Saturday, 4 April 2013

E=MC2 is one of those fundamental equations that most people have heard of (even if they don’t understand it). It is a very simple equation that has had a profound effect on our world for almost a century.

What has this got to do with Management Change (apart from the neat link with MC2 in the equation)? It is in two areas:

  1. The simple stuff is not always as easy as it looks
  2. We often get tripped up by simple things, not because we don’t understand them, but because we treat them with sufficient care.

I was recently reading an excellent article from the Harvard Business Review where the focus was on the importance of managing communication. Several of the comments that followed the article mentioned the fact that is was so simple or obvious to involve people in the process. Why does it appear that the “simple” things get overlooked or forgotten so often?

The focus for most change programs appears to be so often predicated on the “What” in terms of skills and process change. The “Why”, including the communication issues at the heart of the HBR article and the “How”, as in the individual behavioural changes that enable the skills, processes and communications to be implemented effectively and more importantly consistently effectively, are usually at the core of the 8 out of 10 failures that were alluded to in the article .

The What, Why and How are just as important as each other for any change management process to be effective, so why is it that so often such a relatively small amount of time and resource are spent on the Why and the How? It’s nearly always in the detail that the Why and How are lost and therefore there are a myriad of possible answers to this but most of them come under one of three headings:


The concentration on process has understimated the organisations will and ability to change. There is insufficient foundation to support the scope of the change.


Most communication failures fall under one of three categories

  1. The message quite simply isn’t spread, or it is not spread consistently
  2. There is little/no allowance for tuning via critique or feedback of the process from stakeholders
  3. The rationale and benefit is chunked too high or too low for individuala. If the pluralism within a workforce is ignored, there is a tendency to believe that one benefit will be sufficient for all.


The social elements of the change have been insufficiently considered. The change in attitude and behaviour that will be required to support the process change is not built into the DNA of the project. Very often it is not even considered or at best inadequately articulated. However for most significant Management Change programmes there is unlikely to be any performance change without behavioural and attitudinal change.

We would be delighted to hear of your experiences of the simple things that either form a barrier to change programmes or, as in most cases, end up sub-optimising the benefits of the programme.

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