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11 Jun. 2013 | Comments (0)

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In our last blog, Is Your Change Initiative Running on Ice?, we outlined a number of reasons why change programs fail. In this entry, we provide four best practices that we’ve identified as an outgrowth of research we’ve sponsored, a review of literature, and our experience in leading over 100 successful change management projects.

  1. 1.  Organization alignment is the key to making change stick.

In an earlier blog entitled, Your Strategic Planning Go-To Guide, we introduced the concept of organization architecture using the TOPS Model. We believe organization architecture is comprised of three components: Technology, Organization, and Process.

  • The Technology architecture includes data, IT infrastructure, and the technology used to deliver your core products and services.
  • The Organization architecture is comprised of your culture, business model, organization structure, HR practices, and core competencies.
  • The Process architecture has three components: core and support processes, formal and informal business rules and administrative policies, and physical infrastructure, i.e. the number and location of your hard assets, such as offices and manufacturing facilities.

Making change stick is a function of proactively identifying gaps in your architecture – the white space between your current and desired state – and then ensuring your change plan includes a process by which you close those gaps, tightly aligning all elements of your architecture to support your business strategy. (See Figure 1)   

Figure 1: A Model for Organization Alignment



Source: Used with permission by The Catalyst Consulting Group, LLC

  1. 2.  Success is dependent on strong executive sponsorship.

Large-scale change management cannot be achieved from a bottom-up strategy. It requires leaders who have the intestinal fortitude to make decisions, hold people accountable, and remove blockers. This often flies in the face of organizational politics where leaders go to the “nth” degree to avoid conflict, transfer their “problem children” to another function, or accept mediocrity.

Leaders can hire in project management expertise and assign the details of the program implementation to internal subject matter experts, but they have to own the design and bottom line results of the initiative if they hope to drive success. You can’t delegate vision. While responsibility can be shared, in the end, someone has to stand up and assume final accountability for the overall project.

  1. 3.  Stop focusing on the “touchy feely” work at the expense of actions that impact the bottom-line.

Change management is much more than sponsoring focus groups with the hope of getting employees and managers to emote their feelings about the project. Personality assessments, teambuilding events, and conflict management interventions may have their role to play, but business change must keep the business top of mind. While it’s true that “people-related” issues are the most complex and difficult to measure, you have to begin with a strong business case for change. In other words, make sure you capture their minds before making a play for their hearts. Otherwise, you run the risk of rallying the troops behind an ill-conceived initiative.

A key element of this business case involves aligning tangible bottom-line metrics to evaluate the success of the change and holding staff accountable by creating benefits and sanctions for compliance and non-performance. Key components of this consequence /reward strategy include aligning the performance management and total rewards programs (base, bonus, recognition, and long-term compensation) to tightly support the change in terms of expected goals and the underlying behaviors that drive those outputs.

  1. 4.  Use a formal, structured change approach

You simply can’t wing large-scale change management. Given the complexity, number of internal and external variables, and motivations of key stakeholders, success is dependent on having a robust methodology.

Companies like General Electric, Milliken, and Citigroup have developed reputations for being able to successfully implement change because they all use a standardized playbook with a robust toolkit to guide them through the change process. From readiness assessment and change design through stakeholder management and implementation, these organizations incorporate time-tested tools that add rigor to their processes.

If you are interested in building a robust change program, two helpful books are: Leading & Implementing Business Change Management (Recardo and Jones) and Toolkit for Organization Change (Cawsey and Deszca). Both offer applied approaches for change management that can be customized to individual environments.

In our upcoming blogs, we will look at the process of stakeholder management – specifically how to better understand who is with you and why. We’ll also touch on how to convert resistors so you can make the most of your change effort.


View our complete listing of Strategic HR blogs.

  • About the Author:Tim Toterhi

    Tim Toterhi

    Tim Toterhi is an organization development professional based in North Carolina. He began his career in strategic sales and transitioned to HR via learning and development. Over the past 15 years, he …

    Full Bio | More from Tim Toterhi

  • About the Author:Ronald J. Recardo

    Ronald J. Recardo

    Ronald J. Recardo is the Managing Partner of The Catalyst Consulting Group LLC, a Connecticut firm founded in the early 1990’s that helps its clients grow their business, improve their performan…

    Full Bio | More from Ronald J. Recardo


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