CHANGE MANAGEMENT: A People-Based Solution (part TWO)





Scott R. Thomas
President, PeopleWorx, Inc.



In my last post, I shared the first five of 10 Principles of Change Management – viewed from a new perspective. In the world of organizational change management (OCM), a business discipline of its own, there exists a wealth of tools, techniques, templates, and processes. It has produced courses and curriculum, best practices and well-known practitioners. However, as we've seen (in Part One), all of these efforts continue to diminish the impact of the single, most critical element that determines the success or failure of an organization’s change initiative – it’s the people!





Recall, organizational change management (OCM ) isn’t really about the change at all. Because:

We Are All the Same [1]

Here’s the basic idea: As human beings, we are both the same and different than everyone else. We are the same, in that we are all driven – to do, say, pursue and behave – in ways that support our own self-interests. Simply put, we do what we do because it adds to our own personal sense of self-worth and what’s important to us. We call these drivers “motivations.” We are all driven by a blend of three concerns:

  1. People - A concern for the welfare of other people, and being seen as helpful to other prople
  2. Performance - A concern for achievement and task accomplishment, taking on risks for rewards, and
  3. Process - A concern for structure, organization, independence and pursuit of what’s “right.”

Again, we are all the same in that we are all driven by a blend of those three concerns.

We Are All Different [1]

We are all different in exaclty how the blend of motivations takes place, in our own personal psyche. For some, one of those concerns will be stronger than the other two, while for others two will be stronger than the third, and still in others the blend among the three will be fairly equal.With this in mind, and taking a people-based approach to change management, we last left off applying this people-based perspective to the first five principles of my favorite 10-point change management model [2].

  1. Begin with Culture
  2. Start at the Top
  3. Involve Every Layer
  4. Make the Rational & Emotional Argument Together
  5. Act Your Way into a New Way of Thinking

With this review, let's discuss the remaining five of the 10 Principles of Leading Change Management.

Engage, Engage, Engage

Imagine that your organization has come up with a new product or service. You’ve conducted vast amounts of market research and you are confident that you have a clear and concise understanding of what your potential customers need and want in their lives. So, with all that information – you do nothing. You don’t use it to craft the product or service details you don’t customize the marketing plan in fact, you don’t even tell your potential customers why it is that they might actually need or want what you have to offer. Wouldn’t that be nuts?

However, when it comes to our organizational change efforts, that’s often exactly what we do. We have every opportunity to engage those impacted by the change, those deploying the change and those speaking and endorsing the change – and we say little to nothing in the process. Consider an alternative.

The next time you seek to introduce an organizational change – no matter how small or large – treat it like you would an external product or service introduction. Create an internal communication and marketing plan. Really – just as you would for something externally facing, take the necessary time to:

  1. Identify all of the key segments of your audience – senior leadership, project team members, potential detractors, and especially those indirectly and directly impacted by the change.
  2. Identify the key motivations and concerns present within each segment – Again, you may have to spend some time to find out, but isn’t the time spent worth it if it dramatically increases the likelihood of a successful and lasting change?
  3. Identify the key messages that will be meaningful to each segment – People remember what you say from the very beginning. Depending on the blend of motivations and concerns, different messages must be used to engage the emotions of those involved. In addition, potential detractors will make mental notes of the case you make, and if it turns out to be contrived or inauthentic messages, they will gladly “beat you over the head” with them (“Remember, you said….) when they get a chance, or when the change initiative fails.
  4. Identify communication timing, frequency and methods – For some, concise and infrequent communications will suffice, even be preferred (such as those with a performance orientation). For others, frequent communications of “what you know, when you know it” will be necessary, along with honored commitments to continue communicating as details emerge (such as those having a process orientation). Finally, there will be those for whom the way the communication occurs will make all the difference. An informative email will be dry and impersonal, causing them to feel distant and unappreciated. However, deliver the key message with a personal, in-person touch, and give them the opportunity to know you and how the change will benefit them and the people they know (those having a people orientation) – and you’ve reached them.

Once you’ve established these channels of communication, keep it up, do not let down – never let your audience be able to say, “I never heard anything again so I didn’t know what was happening.”

Lead Outside the Lines

Organizational change has a significantly higher probability of being sustained and successful when all of the available authority and influence is engaged in deployment and support. I’ve told you about the CEO who said, “Everyone is going to use the new system, including those who replace those that don’t.” However, the ultimate authority that he leveraged was actually much less successful, and for many very offensive, than using the methods described here to appeal to the interests and concerns of those impacted by the change.

Consider the last change initiative in which you may have participated, or were impacted by. How much more successful would it have been if you had been able to provide each individual with their own personal connection – their own reason – to become a supporter, even a champion, for the change.

The leveling of pure authority (even if it is legitimate) often breeds contempt, resentment, and resistance - but savvy influence produces self-motivated change promoters. Identify those individuals early in the change planning process, engage them, and their individual concerns and motivations (People, Performance or Process). Those promotors then become informal leaders and supporters of the change themselves. They become the frontline, subject matter expert, and business owners that will provide the informal leadership through the change.

The best method to prepare to engage these individuals is to establish two points of reference for each of them: (1) attempt to identify what motivates them (People, Performance or Process), by actually asking for feedback from the individuals to confirm, and (2) identify each individual's organizational network, mapping out their connections and seeing who people talk to and influence, or are influenced by. Beyond the formal org chart, this network analysis will allow you to lead change outside the formal lines of leadership.

Leverage Formal Solutions

Now, by this point, I hope you are seeing that the purpose behind this writing is to demonstrate that there is a new perspective to add to your current change management strategy – whatever it is. I’m referencing a 10 point strategy here, but no matter your strategy, you will have greater success when you include consideration of individual motivations and concerns (People, Performance or Process).

Such is the case when leveraging formal solutions. A common element of almost every change management strategy is the use of change process structures, reward systems, ways of operating, training and development. But, consider these components in light of varying motivations and concerns (People, Performance and Process), and even those common elements change in very crucial ways. For example, something that might be considered a valued reward to one person may not be considered a valued reward to another. Here are some examples of specific examples for each motivation:

  • People oriented motivations: A well-received reward could be a team catered lunch for achieving a collective performance metric, or a company-sponsored donation to a charity of the team’s choice.

This is very different than…

  • Performance oriented motivations: A well-received reward could be a trophy, public recognition of achievement as employee of the week/month, or even better – additional responsibilities and authority.

Which is very different than…

  • Process oriented concerns: A well-received reward could be an encouraging, yet private, acknowledgement of a job well done, monetary compensation (again, privately), or perhaps most meaningful, trusting the individual as a resource to take on one of your most challenging problem and showing the confidence that they are seen as a person who can come up with the best solution.

Because everyone is a blend of these concerns, an appropriate reward for adopting, supporting, or championing a change initiative may be a blended reward – but that does not mean that reward systems are interchangeable. You do not want to mistakenly believe, for example, that a very public recognition would be just as effective as a private recognition for a process oriented person. You will not only cause them to feel very uncomfortable, it may also result in the loss of their engagement and support.

Leverage Informal Solutions

Even when the formal, structured change management fundamentals needed for sustained success are present, an organization’s current cultural norms can spell failure if the organization's people revert to those old ways of behaving. This is why formal and informal solutions must work together.

So, no matter what academic change models or theory you may embrace (i.e., Adaptive & Unpredictable Change, Planned Change, Developmental & Stage-Based Change, or Narrative-Based Change), which are all well-respected perspectives for understanding change, you will significantly improve your change management success by adding the above motivational-based approaches to your practice.

Assess & Adapt

Finally, there is absolutely no way that stakeholders can know if a change initiative is on the path to sustained successful results if the leading indicators and final desired results have not been adequately articulated. Motivational concerns play a major role in this final element.

People oriented individuals will tend to express their leading indicators and ultimate desired results in people-oriented terms – but not everyone will respond in ways that can be measured in those terms. Performance oriented individuals will tend to express their leading indicators and ultimate desired results in performance-oriented terms – but not everyone will respond in ways that can be measured in those terms, and so on.

So how does one define leading indicators and final desired results in a better way? You must “round the bases,” so to speak. By that I mean – identify milestones along the way (measurable leading indicators) and final outcomes (desired results) for each of the motivational concerns. For example:

  • People – We will periodically conduct lunch & learn events, inviting people to come and learn more and share their needs & wants, in person. We will learn people’s names, keep track of the questions, and personally follow-up with answers and support. We expect that the overall volume of participants will be high (set an actual attendance target) along the way, and that 80% of those participants will express that the events have been “helpful” (the specific term is important) to them.
  • Performance – We will establish a budget of (set a specific overall $$ budget) and will exhaust that budget at (set a specific burn-rate) per week, month or quarter. We will analyze our outcomes-based results.
  • Process – We will track the numbers of questions or issues, and problem reports logged during the change initiative, and by (set a specific date) have no more than (set a specific threshold) logged items remaining to be addressed, declining at a rate of (specifics, again) per week, month, quarter.

In this way, your success metrics are constructed in ways that can be measured in intervals (leading indicators) that if achieved, are strong indicators that the ultimate success will be achieved. In addition, the metrics span the range of motivations – so everyone will be paying attention to the metric that is most meaningful to them.


Does your organization need help with a significant change initiative? Want to learn more about the importance of motivational concerns to your organizations success – change initiative success, project success, team development success, performance management success? Let me help!

About the Author

Scott R. Thomas is the President of PeopleWorx, Inc. - a principle-based consulting firm developing organizations through people - and brings more than 30 years of organizational change management, enterprise program management, project management, and organizational development to his clients in a wide range of industries, including financial services, healthcare services and the utilities industry.

The above referenced principles are drawn from [1] Dr. Elias H. Porter, and Relationship Awareness Theory©, and the Strengths Deployment Inventory©, PSP - Carlsbad, CA. [2] 10 Principles of Change Management, Aguirre & Alpern, Summer 2004 & 10 Principles of Leading Change Management, July 2016.



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