It was not a pretty story. A large energy company, striving to overhaul support functions and reduce costs, was having a very tough time. The management team leaders had launched what they thought were the right change initiatives, and they believed they were off to a good start.
They were wrong. It soon became obvious that employees, less than engaged, were more likely to roll their eyes than roll up their sleeves when the new change requirements were explained to them. “Change fatigue” was ubiquitous. After all, the current effort was just the latest in a long string of change efforts—few of which had succeeded.
Even more worrisome: proof of resistance was everywhere, confidence in the company’s senior management was low, and there was little clarity concerning the factors by which employees were measured. Long story short: the changes went nowhere fast. In that respect, the energy company was no different from the myriads of other organizations that fail to do a proper job of delivering transformational changes.
Today, the company’s story is quite different. The targeted savings have been achieved—and are being sustained. Many of the company’s functions are cost-effective, thanks largely to motivated in-house teams of line managers. The key initiatives are explicitly defined and owned, and managers know which milestones the organization must achieve and when, as well as which course corrections they must make if a milestone is likely to be missed.
The executive team gives clear and meaningful direction and backing. Line leaders are engaged and feel supported; they know what they have to do to facilitate change. Communication about change cascades more easily and systematically down through the ranks.
The energy company’s ability to make change management work—to change change itself—is proof that achieving positive and productive change is entirely possible. In this report, we deconstruct the concept of a systematic, integrated approach to change management.
We show how organizations that focus energy, resources, and time on the most important change elements—as did the energy company described above—can make sense of the change management chatter and successfully achieve sustainable change as a result.