A critical element in creating transformative change is gaining the active support of the people involved in the change through effective communication. The process of sending a message to an audience and ensuring that the message is understood is the responsibility of the sender. If the audience does not understand the message, the effort has failed because the sender did not craft an understandable message. Avoid long, information-packed email messages as a format. It is more effective to break a long message into two or three smaller messages as part of a series of educational briefs. A WebEx or Team video/audio message is an excellent approach to reach a socially remote workforce. Make the message simple, clear, genuine, and personal; get the audience to believe in the message as something relevant to the listener.

The change manager wants employees to understand and embrace the value of initiative on a personal level. Sharing the success of the project/ program with those involved is necessary for honest engagement. All information must come from accurate and fact-based sources. The use of examples (i.e., stories) will help create the initiative story at the company. Stories are more accessible for people to remember and relate to when learning something new. An essential communication consideration is the need to send a message that is understood; use plain, non-jargon language that everyone will understand. The story will allow people to relate to the message on a personal level - that hooks people into believing the message.

Address Resistance to Change

The empowerment of the workforce is critical to successful change. Promote involvement, creativity, seek ideas (i.e., comments and feedback) from the employees, and recognize achievements. Effective change is attributable to the employees, not the managers. Managers provide the resources, structure, and guidance throughout the change initiative. However, the employees must willingly participate in the change to see success. For instance, recognize business units for achieving milestones such as business impact analysis (BIA) completion or exercise participation.

Recognize the feedback from employees that help improve the change initiative. Feedback is a great way to build the involvement of employees and show that they are essential to the success of the project/ program. The manager should spread the credit for success - the manager is not the key component for success; the employees are the linchpin for success.

Develop the Implementation Plan to Capture Regular Low-Hanging Fruit (Planned Wins)

Creating short-term wins (i.e., often referred to as low-hanging fruit) provides the change initiative with feedback from users and management, allows for the recognition of participants, engenders belief in the change initiative, and reduces the power of anyone negatively criticizing the change. Maintaining the morale of the participants and reenergizing the change effort is critical to the overall momentum of the project. Think about a typical change project and the cycles of activity that occur. The short-term wins help to motivate people and propel the project forward.

Communicating the project's accomplishments is a great way to maintain awareness and the success of the initiative. The successes that are expected (low-hanging fruit) should appear in the communication and change plans. Planning to achieve helps ensure the success, and listing a planned accomplishment in the communication plan facilitates the message strategy of regular, pertinent updates.

Reinforce the Initiative with Regular Communications – Keep the Energy Going

Maintaining a sense of urgency and flow of activities keeps the work progressing. Maintaining the momentum of the project is essential through to completion - avoid the endless issue Sisyphus faced with the boulder. Plan for the continuation of the initiative and the reenergizing of the people and the activities. Keep a steady flow of energy going into the initiative so that the activities maintain forward momentum.

Regular updates to management and the organization show professionalism and keep the change initiative in the eyes of the participants. It is wise to have a communication strategy that is grounded in a marketing approach.

Project Change to a Program – Make it Part of the Organizational Culture

Moving the project to a program status creates the expectation that maintenance of the program is necessary to keep the work progressing. Regular updates on the program and “keeping the program in everyone's face" is necessary to avoid people forgetting about the accomplishments. A useful way to view the change process is a cycle of movement from planning through evaluation with iterative change and continuous improvement as the constants.

Examples of Action Items for a Business Continuity Change Initiative

These action items will facilitate the business continuity change initiative:

  • • Gain senior leadership support of a governance charter to proceed;
  • • Identify a senior-level champion for the business continuity program;
  • • Partner with change management professionals at the company to facilitate the change initiative;
  • • Prepare messages for management supporting the business continuity program and encouraging the involvement of the company employees, especially managers;
  • • Begin developing a communication strategy - multiple approaches for a diverse audience, fact-based and honest examples demonstrating our concern for the employees and the business - the constant marketing of the program is vital;
  • • Develop a company intranet page to promote the development and ongoing activities of the initiative - list the vision statement, mission statement, and values;
  • • Use a message mapping approach to convey business continuity to a general audience;
  • • Communicate the business continuity program support to the affected audience;
  • • A clear message of the benefits of the initiative for the individual company employee, as well as the organization;
  • • Establish manager, associate, and team milestones (e.g., training, crisis plan exercising, business impact analysis completion/updates, and revision efforts) associated with business continuity;
  • • Engage the business continuity coordinators as active participants in the process, and make them active participants - share the success of the program with them;
  • • Continue to promote BC data tool as self-serve to engage employees in business continuity activities;
  • • Promote involvement and recognize achievements;
  • • Review training to ensure it is current, fact-based, understandable, and delivered in different approaches (e.g., lecture for small groups, online as a self-serve multimedia lesson, and online documents as reference guides;
  • • Make business continuity a local team and manager responsibility to generate interest, which translates into action (i.e., involve audit and provide regular updates on business continuity program progress to management);
  • • Develop a continuous improvement component into the program to ensure ongoing updates;
  • • Develop a comprehensive strategy and long-term plan for a future change initiative organization with proper staffing levels and professional competence (if applicable). Consider using established approaches or standards to maintain momentum and the importance of the program. Not all standards are appropriate for every organization or location; focus on the best options for the organization.

An excellent way to think about change management within an organization is to place yourself on the receiving end of a change initiative. Treat the organizational audience as you would want to be treated. Provide meaningful information before the change to build support and gain supporters to help communicate the change to others. Be honest and sincere in all the messages; personal delivery of messages may be an excellent way to create support. Personal meetings to deliver the change message allows for questions and answers. Yes, personal meetings will take time, but it is an excellent approach to reaching the audience and developing the necessary support.


Change is a process of moving from a current state of existence to a new state of existence. Lewin's (1951) change model expresses a behavioral evaluation of a situation that allows for the desire to change, the actual change, and the willingness to accept the new state. Lewin's model is the foundation of change theory. However, consider Kruger's (1996) iceberg model as a better way to describe and illustrate the complexity of change.

Kruger's (1996) model presents a visual depiction of the visible and hidden elements of change implementation.

Decker et al. (2012) concluded that the change initiative failure rate is likely between 50% to approximately 70%. Hughes (2011) did not find the empirical data to support the claim of 70% initiative failure. Any failure is possibly associated with a poor understanding of the “hidden" elements noted in Kruger's iceberg model, the lack of a systems perspective throughout the change initiative, and a partial or complete disregard of Kotter's 8-step model. Conversely, there is a higher chance of success if a change practitioner applies the concepts of change management, Kotter's change model, and robust project management techniques to any change initiative.

A robust understanding of a systems perspective is crucial to operating within a complex organization. Organizational systems are more than IT applications and network components. A complex organizational system consists of the formal and informal structure, the processes that constitute the work of the organization, and the culture of the organization. The organizational system always operates and may have a hidden influence on the outcome of a change initiative. An organizational system has interrelated and interdependent processes that work together to achieve organizational goals.

Kotter's (1996, 2012) 8-step model is an excellent approach to understanding and achieving change initiatives. The eight components of Kotter's model (Kotter, 1996, 2012) are:

  • • Justification
  • • Establishing Support
  • • Establishing a Connection between the Initiative and the Employees
  • • Effective Communication
  • • Managing Resistance to Change
  • • Practical Plans
  • • Momentum through Communication
  • • Institutionalization of the Initiative


Busby, N. (2017). The shape of change: A guide to planning, implementing and embedding organizational change. New York, NY: Routledge.

Decker, P., Durand, R., Mayfield, C. O., McCormack, C, Skinner, D., & Perdue, G. (2012) Predicting implementation failure in organization change. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, 16(2), 29M9.

Hughes, M. (2011). Do 70 per cent of all organizational change initiatives really fail? Journal of Change Management, 11(4), 451—164.

Kotter, J. P. (1996). Successful change and the force that drives it. The Canadian Manager, 21(3), 20-24.

Kotter, J. P. (2012). Leading change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press. Kruger, W. (1996). Implementation: The core task of change management. CEM Business Review, 1, 77-96.

Lewin, K. (1951). Field theory in social science. New York: Harper & Row.


1. Kotter's Model

Why do you think Prof. Kotter focused on the eight steps identified in his model as necessary for successful change initiatives? Consider any examples from your experiences.

2. BC Project: BIA

The business continuity department is planning to begin conducting a business impact analysis to determine what each business unit does, whom they interact with to perform functions, which relies on a particular business unit to conduct their work; in essence, the BIA should identify the business relationships (i.e., internal and external) and technical requirements for an organization. The project promises significant change implications for the organization. What are the change management issues associated with this project?


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