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Change Management Is a Vital Capability for TD Professionals

Wednesday, December 16, 2020
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Change can be exciting, but with most change initiatives, it usually brings a lot of unease. According to industry research, 70 percent of all change initiatives fail.

Communicating openly and honestly with employees and encouraging questions, commitment, and help is critical for the success of organizational change initiatives. According to Capabilities for Talent Development, “TD professionals are well positioned to facilitate change because they connect people, process, and work.”

Change management is one of the 23 capabilities in the Talent Development Capability Model and is part of the Impacting Organizational Capability domain.

“Change management uses structured approaches to shift individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a future state,” says Capabilities for Talent Development. “Once initiated, change follows its own nonlinear path in response to uncertainties, reactions, and guidance from those involved. There are tools, resources, processes, skills, and principles for managing the people side of change that practitioners should understand and implement to achieve preferred outcomes. Research shows that most companies don’t manage change well, which makes capability in this area a differentiator for TD professionals.”

A TD professional with capability in this area will need knowledge of:

  • How change impacts people and organizations
  • Change management theories and models (for example, Lewin, Kotter, Bridges’ transition model, Kubler-Ross change curve, and appreciative inquiry)

An effective TD professional will need to be skilled at:

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  • Assessing risk, resistance, and consequences to define a change-management approach
  • Designing and implementing an organizational change strategy

“Change is so constant and dominant that I now hear from people who say their companies cannot keep up with the pace of change, and their employees seem to be suffering. A 2019 Center for Creative Leadership study found that change fatigue is one of the top two challenges leaders face, and other surveys have found that change initiatives flounder because companies lack the skills to sustain change over time,” Cy Wakeman wrote in a March 2020 TD magazine article.

According to the 2018 ATD research report Change Enablement: Skills for Addressing Change, 92 percent of organizations have experienced change in the past three years. Forces such as automation, globalization, and the need to upskill and reskill employees are influencing the workforce and accelerating the rate of change.

“Leaders underestimate the complexity of change when they do not take the time to understand the scope of the change, the stakeholders, and their environment,” Jennifer Stanford wrote in a November 2016 TD at Work issue. “If we fail to understand the impact of change from a systems perspective, challenges will come up and become roadblocks.”

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Trust plays a huge role in the success of a change initiative. As Stanford notes, “Studies over the past few years have emphasized the important role that trust plays in organizational success. The best-laid change management plans struggle if trust is not present.”

Individuals give many reasons for resisting change, AJ Schuler writes in Overcoming Resistance to Change: Top Ten Reasons for Change Resistance. Some of those reasons include that people:

  • Think the risk of change is greater than the risk of standing still.
  • Fear they lack the competence to change.
  • Fear hidden agendas among those driving change.
  • Feel the proposed change threatens their personal level of confidence.
  • Fear a loss of status or quality of life.
  • Believe that the proposed change is a bad idea.

“The root of resistance is often a lack of understanding what change is needed and why. Educating individuals can jump­start their understanding of the need for change,” George Vukotich writes in 10 Steps to Successful Change Management. “Showing them the anticipated positive impacts of change and the probable consequences of not changing can further drive the point home.”

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About the Author

Paula Ketter is ATD's content strategist. Previously, she served as editor of ATD's periodicals.

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