People Over Process: Leading Successful Organizational Change – By Dr. Michael D. Ikona, Psy.D., PCC, PMP, RMP, ACP

Our world is changing at an unprecedented rate. The rate of change often outpaces an organization’s ability to keep pace with it. To survive, organizations are now in a constant state of change and ambiguity is prevalent. To counter this uncertainty and risk, we have countless best business practices, models, processes, tools, and certifications we can use to assist us in organizational change management. However, even when these best practices and processes are used, project success rates are astonishingly low. Studies indicate: (1) corporate projects in the United States have an average cost overrun of 189%; (2) due to the increased complexity in change, 21% of change management projects are cancelled prior to completion; and (3) 60%-70% of organizational change management projects (especially in IT) result in failure.

Why are change management success rates so low? According to Harvard Business Review, while change management tools are reasonably correct, managerial capacity to utilize the tools is severely underdeveloped. Additionally, it is my professional opinion, based on my own experience and research, that change management certifications concentrate almost exclusively on managing processes at the expense of leading people. Yet, research indicates that people are more than 10 times more important than process! In fact, the COCOMO II Estimation Model validates that People, Product, and the Computer Platform are each more critical in determining project success than PROCESS!

Fortunately, the Agile Project Management methodology addresses the importance of people and relationships in organizational change management. In fact, Agile’s VERY FIRST value stresses the significance of “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” However, while studying to become a Project Management Institute (PMI) Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP), much more than half of my studies needed to focus on the Agile process in order to pass the exam.

I hope each of you taking the time to read this understand I believe that process is critical in organizational change management. In fact, I find it essential. But…I do think organizations should place more of an emphasis on the human element of change. To protect themselves, organizations should insure their change management personnel (PMO Directors, Portfolio Managers, Program Managers, Project Managers, Department and Executive Managers, etc…) have the essential skills to effectively: (1) lead others; (2) develop teams that produce more than the sum of their parts; (3) coach, mentor, and motivate; (4) communicate with stakeholders and manage their expectations; (5) find opportunities within ambiguity; (6) manage conflict; (7) leverage diversity and inclusion; and (8) insure organizational personnel are embracing and championing change.

When initially working with clients, I often find that management is more concerned with a project manager’s past technical experience and their knowledge of governance and process than how they build and lead high-performance project teams. Additionally, I find that project leaders and PMO Directors sometimes reserve very little time, if any at all, for discussing the human element of change management. I believe this is can be a mistake that leads many projects down the wrong path and ultimately provides the organization with limited value.

In the future, I will be writing articles that address the concept of how leading people while utilizing process is what truly drives successful organizational change. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and discuss any experience – either good or bad – you have had in your change management efforts regarding people and process.

Thank you for reading and all the very best to each of you!

Dr. Mike, Systemic Consulting Group – –

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s