Demystifying Change Management: What tools will give me the biggest bang for my change management buck?

Change management has become complicated, and I think people are confused.  They know they need it, but what exactly is it that they need?  They need to collaborate more successfully with partners and they need to deliver more cost-effective projects.  So what does that have to do with change management?

Strong collaboration and effectiveness do not just happen by chance, nor do they always happen when they are meticulously planned.  They only happen when organizations create the right climate for people to be willing and able to behave in entirely new ways.

We all know that change management is the body of discipline concerned with managing the people side of change. But we may not all be familiar with the change management tools that will give us the biggest bang for our change management buck.

Here are my 4 all-time favourite tools that can be adapted and applied to each client’s unique requirements:

1. Organizational Assessment – Is your organization ready to adopt a major change?

Purpose/benefit:   All major change or transformation implementations typically run into some long standing organizational challenges. These challenges may include, but not be limited to, lack of clear roles definition, ineffective communication, ineffective governance, lack of process documentation, unclear direction or definition of the future state, etc.  These challenges, if not mitigated or improved upon, will greatly affect a project’s chance of achieving success. Completing an organizational assessment, as early as possible in the process, serves as the catalyst for identification of and action against these challenges before the project is negatively impacted or delayed.

Description:   An organizational assessment measures the current levels of maturity that exist across an organization’s core business facets. It is most commonly used to determine an organization’s readiness to adopt a major change initiative.  The core business facets include, but are not limited to, strategy & planning, governance, resources & competencies, communications, information & technology, and performance measurement.

Outcomes:   An Organizational Assessment results in a maturity rating (based on a five-point scale) for each core business facet and a total organizational rating (if desired). It presents major trends and most frequent feedback gathered through document reviews, consultations, and stakeholder input.  It makes recommendations intended to increase an organization’s maturity and/or to strengthen an organization’s success with a particular change implementation. Outcomes typically include the identification of organizational strengths to be leveraged and opportunities (focus areas) to be mitigated on a go-forward basis.

2. Change Management Benchmark Assessment – How effective are your current change management activities?

Purpose/benefit:   Some government departments have already undertaken some degree of change management activities in response to the current transformative times.  At the same time, resources are limited and most departments do not have dedicated change management expertise. A change management benchmark assessment has been designed with these departments in mind. It conducts a health check-up of an organization’s current change management activities and makes recommendations for moving forward. It is a cost-effective way to assess current change management activities and refocus resources and efforts on the areas that will most benefit their organization.

Description:   Change management benchmark assessments review an organization’s current levels of change management maturity against a standard change management approach based on best practices and benchmarking. There are five levels of change management maturity.  Organizations may strive for different levels of change management maturity, as the target level is a leadership decision to be made based on organizational objectives and available resources.

Outcomes:   Change management assessments deliver a highly focused set of recommendations specific to change management activities within an organization.  An executive leadership team can use the recommendations to set targets for their change management efforts (i.e. levels of maturity) and to plan resources according to their organizational priorities. Executives will be better able to allocate resources to those change management activities that can be re-purposed and applied organization-wide in order to ensure strong value for their financial investment.

3. Change Management Strategy – Have you considered your unique change environment / organizational culture in your project approach?

Purpose/benefit:   All departments are typically undertaking multiple change management or transformation projects at one time. It is not uncommon for major departments to have 30 or 40 concurrent major projects underway.  It is also not uncommon for departments to identify change fatigue or saturation as a challenge. A change management strategy defines the need for and informs all change management activities to take place across an organization.  The strategy delivers a series of special tactics that are customized to the unique change management environment that exists within an organization.

Description:   A change management strategy is a high level strategic document designed to consider the unique environment that is undertaking a major change or transformation.  It is the document where an organization’s culture is considered and where the desired team structures are defined to better position an organization for success. It is also the document where a risk rating can be determined for the success of the change initiative (i.e. low, medium, high).

Outcomes:   A change management strategy results in the creation of special tactics and next steps. These actions are highly customized and specific to a particular organization.  The process of developing and reviewing (and validating) the actions required drives meaningful conversations across all leaders and subsequently all stakeholders. These conversations are a key engagement component and if held early in a transformation process, they serve to define a common starting point for an entire organization. A change management strategy informs leaders of the inherent risks associated with the change initiative allowing for them to proactively and effectively respond.

4. Change Management Action Plan – Have you fully integrated your project management and change management activities?

Purpose/benefit:  Close collaboration between project management (technical requirements) and change management (people requirements) should be the ultimate goal for all change management or transformation initiatives. In order to fully integrate change management into project management plans, change management activities need to be well defined and documented within detailed planning documents. Currently, detailed change management action plans are not available within most departments. This is primarily due to low levels of change management maturity. Sometimes communication plans have been developed, however they are not to be confused with change management action plans. The creation of a change management action plan is the only way to achieve full integration of change management and project management activities, and ultimately deliver more successful implementations.

Description:   A change management action plan is a detailed document that builds on the information gathered through a change management strategy.  It is essentially a mega planning document that outlines critical plans that need to be considered and implemented from a people-impact perspective.  Typically project planning documents are driven from technical or system perspectives, whereas change management planning documents are based on these requirements, but are more geared towards people’s awareness, willingness and ability to accept the changes.

Outcomes:   Change management action plans contain a series of detailed and specific plans and next steps. These plans are highly customized and specific to a particular organization and to specific change initiatives. They inform project management efforts about the human side of change, and should be fully integrated into project management plans. The most common plans that are developed include: communication plans, training plans, engagement plans, risk management plans, and resistance management plans.


Adopting change management principles and tools within a major change or transformation just makes sense. We all agree about that. The real challenge comes when we must implement changes that will substantially impact the work lives of dedicated people across the organization. This is when the proverbial rubber hits the road. This is when the strength of our collaboration and overall effectiveness at working together is put to the test.

Although it’s never too late to start thinking about change management … having the right change management tools working for you at the right time in the change process is an investment that will pay dividends far into the future.


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