By Janine Engelhardt
One thing I have learned over the years is that life seems to change almost every day. This has certainly been evident to most of us in 2020! Some of us hear the word “change” and run the other direction; some of us may say “tell me more” and others may say “it’s about time!” Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, has been quoted as saying that “everything is constantly changing.” (1) When reflecting on a work environment, change may include starting a new position (or retiring), an adjustment to our current roles or responsibilities, a new piece of equipment, a revision to an existing process or procedure or even an organizational restructuring. When we contemplate our personal lives, change may include a physical move (from one location to another), a change in a relationship (such as marriage or breakup/divorce) or family and friends (birth or death of a loved one) or even starting a new sport/fitness regime. How about the worldwide effects of a pandemic?
Whether the change happens at the workplace or in your personal life, the way in which it is managed is the key to the success of any project or initiative. In this article, I will discuss what change management is, some tools for effective change management, as well as the roles and responsibilities of those involved in the change. I will also share the benefits of managing effective change based on current research, as well as some resources for more information on change management.
Change management focuses on the “application of processes and tools to manage the people side of change from a current state to a new future state so that the desired results of the change (and expected return on investment) are achieved.” (2) From an organizational perspective, it “enables employees to adopt a change so that business objectives are realized…is the bridge between solutions and results and is fundamentally about people and our collective role of transforming change into successful outcomes for our organizations.” (2) The same processes and tools can be applied by individuals working through a personal change that impacts them as an individual or one that involves a larger group.
Jeffrey Hiatt created a model for change management known as “ADKAR” which helps to build a “framework for understanding change at an individual level.” (3) The first element is “Awareness” and considers what the change is, why the change is happening, what the risks are if we don’t change, what factors are driving the change and “what’s in it for me.” (3) A study that was conducted by Prosci in 2017, that included eleven hundred and twenty (1120) participants, identified “lack of awareness” as the top reason that employees resisted change. (4) The next component is “Desire” which “represents the motivation and ultimate choice to support and participate in a change.” (3) This piece really speaks to an employee’s buy-in and is dependent on a variety of factors which may include previous experiences with change (good or bad), support from leaders and peers and even current personal situations.
The next two parts of this model are “Knowledge” and “Ability.” Knowledge involves providing information on potential changes to roles and responsibilities, training on specific skills or behaviours (which could include new equipment, systems, processes, tools) (3) and ability looks at the transfer of learning or “the demonstrated capability to implement the change and achieve the desired performance level.” (3) In my experience, this tends to be an area that is highlighted in healthcare organizations. I have heard the phrase “we have a new piece of equipment or a new policy/protocol – we need to train our staff.” Unfortunately, the first time some staff hear about the change is at the training session. This speaks to the importance of incorporating a strong change management plan early in a project.
The last element in the ADKAR model is “Reinforcement.” Hiatt describes this as “any action or event that strengthens and reinforces the change with an individual or an organization.” (3) Reinforcement can include individual acknowledgments, team celebrations, sharing the positive impacts that the change has made and even auditing to ensure the change is sustained. A study that was conducted by Prosci in 2013, that included eight hundred and twenty-two (822) participants, identified “ongoing and consistent communication, support mechanisms (such as change champions or super users), tracking (such as surveys or progress reports) and rewards and recognition” as the top strategies to “reinforce and sustain change.” (4)
If you are interested in more information on change management, www.prosci.com is a good place to start. There are several resources that discuss managing change, some of which are listed in the reference section of this article. One book that supports employees navigating change is an Employee’s Survival Guide to change (Hiatt, 3rd edition, 2013). I would also encourage you to explore the training options or resources that are available from your own organization.
Whether you are an organizational leader (formal or informal), a change practitioner or a front-line worker, we all have an important role in change management. If you are leading a project, look for opportunities to incorporate a change management plan (as early as possible). Don’t hesitate to ask or seek to understand the “why” of a change. Look for a viable and meaningful reason to embrace the change. Gain knowledge and understanding to enhance your capability to implement it. Lastly, don’t forget to celebrate the achievement of completing or sustaining a change.
- Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy [Internet], Heraclitus (fl. c. 500 B.C.E.), ISSN 2161-0002, retrieved May 19, 2020. Available from: www.iep.utm.edu/heraclit/.
- Hiatt, JM, Creasey, TJ. Change Management: The People Side of Change. Second Edition. Loveland: Prosci Inc.; 2012. 1, 9 p.
- Hiatt, JM. ADKAR: a model for change in business, government and our community. Fort Collins: Prosci Research; 2012. 1-2, 17, 23, 31, 37 p.
- Best Practices in Change Management report. 10th Edition. Prosci Inc.; 2018; 168, 175 p.