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The Best and the Worst of Change Management Models

We’ve talked about the importance of change management after a big transformational project before, but today I’d like to give you a couple of examples of change management models, both good and bad, to hammer home the idea. 

Note: This is by no means an ethics lesson – I’m using “winning sides” and “losing sides” in these change management models to make a point. But the point is not that changes in an enterprise are only ever made by force, or that someone inevitably loses when change happens. 

The Good: 

Let’s set the scene for this example in the aftermath of a war. One side won; the other side lost. The winning side, having decimated major parts of the losing side’s country, decides to stick around for a while and occupy that country to get it back on its feet after the destruction. 

They rebuild infrastructure, set up provisional governments to keep the recovering country’s government and economy afloat, and generally kickstart a movement to take the parts of this defeated country’s culture that contributed to the war in the first place and develop that culture into something that helps them operate globally with a little more success (with trade and foreign relations and what have you.) 

When the winning side finally withdraws to go home, they basically hand over the things they stuck around to build, issue a warning for the other side not to try anything funny military-wise, and offer their protection and support anytime it’s needed. 

The long and the short of this allegory would be that the side who won the war invested significant time and resources into helping the other side assimilate successfully to their new way of life following the war. 

Ethics aside, from a business standpoint, that’s a great example of what good change management models look like. 

Now – let’s talk about a scenario that’s slightly less rosy.  

The Bad: 

For this example, I want you to think about a single country that operates with a sort of feudal system, with some sitting at the top enjoying wealth, resources, unlimited freedom, and status, and some sitting at the bottom who are basically indentured to this upper class.  

The people sitting at the bottom are familiar with one way of life and one way only – after all, this system has been around for centuries by this point. That’s simply how it is.  

But things change, and eventually the feudal system gets completely overhauled under a new government. The upper class (and the new government) essentially say to the people they’ve been ruling over, “Congrats! You’re free, you can do anything you like, go and enjoy the chance for a new life!” 

And then everyone goes about their business, leaving the newly liberated people to wonder exactly how the hell they’re supposed to live their lives now. All of a sudden, both the people who wanted this feudal system gone and those who thrived within it are doing absolutely nothing to help with the transition of the formerly indentured into this new world.  

So, those with newfound freedom and possibility simply do their best, and the people in the upper class go about their business, never having been told why the failure of the old system was necessary and beneficial.  

The divide that existed in the first place continues in a new form, and the issues that formed the divide and kept it going for centuries continue in subtler ways, forming institutions and ideals and laws that keep the oppressed class oppressed. 

That is how change management models shouldn’t be designed. 

The Point: 

Change is hard. People don’t like it, and most of them will do what they can to resist it. So, you can’t expect success if you don’t help your people through a big change.  

I see so many companies that spend millions of dollars on transformational projects without ever budgeting time for trainers and people with good soft skills to go out in the field and help their people acclimate and get used to the system.  

And another key part of putting change management models in place is, when people are doing a good job with it, show them how their job is actively making things better and cheer them on.  

A lot of these companies just put in a software system and then decree, “Thou shalt use this new system. Good luck.” And oftentimes, people use it wrong, or they stop using it, and they fall back on their old processes. So, now you have shiny new systems that aren’t used because there was no proper change management model, and you only ended up with millions of dollars wasted. 

Help your people if you want to see them help you. 



P.S. – If you’re planning a big change or transformational project anytime soon, these change management models are dedicated to you personally. Get your changes right the first time – and if you need a little help to get started, call us.