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  • Writer's pictureSeema Sutradhar

Value leakage in change initiatives — why so difficult to manage?

We have seen projects and programs fail to deliver expected benefits. The ultimate goal of achieving business value from a change initiative is hugely minimised. Expensive resources invested in change initiatives do not yield an adequate return on investment. There are numerous statistics available that point to this age old issue.

The problem lies in our fundamental mistake to see 'products' as an outcome of a change project — usually an IT system, a new office location to be moved to, a new organisation structure or a new business process. These are nothing but products. The challenges of making the product delivered within time, cost and quality are so high in the minds of the project team that we often overlook the people side of change that is underpinning the success of such a program. The new IT system is of no use if users do not simply use it. Transition to a new office location or new organisation structure if results in an unacceptable level of dissatisfaction among the people affected, will not yield expected benefits. An excellent new business process is defined but is not being practised in true sense, is of no use. The ultimate result is that the change initiative fails to deliver value.

The outcome of a change project needs to be looked at as a service more than a mere product. A service is nothing but a product being used by people to meet the intended objectives. So the people factor that ensures the product is finally being used to deliver intended results is crucial. This is where a change gets embedded in an organisation. Managing this people side of change in a humanistic and collaborative approach is the key ingredient of a successful change initiative.

Change affects people. When a change is required, the current way of doing things no longer works. People need to adopt new ways. The change process works in an inside-out manner. This requires changes in one’s attitudes, behaviours and competencies. Thus people need to be taken through the change journey in a manner that helps them embrace right attitude, behaviours and competencies. If this is done correctly with empathy and collaboration the change would be sustainable, and it would become the new normal.

As per ChangeFirst's People-Centred Implementation (PCI) Methodology, there are six Critical Success Factors for a successful change:

So to make a change initiative successful it is an absolute necessity to focus on the people side of change, keeping a 'service view' rather than a 'product view' as an outcome of a change program. While the project manager strives to overcome challenges to deliver a change project balancing the constraints of cost, time and quality, a change manager focuses on the impact of change on people and helps them in this journey to embrace it. Only when the change is internalised by those affected i.e., to say they demonstrate required changes in attitudes, behaviour and competencies, the new way of doing things will be the ‘new normal’ and the change will be sustainable.

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