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Read the assigned articles and find a current event about an organizational change effort. Create a two-paragraph synopsis to explain that change effort to your classmates, post a link to the current event article, and make sure to answer the following questions:

What were the primary drivers of the change effort? Why were these drivers critical? Who was “feeling the pain” of those issues not being addressed effectively?

What was the gap (or gaps) between the current situation and the targeted goal of the change effort

Graduate Discussion Rubric
Overview
Your active participation in the discussions is essential to your overall success this term. Discussion questions will help you make meaningful connections
between the course content and the larger concepts of the course. These discussions give you a chance to express your own thoughts, ask questions, and gain
insight from your peers and instructor.
Directions
For each discussion, you must create one initial post and follow up with at least two response posts.
For your initial post, do the following:
 Write a post of 1 to 2 paragraphs.
 In Module One, complete your initial post by Thursday at 11:59 p.m. Eastern.
 In Modules Two through Ten, complete your initial post by Thursday at 11:59 p.m. of your local time zone.
 Consider content from other parts of the course where appropriate. Use proper citation methods for your discipline when referencing scholarly or
popular sources.
For your response posts, do the following:
 Reply to at least two classmates outside of your own initial post thread.
 In Module One, complete your two response posts by Sunday at 11:59 p.m. Eastern.
 In Modules Two through Ten, complete your two response posts by Sunday at 11:59 p.m. of your local time zone.
 Demonstrate more depth and thought than saying things like “I agree” or “You are wrong.” Guidance is provided for you in the discussion prompt.
Rubric
Critical Elements
Comprehension
Timeliness
Engagement
Exemplary
Develops an initial post with an
organized, clear point of view or
idea using rich and significant
detail (100%)
N/A
Provides relevant and
meaningful response posts with
clarifying explanation and detail
(100%)
Proficient
Develops an initial post with a
point of view or idea using
appropriate detail (90%)
Submits initial post on time
(100%)
Provides relevant response
posts with some explanation
and detail (90%)
Needs Improvement
Develops an initial post with a
point of view or idea but with
some gaps in organization and
detail (70%)
Submits initial post one day late
(70%)
Provides somewhat relevant
response posts with some
explanation and detail (70%)
Not Evident
Does not develop an initial post
with an organized point of view
or idea (0%)
Value
20
Submits initial post two or more
days late (0%)
Provides response posts that are
generic with little explanation or
detail (0%)
10
20
Critical Elements
Critical Thinking
Writing (Mechanics)
Exemplary
Draws insightful conclusions
that are thoroughly defended
with evidence and examples
(100%)
Initial post and responses are
easily understood, clear, and
concise using proper citation
methods where applicable with
no errors in citations (100%)
Proficient
Draws informed conclusions
that are justified with evidence
(90%)
Needs Improvement
Draws logical conclusions (70%)
Not Evident
Does not draw logical
conclusions (0%)
Value
30
Initial post and responses are
easily understood using proper
citation methods where
applicable with few errors in
citations (90%)
Initial post and responses are
understandable using proper
citation methods where
applicable with a number of
errors in citations (70%)
Initial post and responses are
not understandable and do not
use proper citation methods
where applicable (0%)
Total
20
100%
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Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Journal of Change Management
Vol. 10, No. 2, 175– 193, June 2010
Linking Change Drivers and the
Organizational Change Process: A
Review and Synthesis
KAREN S. WHELAN-BERRY∗ & KAREN A. SOMERVILLE∗∗

School of Business, Providence College, Providence, Rhode Island, USA, ∗∗ School of Business, Hamline
University, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
ABSTRACT This theory-building article advances prior research related to change drivers and the
organizational change process. First, we identify the most frequently identified steps in the
organizational change process. Second, we summarize the literature related to change drivers,
clarifying each driver, and we link each change driver to the most frequently identified steps in the
organizational change process. This allows exploration of the relationship between change drivers
and the steps in the change process, as well as discussion of how change drivers vary in terms of
their effect. Our contribution to organizational change theory include reviewing and clarifying
change drivers in prior research, and linking the drivers to specific steps in the organizational
change process.
KEY WORDS : Organizational change, change drivers, change process
Introduction
As scholars and practitioners we work with organizations and change leaders. In
a recent conversation with an experienced change leader in a large organization,
it became clear that while the change leader had a motivating, clear vision, he or
she had not thought about whether the organization was ready for change, what
resources would be necessary to successfully implement change, and how the
organization would monitor its implementation, completion and success. This is
all too common a story.
Correspondence Address: Karen S. Whelan-Berry, School of Business, Providence College, 549 River Street,
Providence, Rhode Island 02918, USA. Tel.: + 1 401 865 2943; Email: kwhelanb@providence.edu
1469-7017 Print/1479-1811 Online/10/020175–19 # 2010 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/14697011003795651
176
K.S. Whelan-Berry & K.A. Somerville
Scholars and practitioners agree that change processes remains complex and
challenging for organizations engaged in such initiatives. The pace of change is
greater than ever before (By, 2005). Yet, there is limited knowledge about how
to plan and implement organizational change (Burke, 2008). Research suggests
that failed organizational change initiatives range from one-third to as high as
80% of attempted change efforts (Fisher, 1994; Beer and Nohria, 2000; Higgs
and Rowland, 2000; Hirschhorn, 2002; Knodel, 2004; Sirkin et al., 2005;
Kotter, 2008). Yet, organizational change is also seen as a constant (Vales,
2007) and a critical skill set for twenty first century leaders and managers
(Knowles, 1999; Beer and Nohria, 2000). Better understanding of the organizational change process, its multiple contexts and levels (Scott, 2001), and
choices about or during change (Woodman and Pasmore, 2004) could have
many positive outcomes, including more effective change implementation.
The change process, while complex and multi-level, is also foreseeable and
map-able. Our interest in a multi-level analysis of the organizational change
process and change drivers is driving our goal of ‘identifying principles that
enable a more integrated understanding of phenomenon that unfold across organizational levels’ (Klein and Kozlowksi, 2000: 7). A second assumption in this
research is that while organizational change certainly unfolds across multiple
levels – at some point, the majority, if not all – organizational change initiatives
inherently involve change at the individual level. That is, a change occurs in the
employees’ behaviors, values, or frameworks that underlie and explicitly shape
their work for the organization (Katz and Kahn, 1978; March, 1981; Marshak,
1993; Coghlan, 2000; Sullivan et al., 2002). In this article we use the change
process steps found most frequently in the literature. These steps include: developing a clear, compelling vision (Kiel, 1994; Schein, 2000; Cummings and Worley,
2004), moving the change vision to the group level (Harvey and Brown, 1996), individual employees’ adoption of the change (Cameron and Quinn, 1999; Morgan and
Brightman, 2001), sustaining the momentum of the change implementation (Kotter,
1995) and institutionalizing the change (Nadler and Tushman, 1990; Judson, 1991).
In order for a change initiative to be successful, organizations need to allocate
adequate resources (Nadler and Tushman, 1990). Vales (2007), for example,
found that senior decision makers’ ability to use both formal and informal mechanisms that were culturally appropriate to the organization was a key determinant
of successful change initiatives. This allocation of resources can result in change
drivers (Longo, 2007), which are intended to facilitate the implementation of the
desired organizational change. Although there is no agreement with regards to
what a change driver is (Porras and Hoffer, 1996; Kemlgor et al., 2000; Pettigrew
et al., 2001), Whelan-Berry et al. (2003a) suggest that they are ‘. . . events, activities, or behaviors that facilitate the implementation of change’ (Whelan-Berry
et al., 2003a). We do find that several change drivers have been researched
more extensively, including leadership, vision, communication, training
(Whelan-Berry et al., 2003a; Somerville and Dyke, 2008; Somerville, 2009),
and participation (Whelan-Berry et al., 2003a; Turner Parish et al., 2008). In
addition to these drivers, changes in organizational structure and processes and
changes in human resource practices have also been repeatedly identified as
change drivers (Nadler and Tushman, 1990; Bridges 2003; Somerville and
Change Drivers and the Organizational Change Process
177
Dyke, 2008; Somerville, 2009). This article moves beyond prior research by
examining these frequently researched change drivers and connects them to the
steps in the organizational change process most frequently identified in the literature, allowing more specific analysis of the effect of the change drivers.
The term ‘change drivers’ has been used in two recurring ways in the existing
literature. The first is as defined above – there are change drivers that facilitate the
implementation of change throughout the organization and, specifically facilitate
individual adoption of change initiatives. The other use of the term identifies
drivers of the necessity for a change, which is whatever gave birth to the desire
or need for change in the organization. Such drivers of the need for change
include, for example, increasing globalization, emerging new internet capabilities
and changes in consumer behavior (Thompson et al., 2010). Furthermore, new leadership, laws, regulations and competitors can also drive the need for change (for
examples see Kehoe, 2000; Anonymous, 2009; Damore, 2009; Cappelli, 2009;
Ndofor et al., 2009). However, while there can be a compelling need to change,
it does not mean that the related change will actually be successfully implemented.
In our exploration of change drivers and process, we do not look at variance by
the nature or type of change, such as a change in organizational culture which is
considered a fundamental organizational transformation (Hesselbein, 2002)
versus a change in an organization’s recruiting process, which can be a relatively
minor or incremental organizational change. We acknowledge that it is unlikely
that we would be able to determine a single organizational change process model
that fits all change initiatives, regardless of their nature or magnitude, and some
change drivers may be more important during specific types of change (WhelanBerry and Somerville, 2009). This article provides a starting point. We focus
specifically on change drivers and their impact, in terms of facilitating implementation and adoption of change during organization-wide change implementation.
In this article we consider three questions as we review the literature:
1. What change drivers are most frequently identified in the literature?
2. What is the relationship between change drivers and the most frequently identified steps in the organizational change process?
3. How can organizations more effectively use change drivers to successfully
implement organizational change?
Our article makes three major contributions. First, we clarify the most common
change drivers that have been associated with organizational change implementation in the literature. Second, we then link those change drivers to the organizational change process. Finally, we discuss the use of change drivers from a
practice perspective.
Review of Organizational Change Process Literature
Approach to Review of Existing Research
The primary focus of this article is change drivers and linking them to the most frequent steps in the change process. According to Burke (2008: 23), ‘[change] process
178
K.S. Whelan-Berry & K.A. Somerville
has to do with how the change is planned, launched, more fully implemented, and
once into implementation, sustained.’ To identify the steps in the organizational
change process most frequently found in successful organizational change
efforts, we reviewed articles that focused on the change process, and building on
the prior work, we then looked across levels of analysis for the steps in the organizational change process. Starting with Lewin’s seminal work (1951), a number of
academics subsequently developed step-based models of organizational level
change. These existing change models have several ideas in common.
Summary of Steps Identified in the Organizational Change Process Literature
Establishing a clear compelling vision.
First, change models typically stress the
importance of identifying the reason for the change, creating a related sense of
urgency, and specifying and communicating that reason or vision (Kotter, 1995,
2008; Galpin, 1996; Cummings and Worley, 2004). This vision typically describes
the desired state, that is, how particular aspects, characteristics, or outcomes of the
organization will look after the change. Creating the vision is one part of the change
process and may happen with or without widespread employee involvement, and is
a critical early step in the change process. Kotter (1995) notes that in every successful transformation there is a vision that is easy to communicate and that appeal to
multiple stakeholders. Since our focus is on implementing this clear compelling
vision, we do not link the change drivers to this step. We discuss the nature of,
and the need for, further study of the change vision later in this article.
Moving the change to the group and individual level.
Change models identify the
need to ‘cascade the change throughout the organization’ (Kotter, 1996, 1999) or
‘manage the transition’ (Cummings and Worley, 2004). This means that the
change vision moves to the group and individual levels of the organization, and
becomes more specifically understood across different locations, teams and departments. If an organization’s change vision is to become ‘family-friendly,’ for
example, that vision may be clear and relatively easy to implement in an accounting
or human resources department, but implementation may be much more difficult in
a 24/7 production, service, or emergency care facility (Whelan-Berry, 2005).
In terms of the group level, Goodman (1982) identifies the organizational
change process at the group level, which includes introduction, adoption, continuation, and maintenance or decline of the change vision and related beliefs or behaviors. A key aspect of the group level process is determining how the change
initiative will work in that specific department, team, or location of the organization. Intentionality and attention at this point during change implementation is
critical, as this is typically the first level of cascading the initiative or managing
the transition identified above (Hinings et al., 1991; Whelan-Berry and Alexander,
2007). Such groups provide a coordinating and linking mechanism to diffuse the
change throughout the organization.
Individual employee adoption of change.
As previously noted, we assume the translation, and especially the enactment of the change vision, ultimately happens at the
individual employee level in situations that experience successful change (Katz
Change Drivers and the Organizational Change Process
179
and Kahn, 1978; March, 1981; Marshak, 1993; Coghlan, 2000; Sullivan et al.,
2002). While this happens in the context of groups, teams or departments,
which create variance in what the vision means based on their specific work
(DiBella, 1996; Klein and Kozlowksi, 2000), individual employees must actually
change their values, attitudes and behaviors in order for organizational change to
be successful (Cameron and Quinn, 1999).
Existing research in the field of psychology provides a strongly supported model
of individual change (Prochaska et al., 1992), which has been used in management
literature (Matheny, 1998; Grover and Walker, 2003; Madsen, 2003; WhelanBerry et al., 2003b, Whelan-Berry and Harvey, 2006). This model identifies
four stages in the individual change process – precontemplation, contemplation,
preparation, action or actually changing, and maintenance. In this step, we focus
on the individual actually changing his or her behavior, values or frameworks,
which prior research has identified as necessary for successful organizational
change (Katz and Kahn, 1978; March, 1981; Marshak, 1993; Coghlan, 2000;
Sullivan et al., 2002).
Sustaining the momentum of change implementation.
Organizational change models
also identify the need to sustain the momentum of change (Kotter, 1995; Galpin,
1996; Armenakis et al., 1999; Cummings and Worley, 2004), meaning the change
initiative receives attention and resources, and does not fail due to the urgency of
daily operations or lack of attention. Change efforts are often under-resourced, and
thus the implementation may be delayed or blocked, which could result in failure
of the change initiative. Both group level (Goodman, 1982) and individual level
(Prochaska et al., 1992) change models identify the need for sustaining a
change. That is, continuing the new behavior. This is particularly important in
initiatives that take a considerable length of time to achieve, such as an organizational culture shift, which typically takes five to seven years (Jick, 1995).
Institutionalizing the change.
In terms of organizational change models, widespread agreement exists that change initiatives and the related outcomes must
be institutionalized, initially identified as Lewin’s ‘re-freezing’ (1951). In this
step, organizations ensure that the desired change outcomes become part of the
organization’s culture, ongoing operations and processes (Kotter, 1995; Armenakis et al., 1999; Cummings and Worley, 2004). The group level change process
model includes the steps of continuation and maintenance of the change initiative
(Goodman, 1982), which are similar to managing the transition, maintaining
momentum and institutionalizing the change described above. The next section
links the organizational change process described above with change drivers.
The Change Drivers and Organizational Change Process
As indicated earlier in this article, ‘change drivers are events, activities, or behaviors that facilitate the implementation of change’ (Whelan-Berry et al., 2003a). A
review of the literature revealed that other words and terms are used to describe
what we refer to as change drivers. For example, Jick (1995) referred to
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K.S. Whelan-Berry & K.A. Somerville
‘change accelerators’ and ‘tactics’, Whelan (1997) referred to ‘catalysts’ and
Porras and Hoffer (1996) referred to ‘action levers’.
We summarize our review of the change drivers and the organizational change
process in Table 1. We then provide a definition and clarification for the change
drivers, then we link each change driver to the steps in the change process.
Accepted Change Vision
Definition and clarification. A key driver of organizational change is that the
change vision is accepted by employees, as well as by other stakeholders. This
driver directly involves individual employees and other stakeholders in the
change implementation as they accept that the change vision is positive for themselves and the organization. Prior research notes that acceptance of the vision is a
key driver of individual employee change and widespread change implementation
(Whelan, 1997; Riis et al., 2001; Gradwell, 2004; Brenner, 2008; Palmer and
Dunford, 2008). This prior research clarifies that simply establishing a clear, compelling change vision in response to a need to change is not enough; employees,
and if relevant, other stakeholders must ‘buy-in’ to the vision, and agree that the
vision is positive for the organization (Whelan, 1997; Whelan-Berry, 2005;
Brenner, 2008; Burke, 2008). Clearly how the vision is established, for example
whether employees and other stakeholders participate in its creation, can affect
acceptance of it, and we address questions regarding the relationship between
establishing a clear, compelling vision and acceptance of the vision as a driver
later in this article, in the section relating to future research.
Linking accepted change vision to organizational change processes.
In cases of successful change implementation, the vision is the starting point. The challenge
facing change leaders is whether the change vision is then accepted. To be effective as a change driver, the vision must be compelling to and accepted by individual employees (Nadler and Tushman, 1990; Kotter, 1995; Recardo, 1995). The
majority of failed change initiatives and their leaders have a vision but often, in
these cases, the vision is not specific enough or compelling enough to employees,
is not accepted, and employees do not change (Hinings et al., 1991; Whelan-Berry
et al., 2003a; Whelan-Berry, 2005). Prior research finds that an accepted change
vision is linked more often to the early steps of the change process, specifically
moving the vision to the group level and, sometimes, with individual adoption
of change initiatives (Hinings et al., 1991; Whelan-Berry et al., 2003a; WhelanBerry, 2005).
Leaders’ Change Related Actions
Definition and clarification.
Leaders’ change related actions are one of the most
frequently identified change drivers in the literature (Trice and Beyer, 1991;
Schein, 1992; Taylor-Bianco and Schermerhorn, 2006). While top leadership
support is critical (Kotter and Heskett, 1992), leadership support from leaders
throughout the organization including teams, departments, and locations is critical
to successful change implementation. Likewise, lack of such leadership has been
Table 1. Linking organizational change drivers and the steps in organizational change process
Enable the individual
Move the change vision to employee adoption of
group and individual level change
Sustain the momentum of Institutionalize the
change implementation
change
Summary definition
Accepted change
vision
Embracing the change
vision as positive for
employees, stakeholders
and/or the organization.
Provides the means to
ground or specify the
meaning of the vision to
various groups, and for
individual roles and jobs
across the organization.
May move employees to
modify behavior. At a
minimum, an accepted
vision means employees
have moved to a point of
considering the need to
change, and beyond not a
lack of awareness that
change might be needed.
May also lower resistance.
Leaders’ change
related actions
Actions by the community
of leaders throughout the
organization that signal the
importance of the change
vision and its outcomes
and support its
implementation.
Signals to groups and
individuals the
importance of moving
forward with adoption and
implementation of the
change initiative by, for
example, recognizing or
following up on progress.
May result in individual
adoption of change
initiative. Or can move
employees to understand
the change initiative is a
priority and is needed for
ongoing organizational
success.
Signals the ongoing
importance of the change
initiative through leaders
continued focus on and
support of the progress of
the change initiative.
Change related
communication
Regular, two-way
communication
specifically about the
change initiative, its
implementation, related
successes, challenges and
their resolution.
Facilitates employee
understanding and
engagement.
Addresses employees’
questions and concerns
through two-way
communication, which
allows individuals to
remain committed to the
change. It also ensures that
any obstacles are properly
identified and removed.
Signals the organization’s
ongoing commitment to
the change initiative,
communicates successes
and challenges, and
ongoing change
implementation.
Enables the change to
become embedded in
the organization, and
‘stick’ as the new
status quo.
181
(Continued)
Change Drivers and the Organizational Change Process
Change drivers
182
Table 1. Continued
Change drivers
Summary definition
Change related
training
Provides an understanding
and necessary skills,
values and/or frameworks
concerning the change
initiative.
Allows groups and
individuals to develop job
or role specific
understanding of the change
initiative and provides new
knowledge, skills and work
processes needed for
desired change outcomes.
Change related
employee
participation
Involves employees in
tasks specifically related to
the change initiative, such
as pilot groups.
Deepens understanding of
the change vision and
related outcomes, and
allows such understanding
to become ‘local,’ specific
to a group.
Aligned human
resources
practices
Aligns human resources
practices, such as
performance appraisal and
rewards; and recruitment,
selection, and socialization
of new employees with the
change initiative.
Aligned
organization
structure and
control processes
Aligns organizational
structure, organizational
outcome measures,
planning, budgeting and
reporting systems.
Helps to demonstrate
management’s interest
and commitment to the
change initiative.
Sustain the momentum of Institutionalize the
change implementation
change
Allows individual
employees to more fully
experience what the
change initiative means for
their job/role/function,
fostering actual change.
Signals management’s
commitment to the vision
by appraising and
rewarding new work
behaviors and outcomes,
and by acknowledging
resistance to change in
performance feedback and
appraisal.
Signals that the change is
important to
organizational success,
and that the recruitment
and selection of new
employees, orientation,
performance evaluations
and rewards will be based
on the change vision and
its related outcomes.
The vision and related
outcomes become the
norm, reflected
throughout the
appropriate human
resources practices.
Facilitates employees
acceptance and adoption
of change by providing
needed structural support
and processes.
Facilitates the
implementation of the
change by incorporating it
as necessary in
organizational systems and
processes.
Helps to ensure that
groups and individuals
do not revert to the
pre-change state,
process or approach.
K.S. Whelan-Berry & K.A. Somerville
Enable the individual
Move the change vision to employee adoption of
group and individual level change
Change Drivers and the Organizational Change Process
183
noted as a source of change failure (Hinings et al., 1991; Whelan-Berry and Alexander, 2007).
Considerable research has noted the high level of effort required by leaders to
successfully implement organizational change (Schein, 1992; Morgan and Brightman, 2001; Miller, 2002; Gill, 2003; Fernandez and Rainey, 2006). An important
clarification of prior research is that leadership works as a change driver when
leaders actively support the change vision or, in other words, leaders ‘walk the
talk’ of the change initiative throughout the change implementation process
(Schein, 1999; Hesselbein, 2002; Cameron and Green, 2004), as opposed to providing the vision and walking away to other priorities. It also requires that the
leaders demonstrate the actions that they want others to model (Kotter and
Heskett, 1992; Cameron and Green, 2004) and manage resistance to change
(Beckhard and Harris, 1987; Recardo, 1995; Strebel, 1996).
It could be said that all change drivers result from leaders’ change related
actions due to the formal power and authority that leaders have in the organization.
However, employees are clear that visibly seeing leaders’ active involvement in
and commitment to the initiative is a change driver, regardless of there being
other change drivers and or knowing a leader has allocated resources. It is the
leaders’ demonstrated belief in and commitment to the change vision and its
implementation that is persuasive, which is different than any other or all other
drivers combined.
Linking leaders’ change related actions to organizational change processes.
Various
researchers (Waldersee and Eagleson, 2002; Woodward and Hendry, 2004)
found that leaders themselves and their interaction with employees are important
to the overall change process. Senior leaders must take actions to hold themselves
and group leaders accountable for moving the vision to the group and individual
levels (Hinings et al., 1991; Whelan-Berry and Alexander, 2007). Employee adoption of the change initiative can be facilitated by leaders persuading employees to
personally contribute to it (Strebel, 1996), and actively managing employees’ dysfunctional emotions and resistance to the change initiative (Recardo, 1995).
Leaders assist in sustaining momentum and institutionalizing the change initiative
in numerous ways, such as paying attention to the progress of the change initiative
and removing obstacles encountered, developing appropriate structures and establishing necessary monitoring mechanisms (Trice and Beyer, 1991), and communicating the relationship between the change efforts and organizational success
(Kotter, 1995).
Change Related Communication
Definition and clarification.
This is one of the most frequently identified change
drivers (see Kim et al., 1995; Schneider et al., 1996), and poor communication
is a reason given for change failure (Richardson and Denton, 1996). Change
related communication focused on building employees’ understanding of the
need for the change initiative is crucial (Allen-Meyer, 2001; Whelan-Berry
et al., 2003a). Further, it is important for the leadership to communicate that
the current approach, that is the pre-change state or approach, will not achieve
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K.S. Whelan-Berry & K.A. Somerville
the desired outcomes for the organization (Thompson and Sanders, 1998). Change
related communication often acts as a driver by sending a clear message about
why the change is needed (Schein, 1985), advising employees of the change
vision, as well as related strategies for achieving the change vision (Nadler and
Tushman, 1990; Kotter and Heskett, 1992), and further developing employees’
understanding of and commitment to the ongoing change implementation
(Kotter and Cohen, 2002). It can also, for example, provide the status of the
change implementation and address points of resistance (Schein, 1985). Prior
research (Nadler and Tushman, 1990) has also found that to be effective, the communication should be two-way, that is, both telling and listening. Change related
communication specifically about the change vision and its implementation, most
frequently directed to employees, signals that the change and its implementation is
being monitored, is progressing, and highlights early and ongoing successes and
problems and their resolution.
Linking change related communication to organizational change processes.
Prior
research supports the notion that communication is important throughout the
organizational change process. Once the vision has been developed, it needs to
be communicated to both the group and individual levels (Hinings et al., 1991;
Whelan-Berry, 2005), explaining and persuading employees that the change is
important (Koehler and Pankowski, 1997; Thompson and Sanders, 1998), and
increasing understanding and commitment to the change initiative (Kotter and
Cohen, 2002; Pollitt, 2004). Communication is often crucial to individual
change adoption (Cameron and Green, 2004), and can also address resistance to
change (Schein, 1985). In order to sustain the momentum related to the implementation of the change initiative, it is important to communicate regularly about it.
Regular communication helps to highlight important issues and motivate organizational members to continue to work on the change initiative (Nadler and
Tushman, 1990). Prior research has not empirically explored the link between
ongoing communication about the change initiatives and institutionalizing the
change initiative.
Change Related Training
Definition and clarification.
Prior research notes that training provides an understanding of the change initiative and related new knowledge, skills or behaviors
(Schneider et al., 1994; Alvesson, 2002). Employees learn new technology, processes, work processes or routines, and behaviors which embody the change
vision. Further, training often provides meaning for the change vision, that is,
what the organizational change vision means at the group level (Bramley, 1989;
Carnevale et al., 1990; Goldstein, 1993; Harrison, 1995; Bennet et al., 1999).
This is especially important when the change vision is abstract, and needs to be
specified for group and/or individual jobs and processes.
Linking change related training to organizational change processes.
Prior research
has found that training is most frequently associated with developing understanding and necessary skills, values or frameworks related to the change initiative
Change Drivers and the Organizational Change Process
185
(Bramley, 1989; Carnevale et al., 1990; Goldstein, 1993; Whelan-Berry et al.,
2003a; Whelan-Berry and Alexander, 2005). Change related training has been
linked to the steps of moving the change vision to the group or individual level
and individual employee adoption of change initiatives (Whelan-Berry et al.,
2003a; Whelan-Berry and Alexander, 2005). Change related training has not
been linked to sustaining momentum or institutionalizing the change, perhaps
because it is most often a one-time event or experience.
Employee Participation in Change Related Activities
Definition and clarification.
Prior research shows that employee participation in
change initiative activities, such as being involved in implementation planning
or a pilot program, can deepen the employees’ understanding of the change initiative and can also increase commitment to the change initiative (Kennedy, 1994;
Howe and Johnson, 1995; Pascale et al., 1997; Whelan-Berry et al., 2003a;
Turner Parish et al., 2008). As a specific example, Whelan (1997) found that participation in pilots and in shaping change initiatives altered individual frameworks, increasing understanding and commitment to change initiatives, and
increasing employee enthusiasm. What is common to this research is that individual employees are actively involved in tasks specifically related to the change
initiative, such as focus groups, pilot efforts, shaping the change implementation,
designing change training, although those tasks vary based on the specific change
initiative and organization.
Linking change related employee participation to organizational change
process. Employee involvement in participatory activities such as planning the
change implementation or participating in change initiative pilots can help the
change vision move to the group level. As individual employees participate in
change related activities, they return to their group with a more detailed understanding of the change initiative, and may be clearer about what the change
vision means, its benefits and challenges for their group, and act as change champion or agent within their group. Prior research also links change related employee
participation to individual employee adoption of change initiatives (Pascale et al.,
1997; Whelan-Berry et al., 2003a; Turner Parish et al., 2008).
Aligned Human Resources Practices
Definition and clarification.
A number of human resource practices have been
identified as change drivers, including training, recruitment, selection and socialization of new employees, changes in performance appraisal criteria, and incentives and rewards. Training was discussed earlier in the article, and we separate
training because it has been individually identified in prior research. A key
aspect of aligned human resource practices is when employee performance criteria, appraisals and rewards are modified to reflect the change vision, which
signals it is imperative that individuals change their behaviors in order for a
change initiative to be successful (Cameron and Quinn, 1999), which prior
research identifies as critical to change success (Armenakis et al., 1999;
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Charan, 2001; Kotter and Cohen, 2002). Along with performance criteria, incentives and rewards, both formal and informal, should be aligned with the organizational change initiative (Williams et al., 1989; Kotter and Heskett, 1992; Hall
et al., 1993; Schumacher, 1997; Lindquist, 2000; Cameron and Green, 2004).
As change implementation continues, other human resource practices should be
aligned as well. As examples, the kinds of employees hired, retained, and promoted (Schneider et al., 1994) or the socialization of new employees (Harrison
and Carroll, 1991) send messages about the importance of the change initiative.
Linking of aligned human resources practices to the organizational change
process. Most frequently, changes to align the performance appraisal and
related reward systems to reflect the behavior, skills or work embodied by the
change initiative have been identified as key drivers of individual change adoption
(Armenakis et al., 1999; Schein, 2000; Schneider et al., 1994; Kotter and Cohen,
2002; Cameron and Green, 2004). Alignment of recruitment, selection and socialization of new employees, and the behavioral systems and processes also help to
sustain the momentum of the change implementation (Burke, 2008), as well as
institutionalize the change (Nadler and Tushman, 1990). According to Kotter
(1995: 67), ‘Until new behaviors are rooted in social norms and shared values,
they are subject to degradation as soon as the pressure for change is removed’.
Aligned Structure and Control Processes
Definition and clarification. Beyond human resource practices, this change driver
includes structure and organizational processes, such as planning, budgeting and
reporting, operations, customer and technology systems. We acknowledge that a
different organizational structure may be the change vision itself, and we are
not specifically focused on such change initiatives. Many researchers (Hall
et al., 1993; Kim et al., 1995; Porras and Hoffer, 1996; Galpin, 1996) have
noted that often modifications are required to the organizational structure in
order for the change initiative to be successful.
Systems and processes that measure and assess the change initiative, and allow
the organization to take corrective action when necessary have been identified as
critical by a number of researchers (Vollman, 1996; Hennessey, 1998; Cameron
and Green, 2004), signaling to employees that the change initiative is important
enough to be monitored, measured and managed. Depending on the nature of
the change initiative, planning and budgeting systems (Nadler and Tushman,
1990; Cameron and Green 2004; Worley and Lawler, 2006), policies and procedures (Baker, 1980; Nadler and Tushman, 1990) and or management information systems (Davis, 1984; Hall et al., 1993) may need to be changed in
order to support the change and act as change drivers.
Linking aligned structure and control processes to the organizational change
process. This change driver is linked to the step of moving the vision to the
group level, for example in relation to a unit’s performance measurement (see
Vollman, 1996; Cameron and Green, 2004; Burke, 2008). There is also a link
between this change driver and individual employee adoption to the change, for
Change Drivers and the Organizational Change Process
187
example, by providing the structure and/or processes for employees to be successful in the changed organization. It is also linked to sustaining the momentum of the
change implementation (Nadler and Tushman, 1990; Bernick, 2001). As organizational members experience the changes in the organization’s structures and processes, it provides further evidence that the change is real, potentially reducing
resistance (Recardo, 1995), and contributing to successful change implementation
(Johnson et al., 2001; Smith, 2003).
Discussion
In this section we describe our contributions to theory and practice, the limitations
in our study, and the directions for future research.
Contributions to Theory
Change Drivers and the Organizational Change Process.
First, we have clarified the
change drivers most frequently identified in prior research. This allows future
research to be more sharply focused and to continue to distinguish effective
change drivers. We have also provided more specific and testable links between
change drivers and specific steps in the organizational change process.
Table 1 highlights several aspects of change drivers and their impact in the
organizational change process. First, we have begun to separate the creation and
establishment of a clear, compelling change vision from acceptance of that
vision. Acceptance of a vision means that individuals have progressed from not
seeing a need to change or not understanding the proposed change to seeing the
change as positive for themselves and/or the organization, thus emphasizing
the need to focus on whether the vision is accepted, and not simply having a
vision. Change related training, change related employee participation and
aligned human resources appraisal and reward systems are the drivers that have
been found to be most strongly linked to individual employee adoption of
change initiatives, highlighting the need both for these drivers and for individual
change to occur if the organizational change is to be successful. Aligned human
resources practices and aligned organizational structure and control processes
are linked to the steps of sustaining momentum and institutionalizing the
change. Leaders’ change related actions, change related communication, and
aligned structure and control processes are the three drivers that are linked to
the majority of the steps in the organizational change process after the vision is
established, and should be resourced as change drivers throughout the process.
Change drivers and steps in the change process.
While prior research identifies the
need for multiple change drivers for successful change implementation (Pettigrew
et al., 2001; Whelan-Berry et al., 2003a), we suggest that it is important to have a
mix of change drivers across the key steps of the organizational change process.
As previously noted, Table 1 highlights that most change drivers have a stronger
relationship with certain steps in the organizational change process. One explanation for successful change implementations may be a greater use of change
drivers that have a strong relationship with individual employee adoption of
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K.S. Whelan-Berry & K.A. Somerville
change initiatives, or the use of a driver with a relationship with the majority of the
steps in the change process. However, using drivers that are primarily linked to the
step of individual change may not be enough to institutionalize the change. Thus,
using a mix of drivers that leverage each of the steps in the change process seems
important.
Finally, prior research on a given change driver (or drivers) has most often linked
the drivers to whether the desired change in that particular organization or study
occurred, and thus there is variance in the dependent variable in prior research.
Our model provides a way to specifically test the impact of the drivers, and one
approach to linking change drivers to a dependent variable (or variables).
Contributions to Practice
Management scholars have noted that planning is a critical but highly underutilized skill (Daft, 2005). One explanation for why so many change efforts fail
could be a lack of planning and adequate resources, as occurred in our opening
story. Often, change initiatives flounder because the ongoing day-to-day business
operations take precedence in terms of focus, time and money. Our research highlights that it is important for change leaders to identify at the outset how the
change implementation will occur, including how change drivers will be used
and when, for example; how and when change communication will occur; or,
whether and, if so, what type of training is needed for employees to modify
their work frameworks, skills or behaviors. Such planning should also include
how the progress of the change will be measured, the criteria for its successful,
completed implementation, and its impact on ongoing operations.
Further, many leaders roll out a change vision, only to be surprised when
employees resist the change or do not adopt it. A key learning from our research
is that some change drivers more directly drive individual adoption of change
initiatives. These drivers facilitate employees’ understanding of what the
change vision means for the employee’s specific job so that the employee can
then actually change his/her behavior. For example, organizational cultural
changes can often be very abstract when the change vision is presented to employees. In these cases, change related participation, training or change related communication could be used to make the change vision more understandable to
and accepted by employees.
Similarly, organizations should also use change drivers that institutionalize the
change. While there may be clear communication about the change, employee
appraisal and reward systems often remain focused on prior or pre-change criteria,
thus employees typically continue what they have done in the past. Or, key structures and processes are not modified as part of the change implementation. Such
drivers should be in place early enough in the change process to signal the organization’s commitment to the change vision and its successful implementation.
Conclusion
The authors agree with other researchers that organizational change is not a linear,
straightforward process, but it is iterative and complex, with unintended as well as
Change Drivers and the Organizational Change Process
189
intended outcomes. Our work highlights several related issues and areas worthy of
further study.
Establishing the change vision is a key part of the organizational change
process, and the process of establishing the vision and what is most important
in the visioning process needs to be more fully understood in research and
related practice. Once established, an accepted vision becomes a change driver,
which prior research clearly supports can facilitate the ongoing change process.
We acknowledge the complexity and methodological issues of this, and feel
that this is an important area for future research.
Leaders’ change related actions in an organizational change initiative are also
very complex, and somewhat tautological. We need to better understand them
in terms of executive leadership versus other leaders and managers. There is
also need to explore whether the other change drivers identified are seen by
employees as ‘leaders change related actions’, which might explain the frequent
proposition that leadership is the primary change driver or that it is sufficient on
its own. We need to clearly distinguish leaders’ change related actions that
foster employee adoption and ongoing implementation of change initiatives –
such as celebrating or recognizing positive outcomes from the change, from
more general leadership tasks or roles such as recognizing ongoing performance.
Finally, future research should explore whether more general leadership support
moderates the effect of various change drivers.
Our work does not yet consider how these drivers vary in different organizational settings and types of changes, but provides a starting point for such
research. Certainly the effect of drivers varies based on the characteristics of
the change initiative, such as first-order versus second-order, or the nature and
setting of the change initiative. Also we have not addressed the source of the
change initiative, for example, in a legislated or mandated change versus an
internally conceived and planned change, is the need for and impact of change
drivers different?
We did not look at changes in leadership personnel or employee turnover, and
the subsequent hiring of new leaders or employees as a change driver. Prior
empirical research (Somerville, 2009) has noted that changes in leadership
(Trice and Beyer, 1991; Sliwka, 2007) and employees (Harrison and Carroll,
1991; Alvesson, 2002) can be a change driver, another area worthy of further
research.
Our goal remains – to better understand the organizational change process and
change drivers, so that organizations can more effectively achieve successful
organizational change. We agree with Kotter: ‘A 70% failure rate is an enormous
drag on a company, a government, an economy, or a society. Investors are
obviously hurt, but the pain goes in all directions: to employees, customers, our
families’ (Kotter, 2008: 13). Sustainable business requires efficient and effective
use of resources, especially in instances of large-scale change. We hope to add to
current theory and practice by more clearly and specifically linking two key
aspects of organizational change, the process and change drivers. Further, we
hope this work can help scholars and practitioners in change initiative implementation, resulting in more effective use of resources, as well as successful organizational change initiatives.
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Whelan-Berry, K. and Somerville, K. (2009) Effectively allocating resources to organizational change: exploring
the impact of first-order and second-order change, International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change
Management, 9(9), pp. 163–179.
Whelan-Berry, K., Gordon, J. and Hinings, C. (2003a) The relative effect of change drivers in large scale organizational change: an empirical study, in: R. Woodman and W. Pasmore (eds) Research in Organizational
Change and Development, Vol. 14, pp. 99–146.
Whelan-Berry, K., Gordon, J.R. and Hinings, C.R. (2003b) Strengthening the organizational change process: recommendations and implications from a multi-level analysis, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 39(2),
pp. 186–207.
Williams, A., Dobson, P. and Walters, M. (1989) Changing Culture: New Organizational Approaches (London:
Institute of Personnel Management).
Woodman, R.W. and Pasmore, W.A. (2004) Distinguished speaker address. Organization Development and
Change Division, Academy of Management 2004 Annual Meeting, August, New Orleans, LA.
Woodward, S. and Hendry, C. (2004) Leading and coping with change, Journal of Change Management, 4(2),
pp. 155–183.
Worley, C. and Lawler, E. (2006) Designing organizations that are built to change, MIT Sloan Management
Review, 48(1), pp. 19–23.
Copyright of Journal of Change Management is the property of Routledge and its content may not be copied or
emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission.
However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.
Executing
Strategic Change:
UNDERSTANDING THE CRITICAL
MANAGEMENT ELEMENTS THAT
LEAD TO SUCCESS
Arnoud Franken
Chris Edwards
Rob Lambert
B
usiness leaders are under constant pressure from stakeholders to
comply with their demands while maintaining the organization’s
competitiveness in increasingly complex markets. As a result, such
leaders are striving to continuously formulate new strategies that
will help them deliver more value to their customers and other stakeholders.1
Strategy execution is concerned with: firstly, creating a portfolio of
change programs that will deliver the strategy; and secondly, it involves attracting, allocating, and managing all the necessary resources to deliver these change
programs.2 It is becoming more critical to organizations’ long-term success to
excel at strategy execution: those that do will outperform their peers by a wide
margin.3
The literature offers a range of approaches to the practitioner seeking
insight into strategy execution. Many of these approaches share common elements, such as the importance of culture and communication, and promise
similar benefits, whereas others focus on specific elements, such as program
management or benefits realization. Furthermore, some of these approaches
are organization-wide, whereas others offer more functionally focused solutions.
A possible consequence of numerous non-integrated approaches is that practitioners may be left in a state of confusion when having to decide which approach is
most appropriate for their situation.
The Challenges of Strategy Execution
Successfully executing strategy is a daunting task, if the frequently quoted
failure rate of 70 per cent is to be believed.4 Other research suggests that some
organizations realize only 60 per cent of the potential value of their strategies
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due to inadequacies in planning and implementation.5 The literature suggests
that successful strategy execution is difficult to achieve for five key reasons.
The first reason is the relentless pressure from shareholders for greater
profitability, requiring business leaders to redefine their strategy more frequently. Such redefinition is necessary to remain aligned with customers’ changing needs and priorities, while continuously generating the necessary profits.6
This demands that strategies must be executed successfully within increasingly
shorter time-periods.7
The second reason relates to the increased complexity of organizations.
In many, the activities performed to create products and services cross multiple
functional, organizational, and geographical boundaries.8 Consequently, any
strategic change program is likely to affect the people, processes, structures,
technologies, suppliers, and business partners that work both within and across
these boundaries. Hence, strategic change programs are becoming highly complex,9 resulting in increased risk of failure due to oversight.10
The third reason is the difficult challenge faced by managers to balance
the demands of successfully executing complex
change programs with the demands of managDr. Arnoud Franken is a Senior Research
ing today’s business performance.11 In situaFellow at Cranfield School of Management
researching and consulting on strategy
tions where management is strongly tied to
execution.
reward schemes based on today’s performance,
Chris Edwards holds the Cranfield School
it is challenging to achieve active participation
of Management Chair of Management
for the creation of tomorrow’s organization.
Information Systems, researching
However, as a result of the relentless pressure
and consulting in the area of business
transformation.
from stakeholders for continual high perforRob Lambert is a Senior Lecturer at Cranfield
mance, managers cannot afford to dedicate
School of Management specializing in strategy their time, effort and resources to one set of
execution.
demands exclusively. This balance is particularly challenging during the high-risk period
when a business transitions to a new strategy.12
The fourth reason is the low levels of involvement of a large number
of managers across all functions at an early stage of strategy execution. The
mechanics of involving large numbers of people in complex discussions leads
organizations to curtail involvement in the quest for urgency. Often managers
see these early stages as bureaucratic, unnecessary, and delaying real action.
However, such involvement is required to obtain commitment to change and
for the development of effective implementation plans.13
The fifth reason is the difficulty of securing the required resources to
execute the strategy. Often, as a result of the large number of concurrent change
programs, many of the organization’s resources will already be allocated. Furthermore, as such resources are limited, managers will compete fiercely for
them, and, once within their control, will endeavor to “own them” to secure
their own goals.14
Overcoming these challenges posed by the need to successfully and
timely execute strategy is difficult. This article describes an integrated framework
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for addressing the above issues and in so doing successfully execute strategic
change.
Developing an Inclusive Approach for Strategy Execution
The practice of strategy execution has been thoroughly researched and
documented in the past decades by academics and consultants alike. Consequently, there is no shortage of suggested approaches, methodologies, and principles for achieving successful strategy execution. When these approaches are
analyzed, ten generic elements can be identified. These cluster around three
capabilities:
6h strategic change portfolio alignment, i.e., the identification and prioritization
of an agreed collection of programs that will deliver the strategy;
6h strategic change execution, i.e., actually delivering the benefits of the strategic change through implementing the programs in the change portfolio;
and
6h change capability improvement, i.e., continually improving the ways in
which change programs are identified and undertaken.
Furthermore, seven business benefits can be identified that could be realized if the elements within these three capabilities are performed effectively.
These capabilities and the business benefits are listed in Figure 1. The ten elements identified from the literature are summarized in Figure 2, which also indicates the capability to which they contribute.
Element 1: Engendering and Reinforcing
an Organizational Culture of Continuous Change
It is essential that those responsible for strategy execution, as well as
those affected by the resulting changes, understand the underlying reasoning
and urgency. This understanding is required so that a desire and willingness to
pursue change can be maintained among employees and other stakeholders.
To achieve this requires inspirational communication by the leadership team to
persuade others to accept and support the organization’s new direction, and it
requires creating a culture conducive to change. Carrying out this task, however,
entails more than just broadly communicating the need for change. Because
change is uncomfortable for many, the strategic leadership team must use all
possible means of involvement and continuously motivate people to embrace
change and make it happen. Ultimately, this means changing people’s behaviors
so that these are supportive instead of resistant. As people within the organization take their cue from those at the top, the strategic leadership team must
continuously lead by example and communicate the change message in order to
convince others to follow, and maintain an organizational culture conducive to
change.15
The literature suggests that succeeding with this first element contributes
to the realization of all seven business benefits shown in Figure 1. In particular,
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FIGURE 1. Relating Capabilities, Business Benefits to Successful Strategy Execution
Capabilities
of Strategy
Execution
Business Benefits
1. Aborting ill-conceived change
programs during execution
2. Managing adverse impacts on
operational business when
delivering change programs
Stratetic change
portfolio alignment
Stratetic change
execution
3. Increasing confidence in
management’s ability to deliver
change programs
Successful strategy
execution
4. Maintaining management
control of change programs
Change capability
improvement
5. Speedy delivery of change
programs
6. Actually realizing intended
benefits
7. Minimizing variance of actual to
forecast cost
it increases the confidence employees and other key stakeholders have in management’s ability to deliver change programs, because the link between leaders’
words, behaviors, and commitments is explicit. Additionally, when people are
comfortable working in an environment of continuous change, they will be in
a better position, and be motivated, to manage adverse impacts on operational
business when delivering change programs.16
Element 2: Understanding the Drivers and Content
of Each Change Program at an Early Stage of the Lifecycle
Given the complexity of many organizations and the pace with which
their business environments evolve, strategic leadership teams alone are often
not in a position to identify and effectively define the change programs that will
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FIGURE 2. Elements of Strategy Execution
Strategic
Change
Portfolio
Alignment
1. Engendering and reinforcing an organizational culture of continuous
change
• Understanding the existing culture and the organization’s state of change readiness
• Communicating the vision of continuous change, the underlying reasons and urgency
• Communicating the implications and motivating staff
2. Understanding the drivers and content of each change program at an
early stage of the lifecycle
• Understanding the strategic goals, success criteria, drivers and urgency for each
program at an early stage of the lifecycle
• Defining the initiative outline, overviewing the scale of benefits and resources
involved
3. Aligning and filtering programs in relation to the strategic goals, thus
creating the change portfolio
• Understanding the capacity for change, change funds, people availability, skills and
culture
• Filtering programs in relation to the strategic goals
• Creating a change portfolio of strategically aligned programs
4. Harmonizing the strategic leadership team to support the change
portfolio
• Identifying and motivating a strategic leadership team to support and communicate
the portfolio of change programs
Strategic
Change
Execution
5. Developing the detailed business case and obtaining approval/refusal for
each change program
• Understanding in detail the vision, benefits, costs and process changes of each
change program
• Defining the projects that will deliver the business changes required
• Obtaining approval/refusal; allocating responsibilities and resources
6. Establishing accountability and governance of each change program
• Creating governance bodies for each change program (i.e., steering committees)
• Clarifying roles and accountabilities
• Monitoring ongoing progress of programs against the business case
7. Executing each change program and realizing the intended benefits
• Planning detailed change execution
• Delivering each change program
• Undertaking benefits realization
8. Managing the ongoing change portfolio, conflict resolution, resources and
interdependencies
• Control ongoing programs, including conflict resolution, resources and
interdependencies
• Balancing resource allocation vis-à-vis ongoing operation
9. Coordinating the elements of the change capability
• Ensuring the effectiveness of information sharing during each step of the change
process
Change
Capability
Improvement
10. Reviewing, learning and improving the change capability
• Ongoing assessment of the effectiveness of the change capability
• Reviewing, learning and implementing improvements
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deliver the strategy. To undertake this successfully requires the involvement and
contributions of knowledgeable middle managers who will ultimately be tasked
with making the many changes happen. To effectively use the limited window
of opportunity in which the strategy must be executed, these managers must be
involved early in the strategic leadership team’s diagnosis of the business environment. Through this joint diagnosis, a shared assessment of the company’s
problems and opportunities will be developed as well as a broader understanding of the organization’s strategic drivers, goals, and critical success factors. By
achieving this, the organization is in a better position to identify and outline
potential change programs that could deliver the strategy. Furthermore, an
extended involvement in this process increases the size of the group for communicating the need for change and the way in which the organization will move
forward. This is important for creating and sustaining the momentum for change
within the wider organization and the speedy delivery of change programs.17
Element 3: Aligning and Filtering Programs in Relation
to the Strategic Goals, thus Creating the Change Portfolio
Organizations have limited time and resources that they can devote to
executing strategic change; hence, it is critical that change programs are prioritized. This requires an effective aligning and filtering process, as the number of
suggested change programs is typically too great for an organization to pursue.
Clear communication of the prioritized change programs that are to be funded,
and why, is important as it displays clear management thinking and consistency,
thereby increasing stakeholders’ confidence in management’s ability to deliver
change.18
Both our own experience of working with organizations as well as the
literature suggest that relatively few organizations have completely mastered this
task of prioritization and creating a focused change portfolio that is aligned with
the organization’s strategy. Often, large organizations have a vast number of
change programs active at any given time, which are often uncoordinated, not
clearly prioritized, and without any transparent alignment with the strategy. The
result is program overload that wastes resources and distracts the organization
from effectively responding to its environment.19
Organizations that have mastered filtering and prioritizing typically have
only a relatively small number of major change programs active at any one
time, each clearly linked to the strategy. Such organizations are better at allocating their limited resources, establishing accountability and governance of
change programs, managing the transition to the new strategy, and realizing the
intended benefits. Furthermore, clear prioritization underpins faster delivery of
key programs.20
Element 4: Harmonizing the Strategic Leadership Team
to Support the Change Portfolio
The strategic leadership team needs to internalize and collectively demonstrate commitment to the agreed change portfolio to avoid sending “mixed”
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messages to stakeholders. This entails the need to collectively lead by example as
well as jointly removing obstacles that block the implementation of the selected
change programs. Not jointly agreeing how to address significant obstacles,
sometimes because the decision that needs to be made is uncomfortable, can
undermine stakeholders’ confidence in management’s ability to deliver change
initiatives. Likewise, if the strategic leadership team appears to be divided over
the way forward in word and/or action, stakeholders’ confidence will decrease.
The resultant loss of stakeholder commitment can threaten the success of strategy execution.21
On the other hand, a harmonized, decisive, and focused strategic leadership team, constantly reinforcing what is important and what is not, will ensure
through their words and actions that ill-conceived change programs are truly
aborted and higher priority programs progressed.22
Elements 5: Developing the Detailed Business Case
and Obtaining Approval/Refusal for Each Change Program
Effective execution of the first four elements will provide both those
responsible and affected by the implementation of strategic change with a clear
understanding of the need for the change and the outlined programs that will
move the organization towards its goals. This places the organization in a wellinformed position to define each change program in detail. From this detailed
understanding, organizations are able to develop business cases for implementation and present these for approval.
A business case needs to demonstrate how the program will contribute to
the achievement of particular strategic goals. This includes:
6h clear definition of the benefits that the proposed program will deliver,
6h identification of the necessary organizational changes,
6h resource requirements, timescales and cost information, and
6h identification of individuals who will be responsible for implementation
and delivering the benefits.23
The business case is a critical thinking and communication document,
rather than simply being a request for capital or a bureaucratic hurdle to be
overcome in the organization’s investment approval process.
The literature suggests that high-quality business cases play a significant
role in ensuring resources are devoted to delivering the most valuable change
programs, thereby enhancing the likelihood of benefit delivery. Furthermore,
realistic statements of benefits, time, resource requirements, and costs enable the
subsequent minimization of cost variance, monitoring of progress, and the management of interdependencies between change programs within the portfolio.24
Element 6: Establishing Accountability and
Governance of Each Change Program
The literature consistently advocates the need for clarity regarding
accountability and decision making. Such governance aspects tend to be
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incorporated into formal program and project management methodologies such
as PRINCE2 and PMIBOK. In practice, however, accountability for the definition
and delivery of program benefits are often surprisingly absent even though the
need is intuitively obvious. The causes of this poorly defined accountability can
often be traced back to a lack of a real commitment to change, program overload, and limited desire by senior managers to make tough decisions and follow
through on them.25 Consequently, governance of change programs tends to be
unclear and fragmented, which means that management control of such programs is weak and thus impacts the delivery of benefits.26
Element 7: Executing Each Change Program
and Realizing Intended Benefits
This element involves applying good program, project, and change
management practices. While many programs succeed in delivering aspects of
change, a consistent weakness that has been identified is the actual realization
of the intended benefits.27
The primary reason appears to be that organizations perform the previous
six elements ineffectively. Consequently, those tasked with delivering the change
programs may be working with only a partial understanding of the purpose of
the change, incomplete benefit statements, and the reasoning underpinning
the chosen way forward. This lack of clarity tends to lead programs to focus on
deliverables, timescales, and costs, rather than the realization of benefits. Furthermore, when organizations continue with non-beneficial programs then the
execution of highly beneficial ones is delayed, as the necessary resources for
them will be committed elsewhere.
The most frequently cited advantages of effectively managing this element are increased control of costs against those planned, and the delivery of
the intended benefits. Additionally, stakeholders’ confidence in management’s
ability to deliver change increases when stakeholders observe demonstrable
improvements in business performance arising from the realization of benefits.28
Element 8: Managing the Ongoing Change Portfolio,
Conflict Resolution, Resources, and Interdependencies
The purpose of this element is to manage the ongoing implementation
of programs in the change portfolio and to resolve any conflicts arising from
the interdependencies between these programs. Such conflicts are inevitable as
approval is often on a business-case-by-business-case basis whereas the change
resources are shared. Even the best-planned programs will require continuous
review due to the dynamics of the organization and the business environment in
which it operates. Additionally, conflicts are likely to arise from the interaction
between managing today’s operational activities and creating tomorrow’s organization. Effective execution of this element therefore ensures that management’s
focus is maintained, that corrective interventions are timely initiated and executed, and that the link with the strategy is maintained.29
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This element provides several benefits. By continuously monitoring and
reporting on progress of change programs in the portfolio, conflicts can be identified earlier and more clearly understood. As a result, relevant management
interventions can be carried out earlier, thereby minimizing any adverse impact
on operational business, while ensuring that the focus on delivery of only the
most critical programs is maintained. Furthermore, by ensuring that the management of the change portfolio is effective and transparent, confidence in management’s ability to control and deliver change programs is increased.30
Element 9: Coordinating the Elements of the Change Capability
At the core of the aforementioned eight elements is the organization’s
ability to coordinate the elements of strategy execution via information sharing.
For example, the information required in the third element to develop the initial
change portfolio informs multi-functional teams developing the detailed business cases (fifth element), which then informs the subsequent governance
of each change program (sixth element).
Sharing information across management levels and functional boundaries
can be challenging, particularly for large organizations. This issue is compounded
further when an organization’s processes for managing change are poorly coordinated or not integrated, which is not uncommon from our own experience.
For example, the production of a portfolio may be supported by a specific software tool, yet people produce business cases using word-processing or spreadsheet applications that are not integrated with the tool. Often, the results are
duplication of effort, compromised management control, and inefficiency, which
reduces stakeholders’ confidence in management’s ability to deliver change.31
Element 10: Reviewing, Learning and
Improving the Change Capability
If an organization can perform the foregoing elements effectively, it will
be in a strong position to successfully execute its strategy. However, the environment in which organizations operate is far from stable. For organizations
to remain competitive, they must not only have the capability to successfully
execute strategy but also to continuously review and learn how to enhance
that capability. This requires an ongoing assessment of the effectiveness of the
organization’s current change capability as well as developing and implementing
necessary improvements.32 In other words, this element essentially creates and
updates the other nine elements and hence contributes indirectly to all the previously mentioned benefits.
Business Benefits
We have mentioned the business benefits that the literature suggests will
be realized when the elements are performed effectively. As shown in Figure 1,
these seven benefits are:
6h aborting ill-conceived change programs during execution,
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6h managing adverse impacts on operational business when delivering
change programs,
6h increasing confidence in management’s ability to deliver change
programs,
6h maintaining management control of change programs,
6h speedy delivery of change programs,
6h actually realizing intended benefits, and
6h minimizing variance of actual to forecast cost.
Rarely, however, does the literature provide a detailed insight into the
relationships that exist between successful strategy execution, these seven business benefits and the previously discussed management elements. Hence, it is
unclear which of the potentially many management interventions should be
pursued to secure a particular business benefit.
Collecting Data
In order to gain insight into the relationships between successful strategy execution, the business benefits and the elements of strategy execution, we
developed a questionnaire to investigate the matter further. This questionnaire
consisted of 50 questions, organized in three sections. The questions in the first
section were concerned with gaining a background of the responding business, including the classic sectoring questions. The second section ascertained
the organization’s current performance in relation to the execution of strategic
change in terms of the seven business benefits. The third section sought to gain
an understanding of the organization’s performance concerning the ten elements. This questionnaire was piloted with 10 organizations to ensure the questions would be interpreted correctly and the relevant data obtained. Descriptors
of each element were provided to ensure clarity and consistency. These are
included in Figure 2. Following this, the questionnaire was sent to organizations previously known to us, which resulted in 93 responses of fully completed
questionnaires from predominantly large organizations in a variety of industry
sectors.
Subsequently, we organized focus group meetings in which 40 senior
managers participated with the aim of exploring the initial findings and providing supporting insights. The results of these meetings also informed the discussion for organizations seeking to improve their ability to execute strategy.
Determining the Relationships Between
Elements and Business Benefits that Lead to Success
Statistical analysis of the survey data revealed that achieving successful
strategy execution is strongly associated with the realization of four business
benefits, namely:
6h aborting ill-conceived change programs during execution,
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6h increasing confidence in management’s ability to deliver change
programs,
6h speedy delivery of change programs, and
6h minimizing variance of actual to forecast cost.
As shown in the top line of Table 1, the influence of each of these business benefits is significantly greater than each of the other three benefits:
6h maintaining management control of change programs,
6h managing adverse impacts on operational business when delivering
change programs, and
6h actually realizing the intended benefits.
To understand which elements of strategy execution contribute to the
realization of each business benefit, we analyzed the relationships between the
benefits and elements. The results of this analysis are shown in Table 1 by means
of relative influence indices, which highlight those elements with the strongest
influence on the realization of each business benefit. This does not mean that
elements with no or low scores are irrelevant: merely that they are less relevant
than the ones with high scores.
From Table 1, it appears that the following four elements play a key role
in achieving successful strategy execution:
6h engendering and reinforcing an organizational culture of continuous
change,
6h managing the on-going change portfolio, conflict resolution, resources
and interdependencies,
6h establishing accountability and governance of each change program, and
6h harmonizing the strategic leadership team to support the change
portfolio.
Each of the seven business benefits is dependent for its realization on at
least one of these four elements. Moreover, the relative influence of these elements in securing each business benefit is typically greatest. It is further notable
that the element “harmonizing the strategic leadership team to support the
change portfolio” plays a role in the realization of the four business benefits
most strongly associated with successful strategy execution. This might suggest
that, in effect, it is the harmonization of the strategic leadership team that makes
the fundamental difference between success and failure. The accounts by highly
acclaimed CEOs such as Bethune (Continential Airlines), Bossidy (Allied Signal),
Gerstner (IBM), Pottruck (Charles Schwab), and Welch (GE) appear to support
this notion.33 Similarly, it agrees with the explanation detailing the failings of
companies such as Compaq under Eckhard Pfeiffer or IBM under John Akers.34
It is important to note that the four elements contain significant behavioral aspects and are not solely driven by any formal methodology. Therefore, a
strong adherence to and mastery of, for example, a formal program and project
management methodology without the capability to effectively perform the four
key elements will not lead to successful strategy execution.
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TABLE 1. The Relationships between Successful Strategy Execution, Business Benefits, and the
Elements of Strategy Execution
19
19
28
44
2. Managing the ongoing change
portfolio, conflict resolution,
resources & interdependencies
7. Actually realizing intended
benefits
20
6. Managing adverse impacts
on operational business
when delivering change
programs
26
5. Maintaining management
control of change programs
4. Minimizing variance of
actual cost to forecast cost
1. Engendering and reinforcing
an organizational culture of
continuous change
3. Speedy delivery of change
programs
Successful Strategy Execution
(composite)
2. Increasing confidence in
management’s ability to
deliver change programs
Elements (ranked)
1. Aborting ill-conceived
change programs during
execution
Business Benefits (ranked)
6
6
4
28
21
68
18
25
30
46
46
3
3. Establishing accountability and
governance of each change
program
6
25
13
4. Harmonizing the strategic
leadership team to support the
change portfolio
40
3
11
32
5. Executing each change program
and realizing the intended benefits
79
6. Reviewing, learning and improving
the change capability
8
7. Understanding the drivers and
content of each change program
at an early stage of the lifecycle
5
8. Coordinating the elements of the
change capability
13
44
24
10
9
7
9. Aligning and filtering programs in
relation to the strategic goals, thus
creating the change portfolio
14
10. Developin…
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