Do I Need Change Management?
Sean McGauley

By: Sean McGauley on November 24th, 2020

Print/Save as PDF

Do I Need Change Management?

Change Management

Sometimes, change is natural. The caterpillar changing to a butterfly, the tadpole changing to a frog – these types of changes happen all the time in nature. Yet, change in business can feel anything but natural.

And it’s not just at your place of business. According to McKinsey research, “nearly 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support.”

That’s a powerful stat. It tells us not only that most change projects fail; it even gives us insight into why. It’s the people side of change.

Get Your Free eBook: The 6 Keys to Confident Information Management Change

Here's a definition from AIIM's training:

“Change Management is the application of the set of tools, processes, skills, and principles for managing the people side of change to achieve the required outcomes of a change project or initiative.”

Let’s take a look at the people side of change and how it relates to the success of your project throughout its lifecycle.

When people are involved, implementing new technology is only one part of the project. Changing the habits, priorities, and day‐to‐day activities of information workers is also part of meeting deployment objectives. A program and dedicated plan to manage the change in employee behaviors to parallel the changes in tools or procedures is essential to success.

Resistance to change is often a defense mechanism caused by frustration and anxiety.

Individuals may not be resisting a change in tools or systems as much as they are resisting a potential loss of status, pay, comfort, or power that arises from their current skills and expertise. Adopting new software systems or procedures may mean losing accumulated years as an expert in existing systems, or fear of automation taking over the favorite parts of a job.

In many cases, there is no disagreement with the benefits of the new process, but rather a fear of the unknown future and about the ability to adapt to it; that is, fear that one will not be able to develop new skills and behaviors that are required in a new work setting.

Issues stemming from the people side of change can rear their ugly head throughout the entire project.

Changes Issues at the START of Your Project

Just getting your project off the ground can be a challenge. Here you must introduce the idea for change, get executive buy-in for your project, and obtain the appropriate funding. All of these can be improved with the practices of change management.

Even after getting executive buy-in, there is a common hurdle around funding. Without proper funding, a project can stall, take too long and get canceled, or even fail altogether.

Change management empowers users with proven strategies for obtaining executive buy-in and necessary funding.

Change Issues in the MIDDLE of Your Project

You have your approval, you have your funding, and the project is good to go. Or is it? There are still issues that are commonly encountered that can be addressed through the practice of change management. Testing, set-up, and even choosing the appropriate system are all aspects of a project that need the right support from the right people in your organization to succeed.

Change Issues at the END of Your Project

Remember that stat from earlier about 70% of projects failing? Well, this might be the clearest place to see that. There is a considerable amount of work that goes into rolling out a new system. But, if it’s done without involving your users, it could all go to waste in implementation. Users that haven’t been involved along the way won’t be trained to use the new system. This can cause delays or shelfware – a state where expensive software is rolled out without acceptance, and it sits unused “collecting dust on a shelf.”

Full length of group of happy young business people walking the corridor in office together

Conclusion – Start with A Change Readiness Assessment

Regardless of the kind of change, whether technological, cultural, procedural, role‐based, or any other, it must first be decided if an organization is ready to face the change and adjust to it.

Change may be coming, whether it’s welcome or not. Determining readiness is a big factor in the potential success of your project.

Assess your enterprise’s readiness for change. The readiness of both the management to support the change and affected workers to accept and adapt to the change are the most crucial factors in the success, or failure, of your project. Management may be far more ready to change than the potentially‐effected workers, particularly if the idea for the proposed change is coming from management – as it typically is. However, just because you have meetings with middle or senior management who are very enthusiastic about this new project doesn’t mean that the organization as a whole is ready to change.

Here are the major questions for assessing your enterprise’s readiness. Enterprise readiness does not take a huge amount of time to assess, but it is a very crucial activity.

Assessing the organization’s change readiness can be subdivided into four key areas: the company’s vision, the level of trust within the organization, the motivation for change, and respect.

Ask these questions to assess your organization's readiness for change:


  • Is the leadership that is recommending change respected?
  • Are the employees impacted by the change respected?
  • Are the consultants and business analysts respected by both?
  • How is the respect expressed? – Flexibility, delegation – Tolerance, encouragement


  • Whose vision?
  • Is there a shared vision?
  • Do employees, leaders, and change agents have the same interpretation of the vision?
  • Is the vision realistic?
  • Is the vision relevant?


  • Is leadership trusted?
  • Are employees trusted?
  • Is the reality of change exposed honestly and openly?
  • Is there a history of mistrust?
  • Are the consultants trusted?
  • Do employees and leaders trust each other?
  • Note: Trust may not be terribly high. Therefore, your goal is to pinpoint hotspots of distrust and manage accordingly



  • What is the leadership’s motivation to change?
  • What is the employees’ motivation for change?
  • Do these two reconcile?
  • What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?
  • Is the motivation to cooperate? To support? To enjoy the outcome?
  • Note: Motivation for change is normally stronger at the management level

Once you determine that your organization is ready to make the proposed change, you can really start to build out your change management plan

Free eBook: The Six Keys to Confident Information Management Change