Managing Change


There are few organisations today that do not face change, brought about by external or internal driving forces.  In this article, the authors consider the key responsibilities of the change manager and the steps they can take to ensure the effective implementation of change.

The drivers of change

 Arun Sarin, Chief Executive of Vodaphone is quoted as identifying the key drivers of change as:
• Globalisation
• The rise of China
• The expansion of the EU
• The birth of the internet 10 years ago
• Deregulation in many industries
• Increasing competition
• Technology advancement
• Growing customer requirements
• Shifting market dynamics
• Tougher operating environment

He talks of three three types of leadership needed to address change:

Strategic leadership
Operational leadership
Human leadership

We will focus on the operational and human aspects of managing change in this article, although it goes without saying that a clear and well thought out strategy is required to address change.

A strategy for implementation

Whilst big picture strategies are valuable in spelling out what business we should be in, how we go about serving our markets, there is an important requirement to look strategically at what resources, capabilities and processes are required to achieve that. Fundamental decisions must be taken on priorities, such as attention to cost versus quality, customization versus standardization, speed versus accuracy.

Translating strategy into action

IBM has a record of solid delivery. However, in the 1990s it lost its way. When Lou Gerstner took over the reins as the new CEO of an ailing IBM, he is quoted as saying that it was not a vision that the company needed but a focus on delivery. He put new energy into achieving this alongside a strategy of growing services.
Toyota is perhaps the most well-known car company for making reliable cars and has. It achieves this through its all-embracing Toyota Way. In fact, so confident is it of its unique, relentless quest for quality and reliability that it allows conducted visits from companies all over the world

What have these companies got in common? Most importantly, execution and improvement are ingrained into the company culture. This shows itself in well-designed and well-maintained procedures that are capable of pinpointing problem areas and sorting them out quickly. They are also highly tuned to changing customer needs.

Responsibilities of change managers

The change process puts the onus on the manager to drive the operational aspects of change and skillfully manage the human aspects, for example leading and managing meetings effectively, confronting and resolving issues by continually using influencing and negotiation skills. The task demands a disciplined all-rounder who -

• Establishes schedules, budgets and resources
• Communicates direction
• Structures the team, establishing roles and responsibilities
• Reviews individual and team performance
• Recognizes and rewards effective contribution

The first task of implementation is to agree the detailed scope of the required change.  This will require an assessment of -

• Who are the customers/stakeholders?
• Which key issues will the initiative address/resolve?
• What are the boundaries/parameters? Where do the boundaries/parameters cross with other initiatives?
• What assumptions are we making about this initiative, for example are we sure we have a project team as a resource for the length of the initiative?
• What will stop us or hold us back?
• What are the deliverables/outputs?
• Who are the implementation team members?

The next stage is to put this into action. Managing change plans can be described as consisting of four phases:

1.   Set up
2.   Kick off
3.   Delivery
4.   Review

Programme and Project Managing

Many organizations are using programme and project management techniques to implement change, particularly those which are complex and cross organizational boundaries. In the mid-1990s, British Airways Engineering was radically reorganised to create more customer responsiveness through Business Process Reengineering.   A carefully structured programme approach was adopted, with key managers and specialists involved.  Unusually at the time, the same approach was applied to the ?soft? aspects with the introduction of HR and cultural change.

Tips at each stage of the change process


1. Prepare people for change
2. Involve those affected by the change in planning for the change
3. Assess the organization?s readiness for change. Research what happened during the last change. Are people ready to undertake what is expected of them?
4. Build contingency plans.


When change begins you may need to:

1. Create a project management group to oversee the change.
2. Develop temporary policies and procedures during the change


1. Remind people why the change makes sense
2. Make people responsible. Don?t dismiss people who resist change as irretrievable. Help people let go of the 'old'.
3. Monitor progress at regular intervals


1. Review learning points for the future, not just in one big review but as part of a continuous process
2. Recognize those who have made special efforts during change.
3. Prepare for the next change!


One of the key factors in effecting change is to remember to bring others along with you.

Under each of the headings, make an assessment of your capacity to execute and deliver. Note actions to improve weaker areas.



Steve Macaulay and Sarah Cook are consultants who specialize in the development of  leaders and organizations to achieve change in a customer-focused way. Steve Macaulay is at Cranfield School of Management, Sarah is from the Stairway Consultancy. They are the authors of 'Change Management Excellence', published by Kogan Page, price £16.99. They can be contacted through Sarah Cook at the Stairway Consultancy, on 01628 526535

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