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7 Key Factors for Making Change Happen

Alcide DeGagné

Change Management.

As a topic of interest, leading groups of people through periods of significant change and uncertainty became a central point of concern within the business community and press in the mid-to-late 90's.  Since then academics, consultants, retired and active business managers have written reams and volumes on the most effective ways to create lasting change within a group or organization.

In fact, as the pace of change in which we all live continues to accelerate - driven ever forward by technological advancements, global economic competition, and shifting social demographics - the publishing industry appears to bring forth books and articles on managing change at a matching velocity.

Yet despite some excellent writing on the topic that has been recently published, such as Switch from the Heath Brothers that I have previously reviewed in this space, I find myself returning to some of the seminal pieces on this topic again and again.Seasons tree-300x199

One asset  that continues to inform our Change Management practice at Delta Partners has been adapted from Human Resource Champions (1997) by David Ulrich.  Though it is not exactly current, and certainly wasn't launched via twitter or Facebook, in no way does this devalue the underlying wisdom of the content.

Seven Key Factors for Success in Making Change Happen

Key Success Factors for Change

Questions to Access and Accomplish the Key Success Factors for Change

Leading change
(who is responsible)

Do we have a leader …

  • who owns and champions the change?
  • who publicly commits to making it happen?
  • who will garner the resources necessary to sustain it?
  • who will put in the personal time and attention needed to follow through?

Creating a shared need
(why do it)

Do employees …

  • see the reason for the change?
  • understand why the change is important?
  • see how it will help them and/or the business in the short- and long-term?

Shaping a vision
(what will it look like when we are done)

Do employees …

  • see the outcomes of the change in behavioural terms (that is, in terms of what they will do differently as a result of the change?
  • get  excited about the results of accomplishing the change?
  • understand  how the change will benefit customers and other stakeholders?

Mobilizing commitment
(who else needs to be involved)

Do the sponsors of the change …

  • recognize who else needs to be committed to the change to make it happen?
  • know how to build a coalition of support for the change?
  • have the ability to enlist support of key individuals in the organization?
  • have the ability to build a responsibility matrix to make the change happen?

Modifying systems and structures
(how will it be institutionalized)

Do the sponsors of the change …

  • understand how to link the change to other HR systems, for example, staffing, training, appraisal, rewards, structure, communication, and so on?
  • recognize the systems implications of the change?

Monitoring progress
(how will it be measured)

Do the sponsors of the change …

  • have a means of measuring  the success of the change?
  • plan to benchmark progress on both the results of the change and the process of implementing the change?

Making it last
(how will it get started and last)

Do the sponsors of the change …

  • recognize the first steps in getting started?
  • have a short- and long-term plan to keep attention focused on the change?
  • have a plan to adapting the change over time?

Ulrich goes on to reflect this list from an opposing point of view:

Why Changes Don't Produce Change

  1. Not tied to strategy.
  2. Seen as a fad or quick fix.
  3. Short-term perspective.
  4. Political realities undermine change.
  5. Grandiose expectations versus simple successes.
  6. Inflexible change designs.
  7. Lack of leadership about change.
  8. Lack of measurable, tangible results.
  9. Afraid of the unknown.
  10. Unable to mobilize commitment to sustain change.

The Bottom Line

Whether you subscribe to this approach or have another methodology that has proven more effective within your context, the underlying fact is this:

Creating real change is not an event.  It is a process that requires a context, a plan, and effective, ongoing leadership.


I would be interested to know: do you use tools such as this in your management practice?  What others have you found that have been particularly useful?  Will you share them here?


Whe I start my change management seminar by asking people to state whether they like change or not, almost everyone says YES, yet the discussions that follow seem to indicate otherwise. So, it is my belief that organizations, much like people will never change unless there is a real threat to evrything we hold dear. Without a threat change will not occur, it is that simple.

By Sam Jbarah on 2011/05/31

Sam, yes I agree a major threat can and often does cause people to accept the need for change. I also agree that while many profess to be open to change, most of us in the final analysis find significant change difficult. And when one thinks about it, and has worked in the trenches to manage change, it is quite understandable. One of the reasons that I like the Heath brothers approach described in Switch,is that it approaches change that is hard to do AND coercion is not an option. In such circumstances, only a thoughtful and persuasive approach that is keyed to human nature will work. Chip & Dan Heath?s take on managing change is a refreshing approach to the subject, and one that I believe can be very powerful for practicing managers and consultants alike. Rather than adopt the usual academic approach - or the overly simplistic ?check list? approach - the authors anchor their methodology in recent research in behavioural science, and illustrate these findings through insightful case studies. Most importantly, managers can easily grasp the basic concepts without having to become change management experts.

By Alcide DeGagn on 2011/05/31

Hello Alcide,

While I have been and most likely will continue to be a fan of John Kotter and his work on the subject, I find myself more and more interested in managing humans and the human element of change. I will have to research the book you mention and see if can learn more about this. I am currently reading a book by Mike Rother titled Toyota Kata which is an eye opening experience for me as I find myself stoping and reflecting on my past experiences every other page to draw parallels.
I am fully convinced that it is about managing the human element and that developing systems and aproaches for people to learn new ways is the key.

By Sam Jbarah on 2011/06/02

Thanks for sharing these thoughts Sam.
In a separate blog, I linked Gary Hamel’s latest new video on <a >Reinventing the Technology of Human Accomplishment</a> which is a passionate pitch to put employees ahead of employees!
One comment I received from Slyvie who “Organizations can inspire themselves from “the web as a global operating system for innovation” and experiment with “reverse accountability” where employees rate their managers and results are published online, in order to foster employees’ creativity and passion, in the service of clients.” To which I come back to Hamel’s basic premise that the technology and the mindset is now in place to truly reposition managers as resources to engaged, enable and passionate employees! This is the great challenge facing Canadian organizations today. Regrettably, while much of the technology is available to make this happen, we’ve not made near as much progress on the re-engineering the human systems side of things.

What do you think?

By Alcide DeGagn on 2011/06/02

My whole career’s worth of work, it seems, is coming to a major turning point in that I am no longer interested in managing machines and products and assembly lines. We have enough people in that line of work, but not much who are passionate believers in that if we are to make any headways in todays world we need to focus on the human side. Amazingly enough the body of knowledge in this area has been ristricted to the field of psychology and organizational behaviour which most old school folks do not realy believe in, but it is where we can make serious improvements. We spent the last several decades improving just about everything and neglected the most important ingredient of all, us humans.

I am happy, thanks to the folks at Delta partners and people like you, I intend to get fully immersed in this subject.

Sam Jbarah, CQE, CSSBB

By Sam Jbarah on 2011/06/03

Thanks so much for your feedback Sam and good luck on your “immersion”.

By Alcide DeGagn on 2011/06/03

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About this Article

Posted by Alcide DeGagné
Posted on May 24, 2011

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Categories: change management, leadership, lessons learned, management, organizational development