5 Steps for Dealing With the Human Factor in Change Management

5 Steps for Dealing With the Human Factor in Change Management
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We’re All People

A recent study (www.McKinsey.com) by a consulting firm took 3,199 executives as subjects from all over the world and found out that only one-third of change projects or organizational transformations have been a success. This is due to the human factor that enters into any kind of pursuit for change and the unreasonable aspect of human conduct.

When process changes, technology changes, or team changes come to bear in the work setting, the counter-intuitive conduct of team members can cause them to misinterpret changes and exhibit less-than-optimal behavior.

Another study by Hiatt and Creasy discovered that the top barriers to change management in a project are employee resistance, pitiable executive sponsorship, middle-management resistance, inadequate resources, and corporate political views. Except for limited resources, those four barriers are related to humans. However, if people or humans were not an issue, limited resources would also not be a major issue either. For example, if humans were approachable to change, it would not be difficult to gather talent, time, and knowledge.

Human change may be the most common obstacle, but by managing it effectively you can minimize negative impacts.

The Five Steps

1. Pro-active executive sponsorship: Change management projects need to be effectively communicated to the entire project team. Top management needs to be active and must be able to make the most difficult of decisions. Those are the people that need to approve and give consent for allotment of resources to the project.

2. Buy-in by middle managers: Middle managers and employees help support and maintain initiatives that assist project growth as well as help themselves. The help could be in terms of procedure, financial, or professional. No matter what type it is, the significance of the change management project must be well communicated to all in the project team.

3. The team: The team that is built to manage the change project must be skilled and dedicated. This team can encourage support from all the staff who would be affected by the change in the company.

4. Communication: Communication is essential during a change project as it helps in bypassing both emotional and proficient obstacles. Effective communication is the key to get through the whole project smoothly. A solid communication plan must be created and shared with all team members. In addition to this, there must be transparency and clarity about the status of the project and the desired result.

5. Training: Adequate training must be provided to affected personnel. This training would help people adapt to the changes as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to conduct training sessions in batches. Provide the skills only to one batch initially and get their thoughts on the advantages, disadvantages, strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities of the project.


  • Carolyn Aiken and Scott Keller, authors of the paper “The Irrational Side of Transformation” (McKinsey Quarterly, 2009)
  • Change Management: The People Side of Change by Jeff Hiatt and Timothy J. Creasy