Comparative Management Report on Change management at Upper and Middle Management Levels

Change management roles of executive sponsors


Most senior and executive managers strongly support their major change projects, but many fail to take the proper steps to communicate that support. A survey of 57 companies showed that excellent executive sponsorship was one of the primary reasons projects succeed. A 1998 change management benchmarking study involving 102 companies from 20 countries captured those activities that executive managers should do at each phase of their change initiatives .


What top-management sponsors should do during the Planning Phase Explain why the change is happening; discuss the business reasons for the change and the costs or risks of not changing.


Define and communicate the project objectives and scope; tell employees what they can expect to happen and when.


Help select the right people for the team and ensure adequate time availability of these resources; provide the needed budget for the design phase.


Enlist the support of other senior managers and stakeholders in the project objectives and scope; provide a channel for key managers to provide direction at key decision points in the process.


Help the project team select their approach and timeline, and resolve start-up issues for the team.


What top-management sponsors should be doing during the Design Phase Reinforce why the change is happening; help employees understand the business reasons for the change.


Listen and respond to feedback from the organization; actively seek input from all levels of management.


Create a positive network of conversation about the project with peers and managers at all levels.


Provide updates on the project’s progress; let employees know what they can expect and when.


Stay engaged and up-to-date on the project; attend key project meetings and training sessions.


Keep other senior managers and stakeholders informed on project status and issues; help clear calendars for key decision-making meetings with these stakeholders.


Enable employees to attend change management training; personally attend as well.


Remove obstacles encountered by the team.


What top-management sponsors should be doing during the Implementation Phase


Reinforce why the change is happening; explain the business reasons and the priority for the business.


Share the change with all levels in the organization.


Provide answers to, “What does this change mean to me?” and “What is expected of me?”


Listen to resistance and respond to feedback from the organization.


Create a positive network of conversation about the project with peers and project stakeholders.


Actively participate in implementation planning; stay involved with the project; monitor progress and remove obstacles.


Ensure that adequate resources are available or adjust the implementation plan to fit available resources.


Engage middle managers in transition planning; define their role for the transition and set clear expectations.


Keep other senior managers and stakeholders informed on project status and issues.


Recognize behavior and results that are consistent with the change and reward role models.




Everyone knows that reengineering is about processes. To the great relief of many workers, the focus is taken off of them and put on the work.


“Let’s not blame people, let’s look at where the process failed.”


“If there is a problem, it’s because the process is broken. The people are doing their best to make it work.”


The workers knew these things all along, they are pleased that you have finally figured that out!


So, if we are going to change the processes, improve them, fix them, the workforce should be happy. Right? Well, there is a problem. The workforce is people and reengineering the processes means change and people have a lot of problems with change. Any reengineering project that does not factor in the difficulties people have with change and address the change issues in a systematic, structured way, is doomed to fail.


Why, if we are fixing what they wanted fixed would the workforce resist these changes? Several possibilities exist:




They may want change, but not necessarily the changes in the plan. They may have their own ideas about what should change, and frequently it revolves around someone else changing, not them.




While the new way of working may be much better, workers don’t see that there is that much wrong with the current way of working. They may see the way to make things better as just adjusting and manipulating what they do today, not the drastic and wrenching changes in the plan.




The new way may appear highly desirable, and the current way very unsatisfactory, but the process of going from here to there, the process of changing, looks too hard, will take too much energy, and is confusing and frightening. Moreover, it may appear that there are not enough resources of time, people and money.


BPR uses a rigorous and disciplined methodology to identify the current state, determine the optimum future state, and design an implementation plan. Too often, however, this methodology ignores these human resistance issues and the need to address them in the implementation plan.


When that happens, people who are targets of the change end up expending the majority of their time and energy figuring out how to stop the change, or change it until it looks like something they can live with, not what the engineers developed. This is how reengineering fails.


What can we do about this problem? If we are thoughtful and listen well, the targets of the change will tell us what to do.




If the problem is that the desired state is not very desirable we need to find out why. Are the targets making this judgment based on incomplete information? Then communication is the key. Is the problem that as the targets look closely at the change they see some things that, from their perspective, are not very desirable? For example, maybe now they will have to work in partnership with the purchasing department.


After all these years of blaming that group for all the problems, they may have some pretty strong opinions about the skills, knowledge and personal characteristics of purchasing. Now you want them to work with those people? It will never work. They see purchasing as a group that makes life worse, not better. They see themselves having to expend tremendous amounts of energy and resources to compensate for the deficiencies in purchasing. They would be much better off staying the way they are. The new way will never work.


While communication may help a little here, what is called for is changing the perspective people have about purchasing through education and providing both departments with the skills to integrate with people they have up until now seen so negatively. As they move towards that cooperative working environment, they need to see that there are rewards for changing. In other words, ‘what’s in it for them?’




When the problem is that the current state just doesn’t seem that bad and the question is why go through all this effort, the change agents, those engineers planning the change, need to communicate the why – in the language and from the perspective of the worker. Many companies have gone to the well too often with bad or incomplete information. If every year the workers have heard the same message, “we need to change or we will go out of business,” but every year they continue to be employed, they distrust the message.


Go back and check those messages from previous years. Were they an honest and accurate appraisal of the company’s situation? Were they designed for understanding by the workforce and to engage people as partners in change or were they really targeted to Wall Street or to scare the workforce into accepting change with incomplete or even inaccurate data?


Sometimes, the first step in getting people to accept the need to change is to educate them about the state of the business and how to understand what the current state is. In addition, they need to clearly see how their current rewards in the form of paychecks, job stability, and reinforcement for the current way they do their job is going away in the marketplace. The worker needs to know the real situation. What are the rewards in terms of performance reviews, merit increases and promotions that would keep people operating in the current state? These rewards need to be systematically removed when they are rewarding behaviors, actions, processes, and results that will not support the new environment.




These two steps, defining the future state and showing the dangers in the current state are not enough, however. Even the most committed workers will find it difficult to go through the delta of change required in a reengineering effort. Therefore, it is critical to build into the implementation plan attention to the three change elements that have surfaced in this discussion: communication, education/training, and rewards/reinforcements.


Companies and people have no choice: they must change to survive. They do have a choice, however, in how they change. Deciding to manage change by applying an organized, structured methodology is the clear choice of successful companies. When they do this, changes are implemented faster, cheaper, and with a minimum of pain and disruption to people. Since every company is struggling to make changes, those that can do it successfully have a strong edge over their competitors who struggle and often fail. Change management is a key factor in making the changes from business process reengineering successful.


Strategies for Managing Change


Countless articles in the popular press remind us that the pace of change in today’s world shows no signs of slowing. Coping with the effects of change is a constant challenge as organizations strive to remain competitive in a fast-paced global environment. When the implementation of new human resources business processes and systems is added to the mix, the resulting effects upon employees can make any organization ask, “What’s the best way to manage this change?”


HR departments are often at the forefront of initiating change within an organization. As HR is driven to provide strategic information to support enterprise-wide decision making, it becomes the proving ground for new technologies, processes, and systems. It’s only logical, then, that HR managers lead the way in highlighting change management as a critical success factor for this type of project.


With so many companies deploying enabling technologies and redesigned business processes, numerous change management consulting services have sprung up to meet the need for assistance in carrying out the process. Choosing a partner to assist in planning and managing the changes associated with a system implementation can be daunting.


Understanding the factors that drive change, and how people react to it, is an important first step. Finding a partner who understands the underlying principles of change, and uses them to develop a comprehensive change management framework can help ensure the success of the project.


People Naturally Resist Change


It’s human nature to resist change. As creatures of habit, we prefer the security of familiar surroundings and often don’t react well to changes in our environment, even when the changes are positive. This holds true for our workplaces and the security and identity that a familiar job provides. Changes in the work environment trigger fears and apprehensions that are deeply rooted in the human psyche. Insufficient information about the impetus for change and its sought-after benefits is likely to cause considerable distress among those affected by the change.


Resistance to change follows some definable patterns. One typical reaction is denial, which protects the individual from having to deal with the change. If the change never occurs, there’s no need to deal with it.


Passive resistance, another common reaction, often takes the form of anxiety and subtle efforts to slow the pace of change. An individual exhibiting passive resistance will agree on the surface with the need to change, but be unsupportive of it behind the scenes. Active resistance, on the other hand, can show itself as open disagreement with the proposed change. In these cases, people actively lobby against the project and encourage others to do the same.


Resistance can undermine a system implementation if it is not properly countered with responses that acknowledge and validate the feelings that drive it. By adopting proactive change management strategies throughout the stages of a project, HR managers can implement change, reducing resistance to it and promoting communication and involvement at the same time.


Consider Several Key Elements


The adjoining chart shows eight change management strategies for the two most crucial phases of a systems project – planning and implementation.


The motivation for change typically stems from some sort of pain. People often aren’t motivated to take action until it becomes painfully obvious that something isn’t working. The pain can come in many forms, and might include continued negative feedback from customers or clients on service levels, reduced profitability, threats of acquisition, or other market pressures. An astute HR manager will translate this pain into a compelling motivation for change.


Once a driving reason to change has been identified, it’s necessary to create a vision around that change. This is a picture of what the change will entail; how the organization will get there and what the organization will look like when the change has been implemented. Once created, management needs to communicate this vision openly, bringing people into it and discussing with them how the future will be better in tangible and intangible ways.


Hand-in-hand with creating a vision, is understanding the outlook, or the “what’s in it for me?” perspective of the people who’ll be affected by the change. People want to know how they’ll benefit from the change – with new skills, streamlined work processes, or opportunities for advancement. Different employees all have different perceptions and ideas about their employer, their job, and the way things should be done. An HR manager at the leading edge of change needs to be able to empathize with the opinions, beliefs, and perceptions of a wide variety of employees.


Who can lead change in an organization? Although the vision for change may come from the top, employees look to their peers and immediate supervisors for guidance. Select appropriate champions to serve as role models. The role models should feel passionate about the change and be able to sell its benefits to others. An effective champion is a persuasive communicator and a motivator, and is able to influence others without necessarily having formal authority.


It’s critical to foster a sense of involvement and ownership in all those affected by change. The more involved people feel in shaping their future, the less likely they are to sabotage the process or criticize the outcome. Levels of participation can vary, but those most affected by the proposed change should be among those most involved in bringing it about. By investing in training, an organization can enlist participation and demonstrate its commitment to its employees and to the success of the project. An HR manager should also anticipate potential barriers and actively recruit those people who might otherwise be obstructive.


Communication is an essential ingredient in managing change. No amount of communication is too much, and more is better. It’s important to understand the various groups affected by the proposed change in order to customize and target the communication method. Newsletters, focus groups, bulletin boards, intranet pages, lunchtime seminars – all are good ways of communicating to different groups in an organization. HR managers should know how information flows through the organization and which communication methods will be most effective.


Every change effort should be accompanied by an action plan. Although each change action plan for change will be different, all action plans should have the following components:


  • Strategy – a systematic course of action and allocation of resources to achieve the organization’s change goals;
  • Project organization – a clear designation of the authority, responsibility and relationships that will drive the change efforts;
  • Roles and responsibilities – a discussion of who will lead the change efforts and the specific roles of these individuals;
  • Systems – the procedures and processes that will facilitate the change implementation throughout the organization;
  • Training – teaching the specific skills that people need to enable the change;
  • Style – the behavior of managers as they move to achieve organizational goals;
  • Common values – the common bond, culture, and other factors that link team members and make them want to achieve organizational goals; and
  • Technology – the actual advancements, equipment, tools, or machinery that will affect the way work is accomplished.


Recognition is needed to reinforce changes in an organization. Tangible and intangible rewards for changed behavior, new attitudes and new competencies will maintain and advance the changes. An effective HR manager will make sure that people know that rewards will accrue. Be creative; incentives other than money can be just as effective in building support and reshaping attitudes.


Selecting a Partner


Many organizations that implement new processes and systems that radically alter the way they do business find that working with an expert partner greatly facilitates the change process. What are the most important criteria for choosing this partner?


Comprehensive Service Offering. Ideally, a partner should offer a full range of services from system planning through implementation and training. This ability to take the process from concept to completion ensures that change management strategies can be proactively incorporated through all phases of the project



With such knowledge and experience, a partner can initiate change management activities at the earliest stages possible. Communication of impending change can never start too soon. By planning change activities from the outset, the delivery of change management products can be incorporated right along with system milestones.


Subject Matter Expertise. A change management partner must understand the target business processes. Familiarity and prior experience with an organization’s industry and best practices are a plus. If your organization is implementing processes and systems to streamline HR functions, your change management

partner should specialize in HR.


The partner should bring to the project both specific subject matter functional knowledge and an enterprise-wide perspective. With an understanding of the interconnection of organizational functions and the potential “ripple effect” of change across the enterprise, it’s possible to craft a better change management strategy. This understanding can also ensure a focus on increasing the value of HR services to customers in the organization.


Participative Approach to Change Management. A change management partner should advocate a participative approach to all change-related activities. Any partner who promises to do all the work for you should be suspect. The cornerstone of successful change management lies in involving the people who will be affected by the change.


There are numerous ways to involve customers and stakeholders in the change process: Conduct focus group sessions to draw out people’s concerns about the change and discuss constructive ways to address them. Hold one-on-one interviews with role models in the organization to enable them to help others with the process. Engage and involve users with the design, testing and roll-out of the system to build ownership and team spirit as the project progresses.


Commitment to Open Communication. Change management partners should stress honesty and openness in communication about the changes. Building trust is an important step in gaining acceptance for a new system or process. If employees believe management is concerned about their welfare, the road to the future will be a lot smoother.


Good change partners advise organizations to deal openly with employees about the changes that will affect them. They design forthright and easily understood communications that aren’t patronizing. They take extra steps to ensure that every communication piece has a clear purpose and a target audience. This open approach to communication helps set expectations, tell a coherent story, and foster behavior and attitude changes.


Train for Success


Management must acknowledge that the current workforce may not have the skills needed to succeed in the new environment. Appropriate training should be incorporated into the change management efforts to ensure that employees can be productive with the new processes and systems.


Lead the Way


When all is said and done, the real predictor of successful integration of change into an organization is the level of support from its leaders. The drive to change must come from the top, and senior management must believe wholeheartedly that the proposed course of action is the right one for the future of the organization. Without that passion and commitment from the highest levels, a change management effort is doomed to partial or complete failure.


Senior managers who are passionate about the changes should work closely with the change partner to articulate the vision, rationale and urgency for changes in the organization. Leaders must challenge and energize middle managers to become effective change agents as well. Leaders must also be the first to adopt the new behaviors and attitudes that are seen as critical for change to occur.


In the end, much of change management is based on common sense and respect for the feelings, intelligence and attitudes of an organization’s most important asset – its people. Far from being a “science” or a “formula”, change management principles rely on the intuition and empathy of senior managers and their commitment to the organization’s success. A good change management partner will enable change leaders to recognize those qualities in themselves and effectively convey them to the workforce.




Yes, business is serious stuff, but every once in a while we need to be reminded that corporate life can get pretty ridiculous. Master satirist Scott Adams, a sort of corporate Fellini, does just that, by lampooning idiot bosses and inane management trends. His Dilbert, which runs in more than 1,000 newspapers, with a readership of some 60 million people, is the fastest-growing comic strip in the country. The main character is a sack-shaped, ever-threatened corporate loser named Dilbert, who, with Dogbert, his bespectacled canine companion, copes with managementspeak, teamwork, mission statements, downsizing, and all else.


An MBA from Berkeley and a self-described cubicle-bound gearhead, Adams worked for Pacific Bell until leaving last year to pursue his cartooning full time. Most of his material comes from readers. One fan, for instance, recently E-mailed Adams about a company that purchased laptops for employees to use while traveling. Fearing they might be stolen, the managers came up with a clever solution: permanently attach the laptop computers to the employee’s desk. Says Adams: “No matter how absurd I try to make my comic strip, I can’t stay ahead of what people are experiencing in their own workplace.” Here’s Dilbert on management.




Cubicles–sometimes called “workspaces” or “pods”–serve as a constant reminder of the employee’s marginal value to the company. I’ve never seen a brochure from a cubicle manufacturer, but I think it would look something like this:


The Cubicle 6000TM Series


Think of The Cubicle 6000TM as a lifestyle, not just a big box to keep your crap in one place!!


We used nature as our guide when we designed The Cubicle 6000TM. Every unit has the unmistakable motivational feel of the four most inspiring locations on earth:


Veal-Fattening Pen Imagine the security that those lucky young cows feel, snug in their individual living units, without a care in the world. The reaffirming message is “Live for today!”


Cardboard Box It’s the same architecture that has transported the possessions of successful people for hundreds of years!


Baby’s Playpen A reminder of the exuberance of youth and the thrill of being held captive by strange people who speak gibberish and punish you for reasons you don’t understand!


Prison Cell We’ve “captured” the carefree feeling of a convict serving 20 to life. Experience the security that was previously available only in the penal system!


And look at these features!!


Open top, so you’ll never miss a surrounding noise. Small size, so you can enjoy the odors of your co-workers. No annoying windows. Available in battleship gray or feces brown.


Movable–discover the thrill of frequent office shuffling. Coat hanger (only available on the Admiral Series).




The only drawback to the cubicle-oriented office is that some employees develop a sense of “home” in their little patch of real estate. Soon pride of ownership sets in, then self-esteem, and poof–good-bye productivity. But thanks to the new concept of “hoteling,” this risk can be eliminated. Hoteling is a system by which cubicles are assigned to the employees as they show up each day. Nobody gets a permanent workspace, and therefore no unproductive homey feelings develop.


Another advantage: Hoteling eliminates all physical evidence of the employee’s association with the company. This takes the fuss out of downsizing; the employee doesn’t even have to clean out a desk. With hoteling, every employee has “one foot out the door” at all times. Hoteling sends an important message to the employee: “Your employment is temporary. Keep your photos of your ugly family in the trunk of your car so we don’t have to look at them.”




Employees like to feel that their contributions are being valued. That’s why managers try to avoid that sort of thing. With value comes self-esteem, and with self-esteem come unreasonable requests for money.


There are many ways to tell employees that their work is not valued. Here are some of the crueler methods, which incidentally work the best:


Leaf through a magazine while the employee voices an opinion. –Ask for information “urgently,” and then let it sit on your desk untouched for weeks. –Have your secretary return calls for you.


Then there are recognition programs. These send an important message to all the employees in the group, not just the “winners.” Specifically, the message is this: “Here’s another person who won’t be downsized until after we nail you.”


But that’s not the only benefit. Recognition programs help identify which social caste the employees belong to.


Employee of the Month Program–Paper Hat caste –Certificate of Appreciation–No Overtime Pay caste –Token Cash Award–Mushroom in the Cubicle caste –None–Executive caste. There are no recognition programs at the highest levels of the organization. This is a motivating factor for lower-level employees. They know that if they work hard, they have a chance of reaching a level of management where recognition programs don’t exist.


I once won a recognition award at Pacific Bell. As I approached the front of the room to accept my award, it became apparent that the executive running the program didn’t know what I did for a living. Thinking quickly, he invented an entirely fictitious project for the benefit of the audience and thanked me for my valuable contribution to its success.


I felt “happier” after that, but my self-esteem didn’t increase enough for me to think it was a good time to ask for a raise. Morale-wise, this was a home run for the company. I was so motivated that I gave serious thought to working right through my siesta that afternoon.




One of the most effective methods of humiliation used by managers is the practice of ignoring an underling who is in or near the manager’s office while the manager pursues seemingly unimportant tasks. This sends a message that the employee has no human presence. It is similar to changing clothes in front of the family pet; the animal is watching, but it couldn’t possibly matter.


This tool of humiliation can be fine-tuned to any level simply by adjusting what activities are performed while the employee waits.


Activity–Level of Humiliation


Tking phone calls–Not so bad Reading other things–Bad


Flossing–Very bad Learning a foreign language–Very, very bad




If you want to advance in management you have to convince other people you’re smart. This is accomplished by substituting incomprehensible jargon for common words. Example: A manager would never say, “I used my fork to eat a potato.” He would say, “I utilized a multitined tool to process a starch resource.” The two mean the same thing, but the latter is obviously from a smarter person.




If your employees are producing low-quality products that no sane person would buy, you can often fix that problem by holding meetings to discuss your Mission Statement.


A Mission Statement is defined as “a long, awkward sentence that demonstrates management’s inability to think clearly.”


All good companies have one.


Companies without Mission Statements will often be under the mistaken impression that the objective of the company is to bicker among departments, produce low-quality products, and slowly go out of business. That misperception can be easily cured by writing one such as this:


Mission: “We will produce the highest-quality products, using empowered team dynamics in a new Total Quality paradigm until we become the industry leader.”


But you’re not home free yet. The company Mission Statement will be meaningless until all the individual departments write their own to support the company’s overall mission:


Mission: “Perform world-class product development, financial analysis, and fleet services using empowered team dynamics in a Total Quality paradigm until we become the industry leader.”


Individually, the Mission Statement of the company and the Mission Statement of the department might mean nothing. But taken together, you can see how they would inspire employees to greater heights.




Stephen King writes very scary books. Shakespeare wrote several excellent plays. Unfortunately, they worked alone. If only they had worked together there’s no telling how much better the results would have been. That’s the theory behind “group writing,” and it’s hard to find fault with the logic.


The main goal of group writing is to ensure that every sentence satisfies all the objectives of every person in the room. This can be problematic if all the participants have different objectives. You can minimize the impact of different objectives by focusing on goals all parties can agree on:


Don’t convey any information whatsoever.


The best of all worlds is to be asked to comment on the writing of a co-worker. You get to savor the experience of shredding another person’s ego while taking no personal risk. It can be very satisfying. For fun, suggest changes that would completely reverse the message intended by the author. This puts the author in the awkward position of having to reroute the document for further unhelpful comments or choosing to ignore your “upgrades.” If your comments are ignored, you have the God-given right to ridicule the end product and claim you had no input. Your activity will look just like “work” even though it’s easy. And on the off chance that the document you ridiculed becomes successful, you can claim it as part of your accomplishments.




For your convenience, I have compiled and numbered the most popular management lies of all time. I do this as a service to the business community. Now when you’re telling a story about the treachery of your managers, you can simply refer to each lie by its number, for example, “She told us No. 6 and we all went back to our cubicles and laughed.” This will save you a lot of energy that can then be channeled into whining about your co-workers.


  1. “Employees are our most valuable asset.”
  2. “I have an open-door policy.”
  3. “You could earn more money under the new plan.”
  4. “We’re reorganizing to better serve our customers.”
  5. “The future is bright.”
  6. “We reward risktakers.”
  7. “Performance will be rewarded.”
  8. “We don’t shoot the messenger.”
  9. “Training is a high priority.”
  10. “I haven’t heard any rumors.”
  11. “We’ll review your performance in six months.”
  12. “Our people are the best.”
  13. “Your input is important to us.”


It’s not always easy to tell the difference between a scurrilous management lie and ordinary nitwitism. When confronted with an ambiguous situation, you can usually sniff out the truth by using a handy method I call the “What Is More Likely” test. Here’s how it works:


State each of the plausible interpretations of reality (using humorous metaphors when possible), then ask yourself this question:


“What is more likely?”


You will discover that this technique will greatly clarify the communications of your managers. Allow me to demonstrate its usefulness on the First Great Lie of Management: “Employees are our most valuable asset.” On the surface this statement seems to be at odds with the fact that companies are treating their “most valuable assets” the same way a leaf blower treats leaves. How can this apparent contradiction be explained?


An example will be useful. Let’s say your boss has a broken desk chair and there’s no money left in the budget to replace it. Is it more likely that your boss would


  1. Sit on the floor until the next budget cycle.
  2. Use a nonmanagement chair despite the lower status it confers on the sitter.
  3. Postpone filling a job opening in the group, distribute the extra work to the “most valuable assets,” and use the savings to buy a proper chair.


As employees we like to think we’re more valuable than the office furniture. But the “What Is More Likely” test indicates that it’s not the case. Realistically, we’re someplace toward the lower end of the office-supply hierarchy.



You may also like...