Four-Dimensional Change Management

Natsuko Hara, Director Change Management, Adidas [ETR: ADS]

Natsuko Hara, Director Change Management, Adidas [ETR: ADS]

In 2001 when I first came in touch with Change Management, I worked as a Communications Manager in the Consulting division of a global IT company. One day, a project team came to me and shared that they have massive challenges with a global system implementation for a key customer. Processes and systems were designed and successfully built according to requirements, all employees were thoroughly trained, a broad launch campaign had announced and introduced the changes—but the employees won’t do what they were supposed to do. I was asked to go there and do some communication.

"Communication and training have a nature of receiving, so change activities are often felt as ‘imposed’ by impacted employees"

Soon I realized that communication was not the issue. The employees confirmed that they knew enough about the new processes and systems and that they were properly trained — the why, what, when, and how was clearly understood. There was something else that held them back from applying the new.

Needs of impacted people in times of change are often addressed with an increase of communication activities, targeted key messaging, extensive storytelling and a proper training program. Successful change certainly keeps up transparency and sets the context to a bigger picture, makes strategies and impact on daily business clear to every layer of the organization. But is this really all that it needs?

Managing change is also a matter of building confidence, belief, and trust in a tangible way; hence also a matter of experience and understanding what it means to step out of the comfort zone. Communication and training have a nature of receiving, so change activities are often felt as ‘imposed’ by impacted employees. New processes, a switch of operating models or new roles and responsibilities, but often require new mindset and behavior, which should allow time and space to practice and explore in a safe environment and in a playful way. The integration of gamification into the Change tools,, for example, shows significantly faster and higher commitment and proactive involvement of employees.

And then there is one more: In a highly competitive environment, change management must be linked to a clear definition of what performance looks like. If change journeys end with training, employees assume that they are done with the change once training is completed. The objective of change is not to just learn and apply something new; the objective of change is to achieve higher goals or do something differently than before to deliver results by applying the newly learned. Behind every change is a concrete business case - which needs to be clear to everyone.

To navigate the teams through a world of constant and multiple change, a good and balanced mix of four elements are needed: communication and storytelling to keep up transparency (brain), trust and empathy to inspire and connect the people emotionally to the change (heart), training and gamification to develop new skills and execute the change (hands) and a clear direction of tangible goals and results for every hierarchy level tied to daily business (performance). Managing the change is possibly not what should be focused on first place; it should be managing the success.

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