you get your change management program started?

Tom Coleman: Like many companies, Sloan moved ahead over the years with a focus on process methodology and projects with limited emphasis on the underlying change management situation.  While we have embedded certain change management best practices into our methodologies for many years, it wasn’t until our project management office partnered with our human resources department that a true change management strategy came together. This partnership started with myself as Chief Information and Process Officer (CIO/CPO) and our VP of human resources. Day-to-day strategies and tactics are managed by a co-leadership team consisting of our PMO Director and our HR Director of training and development. With a partnership at the VP and Director levels, we now have firm leadership for change at Sloan.

Q: How did you keep the change moving?

Wade Wallinger: We asked ourselves many years ago, “Why do some initiatives succeed and others fail?” We were in the midst of considerable internal change. We invested considerable effort to answer this question, which resulted in a comprehensive change management strategy. We apply this strategy consistently when we make changes to our business. We find that having a well-defined strategy, with full leadership support, results in initiatives that succeed at Chevron.

Q: How do you sustain the change and measure the success of the program?

Ron Sharpe: Let me begin with a bit of context. These two questions are critical for change management as a discipline. I find them critical, as they are truly not easy to identify, execution is difficult to maintain over time, and success is crucial to the individual effort as well as gaining organizational credibility for future initiatives. Following are a few thoughts on these questions:

  • While implementing major change initiatives is difficult, sustaining change is a lot tougher. The mistake that I often see is that leadership views project implementation as success; then they are off onto the next initiative. The more significant perspective for the business is that implementing the project on time and within budget performance should be the objective, and the goal should be sustained adoption with full benefit realization.
  • Measuring success with respect to change management has been a difficult challenge for many years due to the dynamic nature of managing the people side of change and the multiple factors impacting project success.

I would offer that sustaining a change program begins at the start of the project.  Too often change management is not brought into a project until the deploy phase or when the wheels start to come off the effort during implementation. At this point, the change management lead often hears, “Come in here and fix these people.” Two key components on the front end of the initiative are selecting an effective project champion/sponsor and highly skilled change management resources.   

Guiding the effort to sustainability continues through identifying and managing the inevitable people-related issues that arise and involving the affected employees early on.

Lastly, as implementation progresses developing a sustainability road map, executing against this road map, and utilizing a formal sustainability transfer plan to ensure an explicit handoff of ownership from the project team to the business. 

In regard to measuring success, I would again like to make the distinction that success is achieving the goal of sustained adoption for full benefit realization — not just reaching the objective of on-time and within-budget performance for project implementation.  To monitor sustained adoption and benefit realization of the program/project several metrics can be used to monitor and track success.  These metrics may include:

  • Financial
    • Return on investment from the original business case is a key measurement.
  • People
    • Ongoing sponsorship well after the implementation
    • Training metrics from delivery through execution
    • Customized assessments based on the specific initiative or baseline assessment(s) from early on in the project
  • Process
    • Intra- and end-to-end process measures
  • Technology
    • Application usage