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Philosophers believe that the question “what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” is hypothetical, and therefore destined for the realm of speculation instead of analysis.

However, if these same philosophers trade in their chair at the neighborhood café for a seat in the enterprise boardroom, they’ll quickly realize that this paradox does resolve itself – and rather unpleasantly – in the context of change management. Here’s the scoop:

Man Reading the Definition of Change

Man Reading the Definition of Change

The unstoppable force is comprised of leaders who are mandated to implement new programs that manage, control and drive organizational change. And the immovable object is comprised of employees who are highly resistant to change, because they’re already overloaded with work and don’t have the bandwidth for new paradigms – especially since they expect the so-called change to be superficial and short-lived, anyway (just like last time).

Unfortunately and to nobody’s benefit, the outcome of this collision creates the enterprise’s version of a disaster zone.

That’s because leaders desperately need to drive change, yet are set-up to fail because they can’t get sustained buy-in. As a result, they grow highly frustrated and either dejectedly resign themselves to their cruel fate, or they hand in their resignation and take their talents and well-used stress balls elsewhere.

And employees who fiercely resist change win the battle but lose the war, because the inevitable consequence of clinging to the status quo is chronic, systemic organizational under-performance – which is the gateway to reduced budgets, layoffs, hiring freezes, and other scary things that are categorically not employee-friendly.

However, despite the frequency at which this lose-lose scenario plays out in enterprises around the world, it’s not inevitable. Change management can indeed be successful, sustainable and beneficial for both leaders and employees. But for that to happen – and to avoid evoking Einstein’s classic definition of insanity (doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results), certain aspects have to change about change management.

Specifically, leaders must re-imagine a more enlightened approach to change management that is supported by 5 key pillars:

1. Understand Teams

Before launching change management efforts, leaders must invest time and resources to know each team (personnel, environment, culture and history). Frankly, if leaders don’t know who they need to “sell change” to, then to paraphrase Taylor Swift: they’re never, ever, ever, ever, ever going to implement a successful change management program.

2. Empower Leaders

Obviously, leaders need to make objective, data-driven decisions regarding change management. Yet at the same time, they must be empowered and authorized to use their judgment and instincts. Otherwise, leaders often end up doing what’s popular instead of what’s right – which can undermine change management success more than anything employees may or may not do.

3. Allocate Resources

Change management can’t succeed without adequate resources, or if resources are constantly being pulled away to deal with seemingly more urgent issues. As such, leaders must establish and support dedicated project managers, administrators and champions who can take ownership of the change management effort – and who won’t be pulled off and hurled in other directions when it’s expedient to do so.

4. Persistent, Patient and Positive

Regardless of what has to evolve in the environment – e.g. systems, processes, workflows, policies, etc. – change management is essentially a people-centric effort. In this light, leaders need to be persistent, patient and positive, and continuously remember that while the goal they’re striving for is to achieve change, the only sustainable means to get there is by leading people.

5. Use the Right Change Management Software

Even the most capable leaders and enthusiastic employees can’t overcome another common enterprise obstacle: ineffective change management software. Instead of enabling visibility, transparency, collaboration and real-time tracking, such software – which is often an ad hoc mix of spreadsheets, emails, and bloated conventional project management tools – hurls leaders and employees in the other direction: towards the disaster zone where great and necessary change management efforts go to die.

The Bottom Line
Change management at the enterprise level is inherently challenging and risky. However, the experience doesn’t need to be riddled with conflict, chaos and confusion – and ultimately characterized by disappointment and failure. The 5 key pillars noted above go a long way towards making leaders and employees collaborative allies instead of avowed enemies, and ensuring that change management is rewarding instead of regrettable.

Learn More
Clarizen’s award-winning portfolio and project management solution is trusted by enterprises – and embraced by both leaders and employees – to manage, control and drive organizational change. Learn more by taking a product tour today.

Angela Bunner
Angela has 17 years of experience in the project portfolio management space, mostly with Oracle, as well as with NetSuite, before joining Clarizen where she is a Director of Product Strategy and Sales Engineering. Angela has extensive industry experience in engineering & construction, professional services, aerospace & defense, public sector, as well as working with embedded service organizations such as IT and marketing PMOs.