change management, elephant, Toby Elwin, plan, irrational

One change management plan is irrational project management

change management, impact, persona

Are you blind? That’s an elephant!

Organizations need change to thrive and must change to survive. An organization can only change if people, within the organization, change. Projects that address the organization change over the people change misses the real change management impact.

Projects either create something new or improve something that exists. All projects create change.

Change management is not the soft stuff, as this Harvard Business Review piece reminds, change management is, indeed, the hard side of change management.

There are very rational, textbook reasons that projects recommend change management to:

  • Engage with stakeholders,
  • Counter resistance to change, and
  • Measure the effectiveness of implemented changes to meet strategic goals

Some projects and their project plans have a very distinct, reasonable start and end dates for change management activities and assign project resources for change management.

Change, tied to survival, seems a very clear expectation.

However people, irrational and, many times, emotional, seem so often to balk at the very idea of change.


Is this organization sabotage?

Is this human capital lethargy?

Is this generational divide?

Is this capability model incompetence?

To the above, a resounding, no.

That people change for organization need is at distinct odds with people’s needs. People change for an organization goal is a very irrational expectation.

Project Their Change

Change can include process change, financial change, professional change, job change, role change, compensation change.

You can not plan for change if you do not plan for the impact that change has on individuals.

To view change, start with an impact assessment that the project will have on roles and responsibilities closest to the change. Look at the job roles that will change, look at the skills that will change, look at the process changes.

Then identify the other departments the impact changes.

Each change is unique and the cumulative change impact effects varying people, varying points, and varying processes.

What if change resistance was simply a natural response to poorly conceived change management?

To identify real change look at the inputs to the change and the outputs from the change. View these as change customers to uncover needs and desires, imagine a satisfaction score to, not just a delivery date.

Do not confuse the noun with the verb.  For a successful project, a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service, to succeed do not project, present attribute a favorable impression of the stakeholder’s own emotion or desire, to others.

Management Changed

Change means different things to different people.

Different roles demand different levels of change.

Resistance to change is more misunderstanding change than not wanting to change.

Change management is a rational endeavor to manage change for the irrational and emotional. The very rational Project Management Institute recommends project :

  • Create a change plan that supports your organization’s strategic goals.
  • Implement a change plan that supports your organization’s structure, culture, and strategic goals.
  • Monitor and measure change transition that supports your organization’s structure, culture, and strategic goals.

This, itself, is an irrational situation and not very likely to succeed.

Create a change plan with unique engagement properties that meet the objectives of unique groups of people. A strong change management plan meets needs of the:

  • Role,
  • Delivery,
  • Process,
  • Technology,
  • Level of effort,
  • Training,
  • Compensation,
  • Career, and
  • Job

No one communication can cover the change impact.

Project Management Institute (PMI) defines a project as:

unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.

User Experience that Elephants Never Forget

A new technology impacts the department differently than the people impact to those who provide information to that department and the people impact to those who rely on that department for their information.

Singular goal, in the above PMI definition may work for a corporate level, but not if the objective is adoption. No one corporate goal motivates all:

Goals motivate people to perform activities; understanding goals allows you to understand the expectations and aspirations of your users, which can in turn help you decide which activities are truly relevant to your design.

Task and activity analysis is useful at the detail level, but only after user goals have been analyzed.

Asking, “What are the user’s goals?” lets you understand the meaning of activities to your users, and thus create more appropriate and satisfactory designs.

About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design by Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, David Cronin

The above quote relates to design and user experience, the direct impact a project has to user experience compels projects to think in design terms, not activities.

Think of change management as the Blind Men and the Elephant: limited exposure reveals limited views. Each element a little correct, but all are wrong.

To deliver an elephant when each expects a wall, a spear, a snake, a tree, a fan, or a rope, means you communicated poorly. One communication plan can not account for the unique of roles if it does not account for unique impact.

A single email to announce change is an endeavor to announce nothing specific to no one specific. When communication becomes an activity with an end date to finish, the mark for change management is missed – wide to the left.

Design a change management plan for people change impact.


Invite impacted people into the discussion, appreciate what they need to stop doing, start doing, and continue doing. Ask them their biggest concern that their manager expects from them. Here begins a view of change management to meet user goals.

When you think of a variety of personas across your organization and change management design objectives to meet their need, you begin to look at change that starts prior to the project and continues past the project close date.

After all, a company can not change, only people can change.

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Comments 2

  1. Good posting… I have found it helpful to create messaging for each group that will be impacted by the upcoming change. The message should state the benefit to the organization, and how it will benefit / impact that particular audience. Many folks care more about “whats in it for ME” rather than what is in it for the organization… the more you can align those two items, the smoother the change roll out will be.

    1. Change management is really a campaign, with marketing or political campaigns an interesting proxy for effective messaging that meets the target perspective of What’s In It For Me? (WIIFM?).

      Have you always seen sponsors or business owners start initiatives with this view? Is this something you started in project management or has multi-faceted, change management something you adopted from another profession or organization?

      Many times objectives can clearly write themselves when you ignore WIIFY? and write for the needs other’s view their world: WIIFM?

      Thank you for adding your comment Henry.

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