“People Don't Resist Change; They Resist Being Changed When They Don't Know Why.”

Change management has become an important and accepted aspect of corporate success in recent years. Companies are beginning to understand that anticipating major change—whether it be in terms of products, processes, or people—and having a systematic methodology for handling it makes a lot of sense—to the stability of the organization and contentment of workers. It's a burgeoning field of study--recently, in fact, the Association of Change Management Professionals was founded to further the growth of the discipline and provide certification to practitioners.

Up to 70% of corporate change initiatives fail, notes Bill Wilder, director of the Life Cycle Institute, a training organization run by Life Cycle Engineering (LCE). “It's really pretty simple,” he says. “They start too late and they have no structured process.”

Oftentimes, it is because pharmaceutical and other manufacturers focus on products and processes, but not on people. Contrary to popular opinion, people generally don’t resist change, says Wilder. “They resist being changed when they don't know why.”

He continues: “We can get the technology right, we can get the processes right, but if the people aren't embracing and adopting [them] then the probability of achieving business objectives is slim.” Those companies that achieve their objectives in times of change are “typically those that have sponsorship engagement, and have a structured process with dedicated resources to manage the change.”

He adds: “Typically what happens is that organizations will go through a change and then they don't start dealing with resistance until it surfaces and it becomes a problem, rather than being proactive, anticipating it and implementing plans and mitigating that resistance.”

Another part of the problem, Wilder says, is that change management has always been viewed as a “soft area” of business—hard to quantify in terms of success and impact on the bottom line. And thus it can be pushed down the priority ladder.

For more from Wilder, please read our recent interview. For audio-philes, here’s the podcast version.

--Paul Thomas

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