Archive for the ‘Foundational Dynamics’ Category

What is “change management”? Why are there so many different definitions….

Reading the fine print and trying to make sense out of “Change Management”?   Looking for a concise definition and overview?  Here is a document you might not be familiar with:  “Statement of Change Management: Scope, Knowledge Areas, and Process Groups” published March 31, 2012 by the ACMP® (Association of Change Management Professionals).   The ACMP is a global membership organization, formed in 2011, whose purpose is to advance the discipline of change management.  The “Statement of Change Management” document is highly condensed and is an excellent place to start.  Below, we will touch on the documents’ highlights.  For more detailed descriptions and examples, we encourage you to check out the entire document.



“ACMP defines change management to be the application of knowledge, skills, abilities, methodologies, processes, tools, and techniques to transition an individual or group from a current state to a desired future state, such that the desired outcomes and/or business objectives are achieved.”

ChangeIsCertain Translation:  In order to reach the desired outcomes, take a systematic, disciplined, two pronged  approach to implementing change:    1) identify major “barriers” that obstruct adoption of the New Ways and remove them  2) identify change “accelerators” that increase the speed of adoption of the New Ways and implement them.

In addition to their definition above, the ACMP includes several important clarifications:

“ACMP’s definition assumes that the organization has agreed upon the need for change and has identified the nature of the change.”

“Change management is an integral part of the overall change process and ideally begins at the onset of change. “

 “Change management processes, when properly applied, ensure individuals within an organization efficiently and effectively transition through change such that the organization’s goals are realized.” 

ChangeIsCertain Translation:  these clarifications stress the importance of making sure that:  1) the change initiative/change in strategy being pursued has already been approved and tested and has the support of the Executive Committee, 2) that an effective change management program is pursued proactively at the beginning of the change process rather than pursued reactively downstream.

Additionally, from a scope perspective, the ACMP recognizes that being skilled in change management processes is necessary but not sufficient for success; i.e. Change management professionals must show-up with their own complimentary leadership, interpersonal, communication, and emotional intelligence  skills, in order to:

” …navigate complex political environments, geographic and organization cultures, work at multiple levels within an organization and engage many different types of personalities in the workplace”.


“Process groups are assemblies of similar or related processes that serve as guides for the application of change management knowledge, skills, and abilities during a change management engagement.  They are linked in the sense that the output or result of one process becomes the input of another process.  Processes within each group are iterative, sometimes simultaneous, and may be applied multiple times throughout the phases of a change management effort.”

The ACMP document calls out 5 “process groups” which represent the lifecycle of change management’s involvement in a particular implementation process.  (These 5 process groups draw upon the 16 knowledge and skill areas in the following section.)

(For detailed descriptions please refer to the ACMP “Statement of Change Management” document.)


“ACMP recognizes that [the 16] knowledge, skills, and abilities shown … are unique and critical to the discipline of change management and are therefore are within the scope of its recognition and certification programs.”

(For detailed descriptions please refer to the ACMP “Statement of Change Management” document.)



While not called out by the ACMP,  the effectiveness of change management can be significantly increased or decreased based upon the nature of the change, the structure under which it must operate, the culture in which it must operate, etc.   John Kotter, in his November 2012 article “Accelerate!”,   has the following to say about the benefits and limitations of change management when operating within a low risk, hierarchal structure:

“Change management typically relies on tools–such as diagnostic assessments and analyses, communications techniques, and training modules–that can be invaluable in helping with episodic problems for which here are relatively straightforward solutions, such as implementing  a well-tested financial reporting system.”

Kotter goes on to describe a different structure, “dual operating system” that picks up where traditional change management leaves off.



Change management is a systematic approach for dealing with large scale changes.  It erupted onto the scene in the 1980′s as a successful means for reducing the failure rate of rapid, large scale business changes and has continued to evolve ever since.  Currently, it is in the process of being “legitimized” and codified as a professional discipline through the efforts of the ACMP.  While interdependent with one another,  Strategy Execution, Change Management, and Project Management are separate and distinct disciplines.  For large scale strategy changes, it is vital that all three disciplines work in concert with one another since none are substitutes for one another.  It is important to remember that many macro variables  can impact the effectiveness of a change management effort including the personal skills and experience of the change management professionals, the nature of the change, the organizational structure, the cultural norms of the organization, etc.



“Statement of Change Management: Scope, Knowledge Areas, and Process Groups” published March 31, 2012 by the ACMP®

“Accelerate!”  John Kotter, Harvard Business Review November 2012


Accelerate Speed-of-Adoption: Test Your Initiative in a Wind Tunnel

When a vehicle is parked, it generates zero “drag”.  Essentially, drag is the resistance (caused by air) that is created as a vehicle gains speed and “pushes” against it.  Zero velocity (parked) = zero drag.  Following the of the laws of physics, drag increases at a faster rate than velocity (speed).  If you stick your arm out the window when a car is traveling 70 mph, you will feel 4 times the resistance as when you stick your arm out at 35 mph.  And the more resistance your vehicle generates, the more horsepower it must have and the more fuel it will consume trying to maintain your target speed.

Similarly, when a large-scale New Way initiative is “parked”, it generates little, if any, drag.  However, as it gains velocity, it begins to create drag–and the faster the initiative is driven, naturally, the more drag it creates.  With respect to implementing a New Way initiative, increasing  drag translates to increasing the size of  “barriers to adoption” and the faster the initiative is driven, the more formidable these barriers become.


Throughout their lifecycles, all large-scale  initiatives encounter countless barriers that must be navigated over, around, or through.  Whenever I am called in to help clear the road of obstacles like the one to the left and work with the team to get the initiative back on track, I ask “did the barrier come as a surprise  or was it expected?”  The answer I often hear is that it wasn’t expected; but it wasn’t exactly a surprise either.   In the end, the problem isn’t about the surprise factor associated these large barriers–the problem is that these obvious barriers weren’t called out during the early planning sessions as risk factors to be neutralized or mitigated in a thoughtful and deliberate way.


In the world of automotive engineering, tests have shown that the aerodynamic design of a vehicle is responsible for 60% of a vehicle’s drag.  Similarly, Everett Rogers  50+ years of research revealed that over 50%  of the variation in any given initiative’s adoption rate can be explained by the way Target Adopters perceive a handful of common-sense factors (Complexity, Advantage, and Compatibility are the main ones).  Analysis of stalled initiatives often reveal that one or more of these three factors were either misunderstood, discounted, or completely overlooked by the design and implementation teams.


Few companies have the time or inclination to research the hundreds of possible barriers to adoption that could spring up.   However, given the time, talent, and treasure required to implement a large-scale initiative, it certainly makes sense to identify  the top 7 barriers to adoption and develop special tactics to mitigate their effect.


Whether  you are in the planning stages   or in the middle of initiating your initiative, it is never too late to conduct an objective assessment of the Initiative, the Target Adopters,  Sponsors, etc.

Like a wind tunnel test, we are going to call out which specific areas of  the Initiative should be observed. For purposes of this post, we will focus our attention on the Target Adopters–particularly their perceptions toward the Initiative with respect to:

  • Perceived Complexity of the Initiative
  • Perceived Advantages of the Initiative
  • Perceived Compatibility of the Initiative


  • Accessibility/Complexity of the New Way -  how hard or easy it is to understand, learn, and apply new behaviors under the New Way.   (Accessible = faster adoption; Complex = slower adoption)
  • Advantage of the New Way - the degree to which Target adopters perceive the New Way as  faster, easier, more consistent, less wasteful, better for their careers, etc. ( higher Advantage = faster adoption; lower Advantage = slower adoption)
  • Compatibility of the New Way - the degree to which the New Way meshes with current practices, beliefs, norms, and assumptions. ( more Compatibility = faster adoption; less Compatibility = slower adoption )

Assume you just objectively interviewed, polled, and/or surveyed a representative sample of Target Adopters and the comments below surfaced consistently across the board.  (Further, in the interest of time, assume that the incidence rate for each response was was equal across all Target Adopter groups).

Please quickly acquaint yourself with each comments below and answer the 3 questions that follow:

  • The software doesn’t work like it is supposed to
  • The system crashes often or it is too slow
  • It takes longer and requires more effort than the old way
  • I have difficulty using the technology
  • Corporate takes too long to answer my questions
  • I’m not a Phd
  • I have difficulty learning the new technology
  • Went through the training but didn’t learn anything
  • Was taking too much time to learn so I went back to the old way
  • It takes me away from my other duties which are more important

Question 1:  One Target Adopter perception dominates this list–which is it?  

Answer:  “Complexity” (it shows up 5 out of 10 times and could be causal to several other perceptions).

Question 2:  How would you address this speed of adoption barrier?

Answer:    “Flatten the Learning Curve”- i.e. take action to 1) align the Target Adopters with the learning methods and/or 2) figure out how to alter the learning methods to better align with the Target Adopters.

Question 3:  If you decided to take a “wait and see approach” instead of taking immediate action, what might you expect to happen? 

Answer:  The Initiative could go into a “stall”.


The purpose of this post was to familiarize you with the importance and relative ease with which you and your team can, if you know what you are looking for, pro-actively identify Speed-of-Adopion barriers and mitigate their effects.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below or email me at

Thank you for your time and good luck with your New Ways initiative.



Innovation Attributes from:
Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: Free Press.
Drag Coefficients: