Mar 112014

Organizations tend to develop far-reaching plans to describe their strategic ambitions, tactics, goals, milestones, and budgets. However, these plans in and of themselves do not create value. Instead, they merely describe the path and the prize. Value can be realized only through the unremitting, collective actions of the hundreds or thousands of employees who are ultimately responsible for designing, executing, and living with the changed environment.

Unless an organization successfully aligns its culture, values, people, and behaviors to encourage the desired results, failure is highly predictable.

This challenge becomes even more acute when considering transformation efforts that are enabled through the introduction of enterprise resource planning (ERP) or other technology-enabled solutions. As is frequently the case in these deployments, companies often pay a lot of attention to new processes and technologies. However, they limit their focus on the essential resource — people — and how they must work and behave in the “future state.” Though deployment success demands that employees adopt new business processes, ways of working, new behaviors, communication channels, software tools, and so on, many initiatives frequently focus the dominant portion of a change budget on how to operate the new tool and, as a consequence, underachieve or fail.

Unless enterprise leaders foster meaningful engagement, insightful understanding, and effective cooperation across employees, the value projected as part of a systems-enabled change initiative is likely to fall short of its goals.

In short, leadership teams that do not adequately understand, address, and energetically plan for the human side of change will frequently find themselves wondering why their strategic ambitions have not borne fruit or worse.

Clearly most leaders understand that people matter. However, it is frequently easier, amidst the exigencies of the moment, for leaders to maintain focus on clinical plans, processes, and burn rate. After all, these artifacts of change will not emote or lash out. Cutter’s approach empowers a change program to embrace the more difficult and more critical human issues. As a consequence, it allows the enterprise to better master the “soft” side of change management.


  One Response to “The Change Management Challenge”

  1. Ron

    I really like your message and distinction about plans (‘tools’) and values, although I’d make two points about your statement that ‘enterprise leaders foster meaningful engagement, insightful understanding, and effective cooperation across employees’. Both have to do with conventional, top-down, high-control management structures.

    The first is that, at the top, where the mindset is we’re in charge and in control, people don’t easily ‘get’ what this means in terms of time-frame (long term, sustained), effort and energy (big and lots). That mindset understands quick fixes. When it comes to acquiring new values there are none.

    The second consideration is you can’t ‘drive change’ from the top because directives don’t change values. It reminds me of the old light bulb joke told about psychiatrists: it takes only one to do it, but the bulb must really want to change. Here it takes everyone’s interest and commitment (willingness) and you don’t get ‘we’re going to do things differently’ through directives or ‘communication’. ‘Engagement’ (it’s the right word) means discussions (‘talk’) – ongoing conversations – peer-to-peer. If people all over the organization are not engaged – as a ‘big issue’ in their work lives – in talk, arguments, and negotiations about the what’s, why’s, and how’s, it’s not going to happen. So, when it comes to values, ‘making change’ comes from a new mindset, at the top and all the way down.

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