B. Change Management Capacity

1. The Importance of Change Management

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Change of any kind can be disruptive, time consuming and uncomfortable; however, change is also common and necessary as organizations evolve and adapt. Setting up a program that has the potential to strengthen an organization will demand the buy-in and support of an entire organization; certainly no small order.

To learn more about the importance of involving everyone in change and for a free tool to help your organization do that click here  icon_library_16x16

Change Management is a highly evolved discipline designed to ensure organizational change is smoothly integrated and achieves expected outcomes. Change management practices are designed to engage individuals, involving them in the transition taking place and encouraging them to embrace changes to their jobs and workplace. When effectively executed, the changes implemented will produce excellent results through permanent shifts in attitude, behaviour, and organizational culture. When the impact of change is not well managed, the results will fall short, and you may even come out farther behind.1

At the level of implementation, the goal is to support employees through a transition, so change management may involve any of the following efforts:

  • Securing leadership commitment.
  • Soliciting ideas and input from everyone impacted.
  • Disseminating information / communications.
  • Engaging, involving and empowering stakeholders.
  • Integrating new systems and processes.
  • Delivering training.
  • Establishing new roles and/or responsibilities.
  • Defining new performance metrics.

Given that the change management discipline encompasses such a broad array of principles, processes and techniques, this document is simply intended to highlight several core strategies that can be valuable when building a highly effective sustainability program.2

To learn more about change management as a discipline click here  icon_library_16x16

To access a journal that publishes current research on change management practices click here  icon_library_16x16

The Change Process

The process of securing support for change does not happen overnight. It generally takes a coordinated effort to secure the backing needed. The illustrative graph below marks four theoretical stages that describe how an individual’s relationship to change may progress over time:  Awareness, Understanding, Buy-in, and Commitment.

gr-change-management-graph

  • Effective change management tactics will initially serve to build awareness. 
  • As people learn more and deepen their knowledge, understanding will be established. 
  • As an appreciation for why the change is happening grows, individuals will buy-in. 
  • Finally, as support increases, and as stakeholders begin to embrace the changes; sincere commitment is secured. 

Various groups of stakeholders will move through these four stages of the change process at different rates. Effective leadership will keep a finger on the pulse of the stakeholders affected throughout the change process as part of better directing change management efforts. 

To learn more about the stages of commitment as well as for a free tool to help your organization communicate with employees at each stage click here  icon_library_16x16

Sustainability Adoption Curve

It is also worth noting individuals who are part of any stakeholder group will respond to sustainability-related changes differently. The Sustainability Adoption Curve below segments individuals into five categories including: Champions, First Movers, Fast Followers, Middle Majority and Naysayers.

Sustainability Adoption Curve as defined by Kevin Wilhelm [1]

Sustainability Adoption Curve as defined by Kevin Wilhelm 3

It is important to identify the Champions and First Movers because they will tend to quickly lend support and in doing, so create momentum that will influence the Fast Followers. The Middle Majority is the next priority as the group’s buy-in stage will make it easier to engage the naysayers who can be expected to be quite resistant.4

For tools to help your organization engage with the Naysayers click here  icon_free-tools_16x16

The impacts of change can be quite pervasive and far-reaching. Beyond employees, an organizational transformation can affect suppliers, customers, partners and any number of other stakeholders. While in this section we focus mainly on internal stakeholders (i.e. employees), the techniques we discuss can be applied to all stakeholder groups.

Footnotes: 

1. To learn more about the discipline for Change Management see Change Activation’s explanation here: http://changeactivation.com/change-management-training/#What is Change Management?
2. The application of change management to sustainability is thoroughly explored by Suzanne Benn and Ellen Baker in their 2009 article Advancing Sustainability Through Change and Innovation: a Co-evolutionary Perspective. It can be found in the Journal of Change Management 9, no.4:383-397.
3. The source of this diagram is Kevin Wilhelm’s Understanding Change Management to Guide Implementation of Sustainability found here: http://www.ftpress.com/articles/article.aspx?p=2137184
4. Information adapted from Kevin Wilhelm’s Understanding Change Management to Guide Implementation of Sustainability found here: http://www.ftpress.com/articles/article.aspx?p=2137184


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