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A Visible Solution Paper

Change Management

Printable PDF Version

A Strategic, Information-Centric Approach

By Alan Perkins
Vice President, Consulting Services


This paper describes the constancy of change, effective change management practices, an infrastructure that facilitates change, and the role of the Chief Executive Officer in change management.

Copyright 1997, Visible Systems Corporation


Change Management

Change (is Constant)

The only constant in American enterprises is change. There are external changes in politics, climate, laws, markets, competition, and customer desires. There are internal changes of ownership, products, services, process, technology and measures of effectiveness. Today’s enterprise must be able to react quickly and correctly to external change, while managing internal change effectively. Even the most stable enterprise changes. In fact, not too long ago, a manager was overheard telling his staff, "If we’re going maintain the status quo around here, something has to change!"

External change is usually obvious and has immediate impact. We often have no choice and must deal with external change in order to survive, comply with new laws, meet customer requirements, remain competitive, etc. Everyone in an enterprise recognizes the necessity for reacting to external change.

The need for internal change is often less obvious, unless it is in response to external change, and usually seems less immediate. This is partially because changes we make to improve products; services and practices may not have short-term results. Radical, enterprise-wide change, sometimes called "culture change," may not achieve all desired results for years.

Because internal change is not necessarily forced upon an enterprise by outside factors, and because results are not immediate, it is usually given less emphasis and priority than enterprise reactions to external change. This is unfortunate, because only by carefully managing internal change can an enterprise uniformly meet the challenges of external change.

Change Management Practices

Managing internal change, particularly culture change, requires three things: management commitment, universal approval, and appropriate measures and rewards.

Management Commitment In order for anything to happen in an enterprise, including change, executives and managers must be consistently committed to making it happen. Only enterprise leaders can ensure that resources necessary to effect the change are available. Consistent commitment means that the change becomes both an enterprise strategy and an enterprise goal that leaders continuously and obviously support. The visibility of leadership support is a primary factor in achieving universal approval for change.

Universal Approval Internal change is successful only when the people involved approve of the change. They understand the need for the change. They believe the change is good for the enterprise and good for them. They agree that the change being undertaken is the right change. Peter Senge, in his book The Fifth Discipline, describes the need for universal approval in order to implement systemic change.

"People want change, they don’t want to be changed."

Measures and Rewards Getting everyone to want change is difficult. It requires a level and degree of communication and cooperation not found in most enterprises. Maintaining universal approval is even more difficult. The best way to get and maintain universal approval is to ensure that the process and results of change are measured appropriately and accurately and communicated enterprise-wide. Good results and changed behavior must be rewarded. At the same time, unchanged behavior and poor results should not be rewarded. Employees will not work toward change if they continue to be rewarded for old practices.

Change Management Infrastructure

In addition to these three change management practices, there are two elements of enterprise infrastructure that are critical to effective change management: a strategic plan and an information architecture.

Strategic Planning – A Process, Not an Event

An enterprise’s strategic plan provides the guiding force for internal change and the guidelines for responding to external change. Through the strategic planning process, the enterprise defines and documents its purpose, goals, and objectives, along with strategies for achieving them. Included in the process is an assessment of external opportunities and threats as well as an assessment of internal strengths and weaknesses.

The most useful strategic plans are multi-dimensional, incorporating the enterprise’s overall plan with the subordinate plans of every enterprise element, and including performance measures for every critical outcome.

To ensure that resources are being expended wisely, every internal change should be derived either from the strategies documented in the plan or in response to poor performance as indicated by enterprise measures of effectiveness. Further, the enterprise needs to respond only to those external changes that have a direct impact on achieving its purpose, goals, and objectives as documented in its strategic plan. All other external factors can be ignored.

Information Architecture – Blueprint for Change

When change is desired or necessary, the enterprise’s information architecture provides a means for determining the impact of the change and a blueprint for speedy implementation of change. An enterprise’s information architecture encompasses data and technology.

Linking an enterprise’s strategic plan with its enterprise data architecture, enterprise application architecture and enterprise technical architecture results in an Enterprise Information Architecture. A well-documented architecture is a logical organization of information pertaining to the following corporate-level, enterprise-wide elements.

  • Strategic goals, objectives, and strategies
  • Business rules and metrics
  • Information requirements
  • Application systems
  • Relationships between applications and data elements
  • Technology infrastructure

Enterprise information architecture also establishes guidelines, standards, and operational services that define the enterprise’s systems development environment. When an enterprise’s architecture is so documented, it can be used to accomplish the following:

  • Facilitate change management by linking strategic requirements to systems that support them and by linking the business model to application designs
  • Enable strategic information to be consistently and accurately derived from operational data
  • Promote data sharing, thus reducing data redundancy and reducing maintenance costs
  • Improve productivity through component development, management and reuse
  • Reduce software development cycle time

For additional information, please see the Visible Solution, "Enterprise Information Architecture."

CIO Role in Change Management

The Chief Information Officer in a competitive, visionary, strategically managed enterprise has a key role in responding to external change and managing internal change. The CIO is, of course, also the chief information architect and is therefore responsible for enterprise information resource management. Not only is the CIO the steward of one of the critical enterprise infrastructure elements, the CIO should also be a key player in the enterprise’s strategic planning process. Only the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has an equally broad-based view of the activities in the enterprise.

The CIO, as part of the enterprise management team, helps make decisions concerning what changes to implement. The CIO also helps sustain approval for those changes. Most importantly, the CIO is ultimately responsible for translating enterprise goals, objectives, and performance measures into information systems.

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A Visible Solution

Visible consultants have experience helping leaders of commercial and government enterprises improve their change management practices. Our expertise is developing the infrastructure to support effective enterprise change management -- both strategic plans and information architecture.

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More Information

For more information concerning this Visible Solution please contact:

North America

Visible Systems Corporation
201 Spring Street Lexington MA 02421 USA
Phone: +1-781-778-0200 Fax  +1-781-778-0208

Web Site:


Clive Finkelstein, Managing Director
Information Engineering Services Pty Ltd
PO Box 246, Hillarys Perth WA 6923 Australia
Phone: +61-8-9402-8300 Fax: +61-8-9402-8322

Web Site:


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