“The Art of Change Management” vs. “The Science of Change”

Is it the “art of change management” or the “science of change management”?

It’s both.

If you are a change management professional, you probably know this.

The people side of change management requires finesse, soft skills, and top-notch communications.

Of course, there is more to change management than the “people side of change.”

Change managers must juggle:

  • The organizational strategy
  • The needs of employees
  • Customer demands and needs
  • Executive attention and support

To name a few.

This is where the true art of change management comes in.

You must follow solid change management principles and juggle all of these needs.

Below, we’ll look at how to do just that.

The Art of Change Management: Must-Have Traits

Change management is a multi-disciplinary art and science.

Though it is people-centered and worker-driven, you need more than just people skills.

Valuable change management traits include:

  • Strategic thinking
  • Communications and presentation skills
  • Digital skills
  • Problem-solving and analysis
  • The ability to persuade

These skills and traits are vital because in every change endeavor, you must:

  • Analyze a problem and devise a solution
  • Create a change program that enacts that solution
  • Develop ways to mobilize employee support
  • Obtain executive support and leadership
  • Analyze, evaluate, and adjust the program as needed
  • Use the latest digital tools to optimize and enhance your program

All of these demands together make it difficult to call change management a “science.”

This is why it’s often better to call it an art and a science.

Let’s look at the essential pillars of the art of change management.

Organizational Strategy

Strategy is the top-down view of the organization, its market position, and its aim.

Ultimately, change management strategy lies beneath every change program.

It lies behind the organization’s overall mission, direction, and every decision.

Even seemingly unrelated change programs – such as the adoption of a new software tool, however minor – is done to support organizational strategy.

Of course, every change program originates from a different source.

Initiatives can originate with:

  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Executives
  • Change Managers

Regardless of where the idea started, it is essential that the change endeavor supports organizational strategy.

Many change management professionals only emphasize the people side of change. And this is absolutely critical.

However, the reality is that organizational strategy comes first.

It is perhaps the most important imperative for change managers – because without the organization, there will be nothing to change.

Of course, without employees, there would be no organization.

This is why ground-level support is essential.

Employee-Centered Design

For some business leaders, employees are easy to overlook when it comes to change initiatives.

It can be tempting to simply mandate a change. Employees are then expected to follow through.

Unfortunately, such an authoritative approach has bad side effects:

These, in turn, can harm employee productivity, longevity, and loyalty.

To improve a change program’s results, it’s crucial to gain employee support.

After all, they are the ones enacting change.

There are many things that can be done to obtain employee support, such as:

  • Following classic change models, which lay out step-by-step plans to mobilize employees for change
  • Communicating early and often
  • Inviting total participation from employees – and actually listening to their input
  • Offering rewards and incentives for participation
  • Making the change program fun and interesting
  • Ensuring the change program benefits employees – and explaining this to the employees

Because employee support has a direct impact on the ROI and the results of the program, gaining support should be a top priority.

Obtaining Top-Down Support and Leadership

Executive support is another must-have in the art of change management.

In one study by Google, lack of executive support has been named a top obstacle to success.

For this reason, change managers must make executive support a top priority.

To obtain support, a few steps should be followed:

  • First, analyze the change program strategically, as mentioned above
  • Demonstrate how the program supports the organization’s strategic goals
  • Show the ROI of the program overall, as well as each piece of your plan

Ultimately, you should be able to make a strong case for the program itself.

This will help leaders rationalize the program’s costs, especially when you connect those costs to ROI.

However, there is another way to get more support from above…

Make friends in high places.

This is hardly scientific advice – but change managers know that this skill fits perfectly within the art of change management.

Organizational strategy is important … and ROI is important … but people are people.

Building a network of friendly support within the organization can open ears, get your foot in doors, and give you time with important executives.

Using your people skills can help you get the support you need.

Final Thoughts

The “art” of change management is just as important as the “science” of change management.

Change management professionals should focus on both.

Numbers, strategy, and ROI are critically important.

However, without people, communications, and soft skills, change programs won’t deliver those numbers.

The true change professional knows the value of both aspects – and works hard on both sides of the equation.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.