Change Happens – For People and Organizations

Change Happens – For People and Organizations

We all know that organizations are made up of people. Well sometimes in the throes of a major change we get drawn into “Big Think” or “Systems Orientation” modes.

Here are some thoughts on maintaining the right perspective.


Change Happens in Stages

Any major change in an organization has a beginning and end with several distinct stages along the way. Here is simple way to illustrate this…

Organizations are entities unto themselves with their own needs, fears, values and personalities (culture). They adapt to the environment (and changes to it) and they experience the six stages of change.

Individuals experience the same six stages. But they do so at their own pace not necessarily at the same pace of the rest of the organization.

Key Things to Keep in Mind

  • Change does not just “happen” – It must be embedded, intentional, organized and led.
  • Change is a choice – A change and its benefits happen only when employees adopt the change for themselves – not because someone told them it was a good idea.
  • Leaders are critical – Leaders are the bridge between the organizational level change and the individual change. Employees look to their leaders during times of change.

When organizations and individuals progress through the stages of change at different rates projects can get stalled, run over budget and can even fail.

So how do we avoid this and help individuals and organizations progress together?

Keeping Everyone in Sync

1. Measure and compare – Use an assessment of where the organization and each person is on the curve. Measuring factors like the morale, how people are perceiving the change, what activities are going on and what messages are being sent and received are key to getting a complete picture.

2. Treat individuals as individuals – Everyone has unique behavioural needs based on their experiences and individual make up. Use behavioural or “style” assessment tools to get a valid picture of these and address them each in their own way.

3. Track your progress – Create a dashboard of where everyone is and where the organization is. Make it simple, visual and update it often. Here are two that are simple and effective…


Individual/ Team Level

*Each colour represents a different personal style.


Organizational Level

*Each icon represents the number of people at that stage.

4. Take action in the moment – Leaders are the key to helping people through the curve. Leaders need to take action in the moment. Give them the skills and tools to coach their teams when members need it.

5. Make course corrections – This is a process not a quick or one-time fix. What worked for a team member during the “long slide” may not be effective when they are at “rock bottom”. Leaders need to adapt their techniques for each individual at each stage of the curve.


Make sure you are managing both the individual and organizational progress through the six stages of change. The success of your project depends on it!

Change Management and E-Learning

Change Management and E-Learning

Head, Hands and Heart

Let’s talk about learning and change management. As Change Professionals,  we often are asked to educate and provide skills as part of a change mandate. I want to dive into this as it can be a bit daunting.

There is a model of change that uses the metaphor of the head, hands and the heart.

This means appealing to the logical, tactical or physical and emotional sides of a change for people to embrace the change effectively and fully. This metaphor can be used in the learning realm.

Today’s world offers a lot of technology based or e-learning options. Leveraging e-learning can be very efficient and effective as part of your change learning responsibilities.

When choosing methods for increasing personal capabilities remember to choose the right kind of training for the right kind of learning. There are learning situations for the head, others for the hands and still others for the heart. What do I mean by head, hands and heart learning? Here are some examples to give you the basic idea:

How Does This Apply to E-Learning?

E-learning has many definitions but usually involves self-directed learning delivered via some sort of technology. By it’s very nature self-directed learning will be best suited for procedural, fact based, task based types of material which are hand and sometimes even head types of content.

To appeal to “heart” types of learning requires personal contact with either a team, a leader or a facilitator.

Here are 4 practical questions to determine if you need a “heart” learning delivery method…

  1. Will the learning be most effective using role playing?
  2. Are participants learning about how they feel or react to change or a situation?
  3. Does the learning involve reaching group consensus around issues/ topics?
  4. Is it important for an intact team to experience the learning together?

If you answered yes or most likely to any of the above then you should be considering a facilitated instructor led learning approach. Minimize the temptation to use an e-learning approach.


Don’t be wowed or lured by the “coolness” of e-learning solutions if you have a “heart” learning situation. Choose what will be best for the learners and the situation.

Change Management Portfolio

Change Management Portfolio

Most organizations are experiencing multiple changes at the same time and this trend will continue if not intensify.

Many organizations are experiencing “change overload” and have been in overload for almost a decade. In a recent survey of over 1700 organizations nearly 75% of employees stated that they are at or near change saturation… and this stat has been consistent for nearly 8 years![1]

Here 3 things to consider to manage a portfolio of multiple projects…

1. Change is both individual and organizational

Change happens as part of a process. There are many models that describe this but here is the six-stage model we use.

People experience each stage in their own way with their own needs, fears and motivations. We can never forget that the “program level” or portfolio is made up of individuals going through this journey.

2. Ripple effects

The stage and impact of one change will influence the stage and impact of other changes that are happening simultaneously.

A person’s perspective of their change journey is a combination of all of the changes they are experiencing at once.

The diagram above illustrates this cumulative overlap effect for Jamal. He is at Jumping In for the Blue Change project but he is at Rock Bottom for the Yellow Change project. The result is that he may be exhibiting the emotions and behaviours of being at the Long Slide.

When designing readiness surveys, focus group sessions and other change activities design them to allow for this cumulative effect. For example is when surveying, allow people to express how multiple changes are influencing their change readiness.

“When you think about all the changes happening in the organization, which one impacts you the most?”

3. Keep it Simple

We have all heard the acronym KISS…Keep it Simple Silly. Juggling multiple projects can get complicated so set up a dashboard that tracks the people side of change in a simple visual way and one that can be rolled up or drilled into as needed. Here examples of dashboards that we use…

The first shows a snapshot of a team of individuals going through a particular change.

The second shows the impact of each project. Each coloured icon represents a different project. The number in each icon is the number of people for that project at that stage.

This shows the cumulative effect of multiple changes across an organization.


Managing a portfolio of change initiatives is a challenge. Remember change is experienced by individuals, one change influences another and measuring in a simple way will help you stay on top of everything.

[1]. Prosci, 2018, Best Practices in Change Management – 2018 Edition

Keep It Simple for Success

Keep It Simple for Success

Anyone who has led a major change in their organization knows that change is painful, complicated and messy. What if there was a way to make it simpler, easier and less painful? (Note that I am using relative adjectives because NOTHING will totally eliminate these aspects of change.)

There is a widely used acronym called KISS…

Keep It Simple Silly
(insert any other “s” word here)

Here are 4 things you can do to keep things simple when it comes to implementing major change…

1. Be real and realistic

Tell people what is really happening. No corporate speak or spun messages. They can tell. That’s the being real part.

Be realistic and do not expect miracles. Get to know what can be done with the budget, talent and timelines you have available. Set expectations that can be met.

2. Adjust and adapt

This project is not going to happen the way you think it will – even with a lot of careful planning. Plan on your plan getting revamped, recast and re-everythinged as you go through the journey. Have contingencies built in to allow for the unexpected… it is expected.

3. Measure what matters

Don’t go Gantt chart and variance report crazy. Find the 2 or 3 (okay maybe 4) key metrics for defining the success of your project and keep your eyes on that prize. Make sure the people doing the work are doing the work and not distracted by tedious project report update meetings. Short, sweet and to the point is always better. Here’s a simple dashboard we use to measure how many people are at each stage of adoption.


4. Balance pull and push

Help people through the change with the right balance of compliance and commitment. Each person needs to process and accept the change in their own ay in their own time. Accept that and help them – not push them – through it. Major change will not stick until enough people have embraced the change. Understand where people are and what they need to get them through it.


Keep these four things in mind as you embark on a major change with your organization and it will help you “KISS” away a lot unnecessary disruption and stress.

Change Scorecard

Change Scorecard

Measuring the progress of people through the journey of change is a challenge for many projects. Any well run project will assume measuring “the big three” – time, tasks and budget. But what about the metric that really matters, the people dimension?

A project can be on time and on budget with all tasks completed but if there is no measure of adoption of the change how can we label it successful?

Here are 3 things to consider when measuring the people side of a project.

1/ Measure What Matters

What is adoption or buy in? Just training people on a new procedure or way of doing things does not equate to using those skills or behaviours back on the job. In the world of training and development there is a widely used notion of “levels” of training measurement. These are:

  1. Did they like it? – Was the training experience one that was conducive to learning i.e. materials were useful, instructor was effective, flow was easy to follow etc.
  2. Did they learn it? – Can you observe the person using the tool, software, skill or demonstrating a behaviour without assistance? (Usuually conducted during the learning session)
  3. Did they use it? – Here is the critical level of measure for this discussion. Can you observe the person using what was taught back on the job in their day to day work environment? Are they choosing to use what they learned back on the job?

It is the 3rd measure that demonstrates buy in or adoption. Make sure you’re measuring what counts.

2/ Measure the journey not just the destination

Measurement is about knowing when you have succeeded but it is also about knowing where you are on the road to getting getting to success. So having a roadmap with critical stops along the way give you information about how to adapt our support for those on the journey. Educating people about those stops also gives them a heads up on what to expect and make it easier for them to travel the journey a little easier.

3/ Keep it visual and simple

Remember that any measurement system or scorecard is a tool for the project. Sometimes maintaining and explaining the measurement system takes up almost as much time as doing the work of the project! I remember being on a project that took me one full day of updates and producing reports. The tail was wagging the dog!

Here are two simple and effective scorecards that we use to measure both the individual and organizational journey of change and each takes only minutes to produce.

Team Scorecard


Organization Scorecard

Each of these provides quick insights into who is where on the journey to adoption and helps shape course corrections, extra support etc.


What gets measured gets managed is a cliche that rings true when it comes large change projects. Considering the three points above when creating your scorecard will help you keep things on track and headed towards success.

Change and Culture

Change and Culture

If you are a change leader, chances are you’ve heard this phrase “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” What does this mean exactly? While your strategy may be fully functional on paper, without understanding the culture (and cultures) of the workplace, that strategy may fall short in making change stick.

You’d better have a clear understanding of your company’s work culture (and cultures) before you ever embark on a change initiative.

Here are 4 things to consider regarding culture change in order to ensure a successful change.  

1/ Cultures vs culture

A large scale major change will necessitate a shift in culture in order for the change to stick. In other words, a big change requires a change in cultures. Organizations are made up of many micro-cultures that come together to make up the overall company culture. Therefore, it is the changes in the micro-cultures change leaders should be focusing on. Start by identifying the micro-cultures in all key stakeholder groups that are impacted by the changes.

2/ Map culture shift by stakeholder group

Certain stakeholder groups will require a bigger culture shift than others. Mapping this by stakeholder group will give you a perspective on which change strategies and tactics you’ll need. It will also give you a chance to determine the priority level and effort needed. This will ensure you’re addressing the real effort required.

3/ Culture shift happens at Rock Bottom

Change happens as a process at various changes. The “real” cultures are tested and revealed at Rock Bottom and during the “Danger Zone” when people are most challenged. Focus your efforts especially during these stages of change for the greatest impact.

4/ Measure the journey

Keep a simple visual dashboard of the individuals and teams through the various stages of change so you know when to implement your culture shift strategies.


Use these ideas and tools and you’ll be able to make your change stick because you will be effectively dealing with the toughest aspect of change: cultures.