Strategic Change Management: Food for Thought

Any organization, whether non-profit or for profit, whether small or large, whether a startup or a well- established and mature business, seems to be in an eternal search for a perfect strategy for implementing and executing Change Management.

Completely coincidentally, I spent most of last week talking about this topic. Whether it was about organizational change management, or project change management or Change Management in the context of ITIL or even software development, everybody seemed to have an idea that there are many times of Change Management and everyone somehow is convinced that people do not like change, something wildly supported by Change Management book authors and relevant consultants of course, but not with clear objective observational research.

This article is more of a food- for- thought than any attempt for a summary for such a vast and unfortunately still painful topic to almost any organization dealing with it.


What is really Change Management?
Change is an alteration of an organization’s strategy, organizational design/ setup or culture as a result of changes in its environment, structure, technology or people.

Changes can be caused by either external (e.g. market changes, economic stability, new technological developments, politics, governmental regulations, etc.) or internal forces (e.g. people, outdated equipment, new strategy, etc.).

Before starting any organizational change, the following strategic- change questions would have to be answered:

  • What do we want to achieve with this change?
  • Why and how will we know that the change has been achieved?
  • Who is affected by this change?
  • How much of this change can we achieve ourselves, and what parts of the change do we need help with?

Do you need a Strategy for Change Management?

Remember: Business Strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim under conditions of uncertainty. So, yes, you will need to plan for Change Management and yes, you will need a strategy for that.

Remember also that: any Business Strategy is all about your Customer, so define not only what changes are going to be made but also define HOW these changes benefit your customer (or beneficiaries if you are a nonprofit).


So, what kind of questions should you ask?

  1. HOW will these changes benefit your customers?
  2. Have you gotten the Organizational Capacity to implement these changes- whether in-house or outsourced?
  3. If an organization-wide change, do you have in place the Organizational Development function to support such an activity?
  4. Is there a Strategic Plan developed to support these changes?
  5. Who is the Owner of the Change? Who approved its implementation? Who safeguards and monitors its success? This is a perfect place to have a short of a RACI Matrix (R=Responsible, Accountable, C=Consulted and I=Informed).
  6. Is there a proper budget aside for it? I.e. are the proposed ‘changes’ adequately financed?
  7. Have the changes been communicated to all involved and supported via a variety of introductory workshops and trainings? Do customers need to be informed and/or trained too?
  8. What about Risk Management and Relevant Contingencies?
  9. Is the organization mature enough to support these changes? What are the relevant organizational competencies (e.g. business, technical, etc.)?
  10. Does the organization have a relevant Change Management methodology/ model and an associate Governance FrameWork?
  11. Can this methodology/ model or even Change Management Team/ Department handle big volume of changes? If it is not scalable, it could paralyze the organization as an evolving entity. Time- to- market of new products or services should be improved and not blocked by your change management methodology.
  12. What is the complexity level of the ‘to- be- implemented’ changes? Basically, the question is about how many Intermediate Modes of Operations does the organization have to go through to move from the Current Mode of Operations (CMO) to the Future Mode of Operations (FMO). Obviously these all have to be part of your strategic plan for this change management effort.
  13. Does your organization has a mechanism in place to guarantee the smooth/ seamless delivery and support of the implemented changes?
  14. How is the successful implementation of all changes measured? Quantitative of course. What are the Key Success Factors and who defined them? Keep in mind please that not only benefits, but all outcomes need to be measured.
  15. How do the implemented changes affect your customers -directly or indirectly?
  16. Do any of these changes affect your strategic alliances, partners/ any of your vendors?
  17. Finally- but very important: have all the people involved in or affected by the changes, bought in? Is there a clear ‘team vision & spirit’?

These are just an indicative set of questions that will help you define and lead a successful strategic change management process.


Who doesn’t like Change?
You tell me… We all hear constantly that cliché…but have you met some who does not want to work with the latest version of a software package or a new equipment or a new process methodology? Who really resists evolution in any aspect, if they are properly informed, actively involved, effectively & efficiently trained and their opinions and input are valued?


So, how do you perform Change Management?
There are plenty of models in business literature for Change Management, some of them obscure an. D some very famous (e.g. 4Cs or the 7-S). What they all seem to have in common is the philosophy that is used to practice change management: should you use a top- bottom approach or a bottom- up one?

Personally, I have not been yet convinced that the top- bottom approach works as a systematic methodology. What really happened to the great Reengineering wave of the 80s that everyone was obsessed about? Anyway…

There are 2 successful bottom- up change management approaches that you are all aware of:

  • Keizen and
  • Lean

Kaizen (Japanese word for “improvement” or “change for the better”) focuses upon continuous improvement of processes in manufacturing, engineering, development, marketing etc. (main business processes), supporting business processes and management. Kaizen as a management approach, is based on the simple idea that:

no actual status of a process or an organization, is good enough to be kept “as is”/ unchanged forever.

Kaizen refers to the continuous improvement of all functions and involves all employees from the Executive Board to the assembly line workers. It also applies to processes, such as purchasing and logistics and always involves the entire organization. Kaizen was first implemented in several Japanese businesses after WWII, influenced by the thoughts and teachings of Deming who went to Japan at that time.

Lean Management (it should not be mistakenly confused with 6-Sigma) explains how-to link the advantages of batch-producing organizations (speed, low unit-costs) with the benefits of a customer-oriented organization (high flexibility, customizing, quality).

“Lean” must be understood as “Lean Enterprise”, an enterprise with customer- oriented organization

which values customers, suppliers and employees (btw, ‘The Lean Startup’ is an excellent book to read).

The principles of Lean Management are:

  • gradual approach,
  • group orientation,
  • own responsibility,
  • constant feedback in lower management levels and
  • long-term strategic direction,
  • enterprise-wide improvement of quality,
  • acceleration of the development of products & services,
  • harmonious integration of the enterprise into the society,
  • outsourcing and concentration on specific strengths of the organization.

Lean management uses the Kaizen approach!!
The advantage of a bottom-up approach lies with the possibility of adapting the speed of change and the capacity of the organization for development. Small changes can be achieved at short notice or immediately, while lasting changes could run smoothly and could guarantee a constant improvement of the problem solution capacity of the enterprise.

But to be honest and objective, permanent change processes could negatively affect the organization, if there is no clear direction in the bottom-up approach.

This problem is addressed by the new Change Management theories which are a combination of both bottom –up and top- down approaches.


List of common failure reasons in Change Management.

  • No clear benefit to customers or beneficiaries
  • No Budget
  • No clear process ownership
  • Inadequate people buy-in
  • Top-Down one-way approach
  • No planning – thus also no milestones and timelines
  • Lack of holistic overview and monitoring of risks
  • No governance or too much of it.
  • Insufficient communication
  • No Feasibility Study
  • Organizational Readiness
  • Seeing Change & Transformation as an HR Project
  • …..


In Conclusion
Change Management theories were starting to be developed in the 50s so business could cope with advancements in technology, a new faster pace of competition, globalization, the need to improve profit margins, control cost & increase efficiency coupled with increasing customer expectations (which is today’s norm). Thus, ALL TYPES of organizations have to evolve and regenerate themselves in order to survive.

We are all aware that gone are the days when individuals could expect to work in the same business, under the same ownership, with the same colleagues, and the same customer-set for the whole of their career.

Having a strategy to cope with Changes, will simplify everyone’s life and does not need to face any resistance waves if done properly.

Remember: Using a bottom- up approach will help you incorporate ‘common sense’ in your change management process.


Thank you,


About the Author: Spiros Tsaltas, a Top-Tier Strategic PR Management Consultant and a former University Professor (RSM MBA, CUNY, etc), is a seasoned Technology & Operations Executive. Spiros has hands-on experience on setting up all sorts of Startups both in the US and in Europe. He is an active transformational leader and strategist with extensive experience on Boards of Advisors & Boards of Directors. He is currently assisting a couple of Ghanaian companies with the setup of their Boards of Directors. He is currently assisting a couple of Ghanaian companies with the setup of their BoDs.

© 2018 Spiros Tsaltas and  © 2018 HireLoyalty