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How to Successfully Manage Change in Your Organization

Aug 31, 2018

Did you know 60% of all projects fail to fully meet their objectives while staying within budget and on schedule, and while meeting set standards of quality?[1] This same study also discovered that the biggest obstacle to achieving success is just changing mindsets and attitudes within a company.

The fact is, change initiatives fail when people’s reactions to change are undervalued or mismanaged. Every strategic plan leads to change, and everyone is a change manager at some point. When each employee in the company touches at least some part of the business’s overall strategic plan and direction, getting them invested from the beginning goes a long way toward helping ensure success. Those who are made aware of changes sooner are better able to understand the process, accept it and own their part in it.

So how can you successfully manage change in your organization?

Change Versus Transition

First, you have to think of human resistance to change as not just normal but also as a risk that needs to be managed. People actually go through phases of transition when they find out about change. The first phase is anxiety over what this change means for them and their job. Then comes denial and resistance — be prepared to hear questions about why this change is necessary. And finally, if you’ve properly managed change, the third phase is acceptance, which leads into ownership.

People go through this transition at different speeds. Some may be change advocates; others may heavily resist. The biggest challenge for an organization is helping every function, department, team and individual transition, since they will not all do so at the same pace.

Managing this transition comes down to visibility. By making everyone aware of a new strategic plan or project from the beginning, you give them time to start their change transition before you begin asking them to perform work as a part of the plan or project. When people are both well informed and have time to deal with change, they are much more likely to understand the plan or project’s benefits and get on board with their own role in facilitating change.

The Crucial Role of Management

Another key aspect of change management is, in fact, management. It’s the relationship supervisors and managers have with front-line employees that makes change possible. Managers must play five big roles to help ease their direct reports’ transition:

  1. Communicator: Managers must communicate with direct reports about the change.
  2. Advocate: They must demonstrate support for the change.
  3. Coach: They must coach employees through the change process.
  4. Resistance Manager: They must identify and manage resistance in individual employees.
  5. Liaison: They must engage with and provide support to direct reports.

Managers that can answer questions and assuage fears are more likely to get everyone on their team invested — just make sure that managers themselves have been successfully primed to accept and manage change. They’re human, too, and will experience some sort of resistance to change that can be overcome as they go through their own transition. It’s upper management’s responsibility to use their own close relationships with supervisors and managers to provide visibility into the strategic direction of the company and facilitate their transition to accepting and promoting change. Providing managers with the tools to explain the change, answer questions and escalate issues are essential steps to successful change.

Change management can make or break your strategic plan’s success, so don’t take undue risks. Wipfli can assist your business with its change management efforts to help ensure your projects are completed on time, on budget and up to your standards. Contact us to learn more about our change management services.


[1] “Making Change Work,” IBM, 2008,, accessed June 12, 2018


Deron J. Kling
Senior Manager
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