Point of view to Organizational Change Management in Finland
Point of View to Change Management
February, 2014 Page 1
Point of view to Organizational
Change Management in the
State of the Affairs leaves a Lot of
Room for Improvement
The 2010 Eurofond survey shows that the
companies in Sweden, Finland and Denmark
have been leading the statistics in EU countries
when it comes to number of organizational
. Norway stands at
seventh place out of the 35 countries included
in the survey. It can certainly be claimed that
change is a constant in the life of the employees
in the Nordic companies. The drivers behind the
changes have been, and still are, typically
related to changes in the market conditions and
ownership structures, increased risk awareness
and the willingness to act on it.
Unfortunately, the increased agility in
implementing changes has been matched by
increasing lack of leadership focus. This is
manifesting itself through the launching of
poorly planned change initiatives. The targets
and goals of the change are often not defined,
what will change, and what will remain
unchanged poorly described, and execution of
the change initiative left to the chance. This
leads to situations where there is no clear
consensus on what was decided to be done,
why the decision to change was made, and how
the change is to be implemented. Keeping in
mind that research has shown that timing of the
top and middle management’s interest in a
change initiative differs significantly, you arrive
at a conclusion that by the time the
implementation of the change initiative should
be at full force, the attention of the top
management might already have moved on to
the next big thing.
Commitment to leading the change at the
forefront seems to be missing; instead the
leadership of the change initiative gets
delegated to the Human Resources department
or another support function in the company.
This causes a lack of focus and may easily lead
to a situation where the change initiative takes
a life of its own and starts to significantly
deviate from the original intent. With change
initiatives becoming a mundane phenomenon,
organizations tend to underestimate
uniqueness of the change at hand and do not
see the need to dedicate enough skilled
employees to plan and implement the change.
In this climate of constant change, lack of
leadership, and ambiguous targets, employees
struggle to keep up with the change. To
compensate, they try their best to work
towards the goals they assume they should
reach. However, under these circumstances the
individual interpretation of the targets may vary
greatly both between individuals and from the
original intend. Unclear and conflicting agendas
may result in people turning back to their old,
comfortable ways of working and relay on skills
and capabilities they acquired in the past. In the
end, the change initiative dies out after the
initial hype and commotion. In worst case
nothing really changes, and even in the best
case, the targeted benefits are far from
achieved. Most likely there is, by now, already a
new change initiative ongoing and everything
starts all over again.
Some of the change management consultants
and change management trainings are, rather
than helping, making things worse. This is due
to their blind belief in the power of
methodologies and tools and the ability of these
to solve all problems related to the change
initiatives. Unfortunately, methodologies and
tools, without leadership, commitment and
proper staffing, are not sufficient. In worst
examples we have seen well intentioned, but
poorly executed trainings, undermine the whole
concept of change management. After the term
and concept has been discarded as bogus, it is
difficult for anyone to restore an organization’s
faith in the value of properly planned and
executed change initiatives.
Point of View to Change Management
February, 2014 Page 2
So, where has it gone astray?
When a company goes through a major change
initiative the impacts are typically targeted at
processes, technology enablers (=systems) as
well as people and the behavior of the
employees. Therefore, the change initiative
activities have to be planned and executed in all
these areas. A typical IT-project covers the
technology enablers and at least some parts of
the process changes. But too often the people
aspect is neglected and expected to be handled
by project progress communication and systems
trainings only. These activities alone are unlikely
to make any significant and durable change in
peoples’ behavior or attitudes. For example, to
change a traditional functional organization into
a customer centric organization is not
accomplished by just implementing a new CRM
system for use at the customer interface.
Instead the whole organization has to adapt to
a new way of thinking and new ways of working
throughout customer related processes.
Changing anything related to the company
culture and employee values requires a
significant effort on people change
It appears that most of the companies manage
change initiatives much in the same fashion as
they manage their IT projects. In worst cases, IT
project management activities are the only
activities done in relation to implementing the
change. It is assumed that the change in
peoples’ behavior happens automatically
following the changes in technology.
Unfortunately, it tends to not be this simple.
Unless people change the way they think, they
are likely to simply keep on following the same
old process with the new tools. Or once the
initial hype has passed, they just start to ignore
the new tools completely.
Changing people’s thinking, behavior and ways
of working is difficult to the extent of being
frightening. Facing angry and upset employees
is troublesome for any leader. Even the leaders
themselves may experience hard times when
they have to change their own habits and
customs. Change does also often bring about a
shift of power within the organization, and this
is naturally not received well by those who find
their power and influence diminishing.
Therefore, it is often tempting to focus on
changing the abstract processes and inanimate
systems, while ignoring the employees that are
scared of losing their jobs or managers that find
their positions and influence under threat.
However, as long as the processes in the
company are being run by the employees, you
as a leader will have to also address the people
aspects of the change.
People Need a Purpose and
In order to understand, accept and endorse a
change being implemented, people will need to
know the rationale and purpose behind the
need to change as well as the direction the
change intends to take the organization to.
Management needs to communicate why the
change is needed, how the change needs to be
implemented, and why it needs to happen now.
In addition, it is beneficial to explain to the
employees what will remain as-is after the
change. Going through the process of
addressing these questions also helps the
leadership team itself. It will make sure that
every team member is on the same page and
that they are able to communicate these
answers consistently to the employees. Without
the explicit documentation of the rationale and
direction, the leadership team is not likely to
have a common understanding. If they do not
share the same understanding of the rationale
and direction, the communication from each
leadership team member to the rest of the
organization is likely to deviate and cause
As part of planning the change, the leadership
team needs to understand and describe the
targeted change in precise and practical terms.
Key items in the description being the reasons
for why the change is needed, what is aimed to
be accomplished with the change, and how
these goals are going to be achieved. At this
Point of View to Change Management
February, 2014 Page 3
point, the team should also evaluate how
realistic it is for the organization to successfully
implement the change and what kind of
resistance is to be expected. In order to achieve
this, the change leadership team needs to
understand how far the current situation is
from the target scenario as well as understand
how realistic it is that the planned change will
achieve the targets set for it.
To support the communication of the rationale
and targets of the needed change, it typically
helps to be able to explain the logic through
some form of a decision three. In this context
the decision three describes the logical chain of
factors building up to the targeted change
goals, or sub-goals building up to the end-goals.
This type of decision three supports the
communication of the change impact, required
changes within each business unit, and how all
of this combined leads up to the overall change
objectives. Being able to clearly communicate
the individual sub-goals building up to the
overall goals is an important factor in getting
the different levels and business units in the
organization aligned, and on board, with the
Phases of the change management
Each change initiative should be broken down
to at least two phases: planning and
The main target of the planning phase is to find
a common understanding of the answers to the
question: Why does the organization need to go
through this change? How is the change
planned to be achieved?
The key in the implementation phase is to
answers the questions: What are we changing?
How are we implementing the change?
Cornerstones of the planning phase
In a nut shell, the corner stones of the planning
Creating a feeling of urgency in
implementing the change,
Defining the vision for the change,
Articulating the reasoning and direction
for the change,
Analyzing the different options of
reaching the change targets,
Defining the criteria for a successful
implementation of the change,
Agreeing on the implementation roles
In order to create the feeling of urgency, the
change leadership team needs to determine:
Why are we changing?
What happens, if we will not change?
Why do we have to change right now?
How quickly do we want to make the
How quickly are we able to make the
As part of describing the reasons and direction
of the change, the change leadership team
needs to agree on answers to the following
What they are targeting to achieve
with the change?
What is the inspiring future vision for
What are the things that need to be
changed? What will remain the same
after the change has been
The change leadership team needs to steer
clear from group thinking and making overly
optimistic plans. To avoid those mistakes they
need take a long, hard look at their own
personal and the organizations attitudes and
behaviors that are likely to hinder and sabotage
the acceptance of the change. Making the
change happen requires you to first admit to
where you are at, and then to understand how
far you have to go to achieve your targets. It
also helps to agree beforehand, how you
determine when you have reached your goals,
i.e. how do you measure that targets have been
achieved. And vice versa, what are the signs to
look out for to understand that you have
deviated from your target?
Point of View to Change Management
February, 2014 Page 4
The practicalities of planning the change
implementation should not be ignored either.
You need to agree on the change initiative’s
organization, roles and responsibilities and
decision making structure.
Corner Stones of the
For the employees accepting the change
endorsing, it comes down to very basic human
needs. If employees can understand the need
for the change, overcome the fear of the
unknown and of losing their jobs, they will be
much more accommodating towards the
change initiative. Change management activities
are intended to support the employees in
addressing these fears and making the logic
behind the change understood.
The sense of urgency and necessity are critical
in keeping up the momentum with a change
initiative. The sense of necessity combined with
the understanding of how the change initiative
will solve the dire situation facing the
organization, will maintain the change activities
at the top of the priority list all the way to the
Second factor keeping the initiative on right
path is the sense of direction and targets. What
is the vision and future state that we are
targeting to achieve?
Third important factor is the feeling that things
are progressing to the right direction.
Employees need to see that milestones are
being achieved in order to believe that things
are on the right track. They also need to have
visibility on what is coming up next.
Fourth, and last, corner stone is about the
feeling of things being under control.
Employees need to see that the change
leadership team has a good grip on things;
Current status is known, issues are getting
solved and decisions are being made.
Where Can Consultants Help You?
Consultants are best utilized as unbiased
advisors, experienced coaches and/or
methodical change implementation support
Advisors are people who have already done
what you are planning to do. Though, their
experience may not have been from exactly the
same situation, there should have been enough
similarities in their experience so that they can
guide you past the shoals and shallow waters.
Idea is that they will support you on your
journey so that you can avoid hitting every rock
on the way to your targets.
Coaches will help you rise up to the challenge of
leading the change initiative. Coaches are
typically quite senior people who have been
through thick and thin in there career, they may
not be specialized in change management in
particular, but they have lead their fair share of
change initiatives in addition to other things
they have done. They will inspire you to step
into the shoes of your stakeholders, take into
account the whole scale of different opinions
and points of view that are causing concern
regarding the change in your organization. They
can be the voice of reason to snap you back to
reality, if you start to become overly optimistic
on your plans.
If your organization has not been paying much
attention to how the change initiatives are
planned and implemented, or you just do not
have staff to manage the practical activities
needed in planning and implementing change,
you would benefit from hiring a trained change
management consultant. They will be able to
bring in the methodologies, tools and
accelerators to give your change initiative the
structure it needs. They will help you choose
the tools and methodologies needed, and adapt
them to best fit for you particular situation.
They will also guide you through how to use
them, and thereby, free your time to focus on
the leadership part of the change management.
What Should You Do Differently the
Next Time Around?
Plan the change initiative – Describe
clearly why the change is needed and in
Point of View to Change Management
February, 2014 Page 5
what direction the change will be taking
Be realistic – Be realistic in assessing
your organizations ability to adapt to
Remember the people – Get your
employees involved with planning the
change, get the buy-in of your key
people, and ensure the transparency
throughout the change initiative with
properly targeted communication.
Lead the change initiative – With your
change leadership team lead the
change and ensure that it has enough
management attention and staff
through all of its phases.
Use outside experts wisely – Do not
delegate leadership responsibility or
decision making, but do take advantage
of the lessons learned and best
About the Authors
Ilkka Schulman is a Director at Cognizant Business
Consulting and leads the Strategic Services in the Nordics.
He can be reached at Ilkka.Schulman@cognizant.com.
Sari Inkilä is a Senior Manager Strategic Services at
Cognizant Business Consulting. She can be reached at
Erik Tjønneland is a Senior Consultant Strategic Services at
Cognizant Business Consulting. He can be reached at