If continuous disruption has become the ‘steady state’, then the opportunity to deliver successful change should be grounded in effective change management fundamentals.

As technology continues to drive innovation, companies are striving for that competitive edge – and that typically means doing things better, faster and cheaper. If continuous disruption has become the so-called ‘steady state’, then organisations need to change or transform the way they do business, how they deliver change, and the way they operate day-to-day.

The impact is significant to all levels of the business, from the executive through to the individuals on the operational front line. Failure in major transformations is high due to management behaviour not supporting change and employee resistance to change

Let’s explore the fundamentals for delivering successful change.


There are many methodologies that offer frameworks for change, all of which are applicable and provide valuable tools. Some of the better known methodologies include:

  • William Bridge – 3 Phase Transition
  • Kotter’s 8 Steps
  • Lewins Unfrees, Change Freeze Model
  • McKinsey’s 7 S Model
  • McKinsey’s 4 Conditions for Changing Mindsets

So which one is right for your organisation? As always, Quay recommends tailoring a framework to ensure it is fit-for-purpose, because it is probable that no one methodology will be a perfect fit, but rather that some parts of each will be right for your organisation’s needs.

How to Determine Which Approach Will Work Best?

When assessing what will work for the planned change, the best place is to start with the size of the change. Is it:

  • Transformational: This type of change affects a large number of people across the organisation where the change is critical and fundamentally impacts how people do their everyday jobs.
  • Operational: Not as wide-spread as transformational change, but it does affect how people do their jobs and reworking of processes are usually required.
  • Transactional: Limited to a single department with a small number of users.

When the size of the change is clear, the next step is to measure the breadth, depth, level of impact and criticality. For example, a transactional change may not be broad, but it could be deep, have high impact on the users involved, and be critical to the business’s future success.

Each level of change has one thing in common: Individuals are key.

The Individual is Critical

Whether it is a discreet project changing the way a single department operates or a complete organisational transformation, people have to change the way they work. McKinsey has studied the causes of failure in major transformation and found that:

  • 33% was due to management behaviour not supporting change
  • 39% was due to employee resistance to change

It may seem obvious, but as we are changing more often, it’s necessary to ensure that the change is delivered effectively.

Adoption rates over time at each level of an organisation clearly display that end-users are the last to adopt change. Importantly, success is only achieved when these end-users have adopted change.

5 Fundamentals For Setting Change Up For Success

Given the assumption that the adoption of change by the individuals – i.e. end users – is critical to success, how can you support them to adjust their mindset and actively change? This requires an answer to a very typical response to change: the WIIFM factorWhat’s in it for me?

McKinsey has explored this in its 4 Conditions for Changing Mindsets, which says that “… employees will alter their mindsets only if they see the point of the change and agree with it – at least enough to give it a try.” Successful adoption and commitment of end users rely on four conditions being in place:

  • A Purpose To Believe In: Each employee must understand and recognise the point of the change sufficiently to ‘give it a try’. People must understand the role and effect of their actions in the company’s future success and believe that it is worthwhile for them to play a part. A critical part of achieving this is to ensure that the strategy is clear and that information flows upstream as well as down at every level.
  • Reinforcement Systems: The surrounding structures (e.g. reward and recognition systems) must be tuned with new behaviour. How? Align performance measures with the real goal of the business and the required behaviours at each level e.g. Coaching junior staff is recognised in performance reviews.
  • The Skills Required for Change: Management must have the skills to do what it requires, which means alignment at the top and the ability to lead the change, measure and assess the capability, and train and coach employees to fill the gaps. The 70:20:10 rule also needs to apply: People learn best when they experience the change and can put it into action.
  • Consistent Role Models: End users must see people they respect modelling change in an active way, which is also referred to as change leadership. In any workplace, people model their behaviour on ‘significant others’ such as those they see in positions of influence. This requires alignment at the top and consistent demonstrations of good change behaviours. Character and integrity make big impacts when leading change.

The Fifth Fundamental: Time

While these four conditions are fundamental, Quay believes there is a fifth condition: Time. Timely change needs to happen at a pace that achieves the outcomes in the required time frame, yet allows sufficient time for people to adjust and experience consistent progress.

Change is rarely quick, but persistence and belief in the outcome is imperative as is transparency on progress, hitting agreed milestones, and a consistently two-way street on communication.

Change Leadership is Essential

Change is never easy and it is near impossible without the buy-in of the people who are instrumental in fulfilling a new way of working. These individuals are key and each level of the business has a critical role to play.

Change leadership is also imperative and it’s a skill set we see is evolving in the marketplace. Putting in place a structure that fits the organisation, size, and impact of the transformation initiatives is critical to success. Being good at change will make a major difference to the success of any organisation.

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Want to talk to us about change management fundamentals? Contact us here or call 02 9098 6300.

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