Change Management

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What is change management?

Learning Series - Article 1

What is change management?

Explaining why the management of change is so important, communications specialist Everett M. Rogers1, relates a classic (and tragic) story of the implications for projects that fail to actively manage change.

In the 15th century, scurvy wiped out up to 60% of those undertaking long sea voyages. In 1601 James Lancaster, an English sea captain discovered that three teaspoons of lemon juice could cure the disease. However, it was only in 1795 that the English Navy adopted the solution - 194 years after it had been discovered!

Clearly, the mere availability of a solution to a pressing problem does not mean that it will be adopted or that once the solution has been adopted that the original problem will in fact be solved. In Rogers’ story the British Navy was faced with a pressing and costly challenge to its organization. A solution was needed. The solution was found, but its adoption by the organization at large was never really systematically managed. Notwithstanding the management innovations since the 1400’s, evidence exists for similar problems with adoption in more recent times. Schaffer and Thomson2 surveyed 300 electronics organizations and found that although 73 percent claimed to have a total quality program in place, 63 percent had thus far failed to show any significant decrease in product defects. (Arguably, the problem here may not have been adoption of solutions but the solutions themselves). Organizational change started accelerating in the latter part of the 20th century. A number of organizational solutions gained popularity in these years. They include TQM, JIT and distribution systems, time-based competition, lean production/lean enterprise, customerfocus, activity-based cost management, employee empowerment, and re-engineering3. At the corporate level, change has also proliferated. Each year since 1974 there have been between 1800 and 2900 mergers and...