Last week, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (and indeed, the whole country) was in a furor because a plan to restructure the organization was announced without sufficient engagement of all impacted stakeholders. As a result, the proposed change was badly received by key internal and external stakeholders. It was a well-intentioned move but the resulting backlash ensued from the lack of appropriate change management techniques.

Unfortunately, the problem of effectively managing change is one that plagues not just NNPC but almost all large institutions in the public and private sectors in Nigeria. Despite the urgent need for change, successful change is rare and difficult. The antidote to this difficulty is found in the emerging field of change management.

Change management is a structured approach that ensures your transition to the desired future state is seamless. Studies show that stakeholder resistance is the #1 obstacle to successful transformation. Hence, change managers provide strategic yet practical insights that will transform employee indifference to compliance.

Delivery of change in organizations is often derailed due to the following misconceptions:

The first assumption is that ‘’Not every change needs to be managed. Change management is only needed for very large initiatives.’’ The truth is that all change needs to be managed in order to achieve the most timely and beneficial business results.

The second myth is that ‘’Change isn’t that hard. People just need to execute. People need to stop bickering and just do it.’’ The reality is that change is hard, but with the right activities and techniques, resistance can be minimized. There is a ‘’change process’’ – with reactions that can be predicted and managed.

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The third misapprehension is:‘’We don’t have time for these things.’’ However, the absence of change management increases the risk of project failure and inability to achieve anticipated benefits. Change management is an enabler that pays dividends on the time required to perform it effectively.

The fourth assumption is that ‘’Change Management should be handled by the Human Resources Department.’’ The truth is that change management is often complex. There are many facets requiring people throughout the organization to take responsibility. The Human Resources department does often facilitate change by getting the necessary people to the table and facilitating successful outcomes. However, it is important that business unit leaders drive actual change activities.

The fifth myth is that ‘’If we focus on the hard (i.e., logical) side of the project and do a good job, we don’t need to worry about the soft (i.e., emotional) side. In actual fact, the hard side can impact the way people do their work, what they are responsible for, and how they are compensated – none of which will be done until emotional acceptance and adjustments have occurred. Many projects fail due to both natural and irrational reactions people exhibit when confronted with change.

The sixth misconception is ‘’We don’t need change management’’. To increase the speed of adoption of change, ultimate utilization of the tools and the proficiency of employees in the future state, change management is a necessity.

The seventh assumption is that ‘’The unions will support all the changes.’’ However, many changes need to be negotiated with the unions and may require concessions to be made on both sides.

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Are you trying to implement a new strategy? A new culture? A new technology? A new process? A new merger? New ways of working? New responses to competition and the business environment? A new operating model? Or any other change with organization-wide impact?

Get relevant change management advice today.

Published in Business Day on Monday March 21, 2016


4 comments “Seven Things CEOs Need to Know About Leading Change

    March 21, 2016

    Amazing article here and very much needed, I must had. Change mismanagement destroys the structural core of many Organisations but in our environment unfortunately, because the effects are not felt until medium to long term in many cases, doing the right thing is ignored. Change decisions are taken without due consultation and Staff are tossed back front and centre, depleting morale and what not. I hope young startup Entrepreneurs reach for such knowledge and follow the right trends. With this article,I am already in the know and I am sure to seek the right Human resources, whenever there is need for change. Thanks a million G.E. much appreciated.

    • G.E
      March 21, 2016

      Thanks, Dr. Kevwe. You are right – mismanagement of change is a huge problem in many organisations. Let me know if you need any additional change management knowledge – I will be happy to help!

  • adekoya anifowose
    March 21, 2016

    it’s obvious that change management though just gaining its way into our fabric as a nation will definitely have great impact that will in turn make government and organisations enjoy a sustainable leap and attainment of anticipated goals.

    • G.E
      March 21, 2016

      Yes, you are right. It’s still a nascent discipline in Nigeria but we stand to reap a lot of benefits by embracing it.

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