Change Management – Getting Down to Basics

June 6, 2018 in
By Ashley Agerter Raitor, Katie Conlon, Kristin Price

June has always been a month of change. School’s out and the kids are home. We’re trading in our umbrellas and rainboots for sandals and sunglasses. And, did you know that the moonstone (one of June’s three birthstones) actually represents change and new beginnings? So, what better way to kick off June than to talk about change management? All month long, FMP will be featuring articles on change management, transparency, and communication. This week, we’re getting down to the basics by answering 4 fundamental questions about change management – 1) What is it?, 2) Why is it so hard?, 3) Why is it important?, and 4) How can you be successful?

What is change management?

Let’s start by getting on the same page about what change management actually is. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines change management as “a structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state” (Society for Human Resource Development, 2015). So, what does that mean? Another way to grasp the concept of change management is to think of it as a proactive risk management activity, in which a finely-tuned roadmap is established to help coordinate, prepare, guide, equip, and support all aspects of a transition, including the people and the organization(s) that may be impacted or affected by a forthcoming change. Well, that’s a mouthful, now isn’t it? Let’s get to the point—change management is a way to prepare for…you guessed it, a change.

Why is change management so hard?

Change management is hard because change itself is hard. It’s difficult for people to break habits and change their behavior. This is magnified at the organizational-level because organizational change management requires the business to change and the people to change, and both of these things happen at different times in the process. People need time to adjust, while the business has to keep moving forward. This can create conflict.

Also, change management is hard because change is emotional, for both employees and managers. For employees, it can unintentionally create fear and anxiety because it challenges their sense of security. These emotions can lead employees to resist the change, which creates additional hurdles for the organization. Change management is also challenging for managers. Managers must work hard to determine employees’ needs during the transition and ensure employees are equipped with the right tools and resources throughout the process. But the work doesn’t stop there! The right tools and resources won’t ensure successful change management. Instead, managers must also make sure the change sticks. Employees need to be willing to change, which can be a challenge for managers. It’s easy to give the directions, but getting employees to change willingly can be hard and ultimately makes change difficult to stick.

Why is it important?

If change management is so hard, is it really worth all the effort? The short answer is yes. Change management might be daunting to organizations, but the benefits for implementing a successful change management strategy are significant for both the organization and the individuals/customers impacted by the change. Here are some of the major benefits of implementing a robust change management process:

  • Enables Responsible Use and Allocation of Resources. Strong change management practices allow an organization to better predict the resources they will need during a transition (e.g., budget, human resources), and then to prepare accordingly, such as aligning existing resources and/or securing additional resources, as appropriate and needed. For instance, careful change management planning helps ensure that the change process is started and managed by the right people at the right time, and that an organization responsibly manages and contains the costs associated with the change to increase its Return on Investment (ROI).
  • Encourages Greater Support and Cooperation from Stakeholders. Effective change management ensures that all stakeholders (e.g., an organization’s staff, employees, customers) understand and support the change, including the purpose, objective, drivers (internal and external, as appropriate), goals (short- and long-term), timelines, and important milestones for the change—this, in-turn, can promote greater buy-in and minimize resistance to the change (e.g., stress, anxiety) during implementation, and help stakeholders embrace the change in a positive away.
  • Reduces Implementation Time. Careful planning of change activities and events can help an organization reduce the time it takes to implement the change and reach the desired future state.
  • Prevents Unnecessary Interruption or Disturbance of Day-to-Day Business/Processes. Planned change management enables an organization to identify the specific tasks, people, and processes that are required, and thus impacted, at each stage of the change process, as well as those day-to-day business activities that do not need to be, or should not be, interrupted or affected by the event.
  • Positively Impacts Employees. Careful planning and management of a change event can improve employee morale, engagement, productivity, and quality of work. Additionally, many change events can often “open new doors” for employees; effective change management planning can aid in highlighting new, exciting opportunities for employees, and energize them to take advantage and make the most of those opportunities.

How can you make your change management initiative successful?

Now that we’ve established how important (and challenging!) change management is, you probably want to know how to make it successful. A successful change management process will have elements that are tangible (these are the elements you can physically see and use) and intangible (elements that involve emotions or concepts that you cannot physically see). It’s important that organizations recognize both. Tangible elements are things like trainings for managers to learn how to talk with their employees about the change or spreadsheets to track and monitor milestones. Intangible elements of change management often focus on creating a culture of knowledge sharing and trust, such as open, honest, and timely communication. Also, this environment increases accountability among employees during the change management process. Employees are learning to “stick” to the change to help make the initiative successful.

We recently came across this article, “5 Case Studies About Successful Change Management”, by Sabrina Son. It’s a great read with change management ‘success stories’ from industry-leading organizations. In it, you’ll see how Toyota took a recommendation from one of their engineers to implement a ‘just-time-approach’ to its manufacturing process, resulting in saving the company space, time, money, and energy. This is an example of how change management isn’t necessarily a top-down process; rather, it is very successful when it includes employee-level stakeholders from the beginning. In 1981, CEO of General Electric (GE), Jack Welch, went with a top-down approach to change management. With a focus on ‘working on people issues’ he brought in the necessary team and ingrained the right management philosophy throughout the organization. One outcome was the successful implementation of the Six Sigma methodology, which ultimately saved the company $10 billion in just five years!

While Toyota and GE took very different approaches to implementing their respective changes, the one thing these organizations have in common is that they recognized the need to invest resources in the change management process itself. Effective change management strategies often begin with a change management assessment, which assesses not only the change itself (e.g., the scope of the change, the type of change), but also the organization in terms of culture, lessons learned from past changes, employee readiness for change, etc. Based on the results of this effort, organizations can employ a number of different strategies to manage and implement the change – standing up a change management team, developing a risk management strategy, creating a targeted communications plan, conducting training for managers and/or employees, etc. Depending upon the availability of internal resources (both in terms of bandwidth and skillset), organizations may elect to manage and execute these activities internally or outsource some or all of them to external change management experts.

While these activities do represent an upfront investment, they can typically be scaled up or down to meet an organization’s needs and overall budget. And, keep in mind that if a change isn’t managed correctly, it can end up costing an organization more in the end – downtime if people aren’t able to perform their jobs correctly, employee disengagement or attrition, and delays in system development/implementation are just a few common outcomes of mismanaged change. If you still need more convincing, ask GE if its change management investment was worth the $10 billion in savings!

Wrapping Up

In sum, change management is really hard. But, it’s extremely important, and organizations need to focus both on the tangibles and intangibles in order to make it successful. Ultimately, enduring cultural transformation occurs when change management activities are woven into the fabric of design, training, implementation, and operationalization of a system, program, or activity. The blending of change management into a new process or project creates opportunities for participants at all levels to reflect on what is and isn’t working, communicate their concerns, ask clarifying questions, and focus on the most important reasons to change. As a trusted advisor and partner, FMP works closely with our clients to develop a change management strategy that is based on best practices, such as the ADKAR® model Prosci® methodology. We work with stakeholders at various levels of the organization, focus our efforts to create buy-in, and set the stage for successful (and sticky!) change.

If you’re interested in learning more about FMP’s change management capabilities and services in this area, please contact or reach out to one of our authors – Kristin Price (, Katie Conlon (, or Ashley Agerter Raitor ( And, be sure to tune in the rest of the month to learn more about change management, transparency and communication.

About the Authors:

Ashley has more than 12 years of experience providing analytical and consulting services for public and private sector organizations. She recently relocated to California with her husband and precocious 2-year-old son, Max. When she’s not helping her clients manage organizational change, she enjoys hiking and spending time at the beach with her family as well as going to “grown-up” restaurants when she and her husband are lucky enough to find a sitter.

Photo of author and FMP employee Ashley Agerter Raitor

When Katie isn’t working on executive development programs, developing human resource solutions for organizations, or writing Instagram captions for FMP, you can find her at the dog park with her best bud, Griffin, or catching up on the latest celebrity gossip.

Photo of author and FMP employee Katie Conlon


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Prosci, Inc. What is Change Management?Retrieved May 23, 2018, from

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Six Sigma Daily. What is Six Sigma? Retrieved May 28, 2018, from

Society for Human Resource Management (2015). Leading Effective Change: A Primer for the HR Professional. Alexandria: SHRM Foundation.

Son, Sabrina. (2017, June 12). 5 Case Studies About Successful Change Management [blog post]. Retrieved May 23, 2018, from

Latham, Ann. (2016, May 29). 5 Secrets for Making Change Stick. Retrieved May 31, 2018, from