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It's about the people, stoopid!


Disciplines > Change Management > Articles > It's about the people, stoopid!

Too much task focus | Missing stakeholders | Not enough leadershipNot enough journey | See also


Change management in business is about people. It is about changing what they think, feel and believe and so what they do. Yet strangely, many, many change projects miss this point. Sometimes you just want to shout 'It's about the people, stupid!!'

Too much task focus

The simplest and most common problem in managing change is in trying to implement the change in focusing first on what must be done and last on changing the minds of the people involved. This is common when starting from the management position. The manager thinks, 'I am the manager -- all I need to do is tell them what to do and they'll do it.' But of course they do not. Or not at least in the way you want. There are many ways of resisting and people who are not persuaded will find enough of them to make the job difficult.

Missing stakeholders

When you are making a change in an organization, a more enlightened approach than being just task-focused is to try to pay attention to the people. The problem here is that there can be many individuals and groups with an interest in what you are doing (and who may also be able to disrupt your progress).

Whilst some stakeholders are obvious, such as senior managers and the people who are directly affected by the change, companies are complex systems and changing one part can affect quite distant parts. People who work in these more remote corners may find a negative impact for them and consequently try to disrupt the change. If they do not have the power, their director may well have enough clout to put a spoke in the works.

Not enough leadership

Managers sustain business-as-usual, but change requires leadership. When a company spends most of its time 'delivering the goods', taking time out to envision the change and motivate the workers with passion and zeal.

Leadership is not something you do on Mondays. It is a full-time job whenever you meet or communicate with others. Balancing it with managing is likely to cost more time and you may have to delegate more or recruit interim management, as leadership cannot be delegated.

Followership is voluntary, which means your followers decide what 'enough' leadership is, which, paradoxically, means leadership also means following followers, which takes yet more time and attention.

Not enough journey

This may seem a strange one, but change is a mental journey as people grow to realize that the change is necessary and then the rationale and value of the method of change is worthwhile, valid and necessary.

A classic scenario is that the senior management team spend many hours with consultants and in conference together as they plot the changes to the organization. They then declare what must be done and expect the rest of the firm to understand in a moment.

Persuading people about change means taking them all on a cognitive and emotional journey that leads them to understanding and acceptance. This is not an overnight affair, but also need not hold up the change if done efficiently.

See also

Leadership vs. Management


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