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Weekly Question: Week 12

Leave your response as a comment on this post by the beginning of class next week as well as your comments on your peer’s responsesRemember, you need to average four posts a week for a B. For these weekly questions, I’m mainly interested in your experiences and opinions, not so much particular “facts” from the class!

  1. Which aspect of a change message do you think be constructed with the most care: rider, elephant, or path? Why?
  2. Describe a situation, in your own experience, where you had a change effectively communicated to you. What made it so effective?

100 Responses to Weekly Question: Week 12

  • According to me the Path part is the most important. If the environment and the direction to drive the change is not set right and properly, one would not be able to drive the change in a right fashion. Also, even the directions are not set right, one can also not motivate the other involved people to accept and follow the change. The path can make the job of rider and the elephant easier and if gone wrong, can lead to a failure. Change itself is something that people in an organization are reluctant towards. They get accustomed to a set ways of executing their tasks. If a change is proposed, how the changes will be brought about, the pace, the fashion and the amplitude that the change will be brought very important. If these are pre set, and done correctly, the role of the rider and the elephant will be more efficient. The resistance towards the change will be easily handled and the communication pre, during and post the change will be more helpful.

    • I agree that in theory if change is addressed correctly it should go smoothly. Although I wonder what management would say about handling resistance to the change with organizations that had/have unions to deal with and the change impacts pay and jobs. For example, hospitals with allied health or nursing unions and the automotive industry. In many situations change management may be handled 100% correctly but it is very difficult to control the “Elephant”, emotional side of things, and I’m not sure there is a proper way to deal with it when strikes occur and picket lines are formed especially in a hospital environment.

      • Stanley, I agree with you that managing the “Elephant” is the toughest thing to do. But I also believe that the Path which is set not just during the process of change, but also before that, and in which a company usually thrives can make or break the situation. I think it is absolutely critical for a company to ensure that environment is always set in a way that employees can embrace change. I know it is easier said than done, but a lot of young companies are trying to do just that. Work on building a culture that is dynamic.

        • I don’t disagree with your statement. What I’m stating is that sometimes there are other situations that come into play that need to be considered. You have to consider what the union is in the scenario. Is it the Elephant with all the emotion or is it perhaps an obstacle that needs to be removed to get to the right Path to the environment you speak of? Work environments/cultures can be as dynamic as they want but when a unionized bunch of employees don’t care about those things and demand change based on what they want it is not an easy situation to deal with. In this situation, perhaps even the Rider is the most important since they would be the problem solver.

          • I think both Sid and Stanley are correct at their view point. But as per my understanding, the rider, elephant and the path are all interdependent. All the three can influence each other.I chose path as the most important as i think it is the most crucial, but cannot be the most influential. Depending on the situation that arises by the path or the environment, the rider or the elephant can become the leading role or the most influential. The path is most important as it defines and manages the change and how to bring into effect. The dynamic nature of the work culture gives the freedom to use the rider and the elephant to a customizable degree.

      • Snigdha and Stan, I guess this discussion is personal to each one of us, according to our experience with the world. I feel that the Path has to be set correctly by an organization first. Organizations usually set the path, based on the work their organization does and based on the goal they would like to achieve, for example “meaningful use” or “magnet status”. The Elephant starts getting effected after the change has been announced by each individual department or unit. If the announcement reflects a well thought out process which does not create a sudden shock to the employees; then there is more of a chance of acceptance, curiosity and support for the change. There are people who react negatively to any change. There are people who want to do what is right and necessary. There are people who accept change easily. There has to be a performance evaluation or some way to weed out, the people who will not change. If there was time to think, time to question, time to train, time to change and time to accept; there must be a time to call out, “zero tolerance” for anyone not willing to facilitate organizational changes.

        • That’s interesting, when we were discussing this in class. I almost felt like it was bullet points of how to approach the change, Rider first, elephant second and path third. That being said, I can see where you are coming from too, just a different perspective on how to approach the situation. One important thing that I have learned during this class is that the inability to be flexible with your approach is a good way to doom your project. So feeling out what will work best for your project and company is important. It seems to be one of the most difficult aspects of project management- knowing your staff and environment.

        • Hey Susan, it is an interesting point you have brought up. In class we learnt about the framework to apply to implement change. BT the framework doesn’t specify to what extent to apply the concept of path, elephant and rider. It depends on the perspective of the executer, the importance he gives to each of the steps. This is why some projects failand some don’t – because all the steps are not properly implemented

    • Hello Snigdha:
      I agree that best ways to address changes in an organization is through a lot of planing to understand the stakeholders point of view and then craft the steps to notify and implement change through the organization. The planning should include how the organization defines a successful implementation. A contingency plan needs to be in place to work with those who chose not to engage with the new change.

    • Snigdha- I never thought of the path being established as making things easier for the elephant and the rider but it makes sense. If there are obstacles and the path is difficult i suppose it really doesn’t matter if the rider and the elephant’s needs/motives are satisfied. Personally I still operate as an rider thinking if I know the details of a change I can overcome most obstacles, but I still think you make a good point.

  • Describe a situation, in your own experience, where you had a change effectively communicated to you. What made it so effective?
    One of the previous organizations I have worked with was undergoing an acquisition. Because a larger international media conglomerate was to buy one of the biggest media companies in the country, change of leadership and organizational restructuring was on the cards. As the CEO of the smaller organization was supposed to take over as the Managing Director of the APAC group, and teams were to be consolidated, there was a sense of insecurity across both the organizations. People were worried about losing their jobs. Finally, the first email came in from the CEO of the global organization, announcing the new elected leaders and how the new organization structure would be. A few more emails followed during the fortnight, and a town hall was announced. A large town hall where 1,500 employees was called for and the organization’s long term vision was discussed and how the teams would work together was brought up. The change in leadership was also discussed, and how that would align with the company’s goal was highlighted during the town hall. Going forward, every team was addressed by their respective managers about how things would work going forward, and how their role has or not changed. I think the communication was very effective because it came it was done all at once via the email. And to give it a personal touch, conducting the town hall with 1,500 employees worked really well, as it gave everyone a feeling of being a part of the same organization. Then the third aspect of it, where every manager spoke to his/her team made the communication very clear to all. I think the way the macro level of communication in the email and then the town hall, followed by details in the meetings with the manager helped everyone adopt to the change easily.

    • I worked for a company that a similar thing happened at and they did a similar process in announcing the change. It sounds like your company was very prepared by addressing changes to everyone even down to the individual role level. The situation I was impacted by was not as thorough and the change management process somewhat failed since it left large groups of people wondering where their place was in the new organization.

      • Stanley, it is obviously very difficult to manage so many people, especially in times of change. I think the larger the team, the tougher it is to manage change. I remember this one instance, when the team I was a part of started hearing “rumors” about our manager resigning. Because he had not told us about the same, it was difficult for us to imagine what we’d be doing in the larger context of things. Also, our manager was an absolute favorite of the team. A couple of days into the “rumors” and our manager got the entire team into a conference room, and spoke to us about what he planned to do. I think keeping communication open is the key to a smooth change management.

        • I have always felt that honesty is the best policy and it sounds like your manager subscribed to the same theory. Problems don’t go away by ignoring them, facilitating open and honest communication is a great way to distill rumors. If you don’t provide people with information they will quickly make up their own. Staying in touch with your team and personally providing them with information will allow you to keep a degree of control and not let rumors develop or get out of hand.

    • Siddesh, that’s a nice example of how effective communication can play a crucial role in the success of the change happening in the organization. A well thought strategy to all the levels of the organization via different modes/channels is very helpful. It clarifies any confusions and rumors spread in the change environment and also outlines the vision behind the change to all the parties involved.

    • Hi Siddesh. The company I work for is also going through a large merger and is in the process of getting government approvals. In your case it sounds like it was communicated well. I think the town hall is key, cause with such a big change people are definitely going to have questions and I think being able to ask in person is the best way for that. So far with the merger of my company I would say it’s too early to tell if it was handled successfully since it’s still in progress. They have communicated out information to us but since it is pending approval there are still some unknowns at this point.

      • Jonathan, any kind of merger or acquisition takes a toll on not only its management, but also the employees. I think it comes at a right time, as you will get to experience it first hand, how change is managed. I’d be happy to hear about how it went 🙂

    • That’s a nice example, Siddesh. In one of the organization I worked previously also followed a similar approach when the performance appraisal process in the organization was changed. The process was being used since a long time. Therefore, when there were talks that the evaluation process is going to be changed, there was a lot of confusion and apprehension among the employees. Management realized that it has to communicate about this change to the employees so that their doubts are cleared and they organized for town hall meeting. This town hall meeting was conducted by the HR for our entire Delivery Unit. And she presented the changes in the proposed systems, how the performance is going to be evaluated in future, and how it would impact the employees. I think Town hall meetings are the best way to address the issues of a group of people at once. Though, it is difficult to manage such a large group, it is an effective method to communicate. This meeting helped us in understanding the changes. Also, the Q&A at the end of the session was helpful to address individual concerns.

      • Sadhana, That’s awesome. I wish my organization’s HR dept would hold such meetings. It is so difficult to keep track of all the HR changes. I try to keep up with changes and emails but some things are not forwarded to employees. I like to know everything whether it affects me or not. I call myself a consultant because I like to help people when they have issues with certain things and if I am well versed of the topic, I will help. I have a job where I have the privilege of getting my emails daily and reading them daily. Most of the employees look at their emails once every 2 weeks. That’s because the managers were asked to enforce the biweekly reading of emails so that employees kept up with updates. Even I don’t know of HR changes until I need to access that benefit, for example tuition remission or FMLA or retirement, etc…. I may suggest this idea to our HR, maybe a yearly update. TY

      • Sadhana, even in my case, the town hall was clearly the place which facilitated better change management. To add on to that, they also plugged in people from different offices in the country, via Webex. That way, the ones who could not travel also felt included. It was a strange, emotional moment for all of us, because the acquisition was taking place, and we were e-meeting our counterparts from different parts of the country, to whose name we had never really put a face on.

  • Describe a situation, in your own experience, where you had a change effectively communicated to you. What made it so effective? Approximately 8 years ago my employer was freezing its “defined benefit’ plan for new participants and provided existing members a one-time choice of either staying in it or moving to a matching plan. Being an HR Rep, I was part of the communication team and as such was outfitted with a “toolkit” which was perfectly put together in a binder with Q&A’s, technical documents, printed slides etc. I was however an impacted participant needing to make a choice. I found the individual decision-making tools afforded to me extremely helpful (i.e. online modeling applications) and layman interpretation of WHY the organization was doing away with the plan thus forcing me to make a choice. Such explanation included a benchmark analysis showing that our plan wasn’t competitive for the workforce, the cost of the plan versus returned benefit, ect. The project concluded within allotted timeframe with very little “noise” and was overall well received.

    • Maria, this is a good example of how change management took place in your organization. I wonder how easy or difficult it was for you to convince people of the new plan (or the other one, whichever was better). How did that go? Did YOU as the HR representative who was facing the people face any tough questions or scenarios?

      • Sid, Our job was not to present one plan as better than the other. In fact, it is a very personal comparison. For example, I knew that I would likely stay with the organization for a number of years and consequently remaining in the old plan was better for me in the long run. Yet, my situation at the time warranted me choosing the new plan as I was unmarried and would have forfeited the entire old plan benefit if I died, leaving my sons with no benefit from that plan. The new plan allowed me to name them as beneficiaries, i.e. inexpensive life insurance. I shared my personal decision-making process in meetings that i facilitated to make people feel comfortable. They knew that my background was in pension plan so hearing from a SME about her own tough decision made them feel more confident & comfortable.

    • Maria, its a nice approach that your company outlaid and provided enough empowerment to make the change successful. In my prior job, there was a time when a new client was tagging to the consulting company in which I worked. As part new set-up that was happening, we had to gather information from the other vendors of the client who were moving out (as our company was replacing them). There was not a very efficient system set in place to capture information from the vendors (who were moving out). It was just communicated in our stand up meeting to capture as much information as possible which did not worked out very well. Anyone was asked to take information for any application. But as time progresses and as people started to work on the applications, they became more knowledgeable about the systems and applications in place.

    • Hi Maria, I think when a change like this is occurring it’s important to be transparent and honest with employees, which seems like how it was handled. It helps that in this case the existing members had a choice of staying or moving to the new plan. Sometimes people are not as open to change if they don’t have options to choose from.

      • Yes, giving our employees the option was a BIG seller EMOTIONALLY. We were not required to do so by law and in fact most organizations did NOT allow for such a choice. It really drove home the point that the organization was willing to forego some cost savings in support of the emotions faced by staff.

    • Maria, i liked the approach taken by your organization to conduct the change. With what you described, it seemed to be disciplined and in sync. It was interesting that you were involved in communicating the new change as well as the customer being effected by the change. Can you let know some of the difference or similarities playing the two different role and to what can you relate the best, the elephant, rider or path?

      • Thanks for the challenge Snigdha! Sticking to this example, I related best to the Rider as I was adept at translating legal and actuarial language to layman terms and in turn was able to confidently support the “why” and “what we need to do”. Incorporating my personal situation and decision into the conversation was extremely helpful, as I had said, in formulating the message to the Elephant. I recall in a few of the sessions that I facilitated asking some of the audience to share their own personal situation and together we helped the participant think through the alternatives. We engaged in conversations using real experiences as our topics. That said, mind you that there were associated cost containment efforts over the past ten years (think Retiree Medical liability) that had laid the groundwork for the “path”. That is, ten years prior, we had begun to limit future Retiree Medical participants again using the story that the organization’s resources could be best applied elsewhere (and it was true!) – current, comprehensive family coverage, healthy lifestyle benefits, etc.

    • Hello Maria, I am guessing the cost benefit analysis help ease the tension when the participants realized the change was in their best interest. Do you remember how many participants decided not to make the change in plan?

      • Hi Rogelio, Yes, for most, staying with the Old plan was the better choice but I did explain why I switched and I stick by my choice! less than twenty percent actually switched to the new plan so I suppose despite our efforts, folks didn’t like change! that said, and although I was not privy, I am certain that some baseline % was the goal and when we talk pension expenses, that baseline did not have to be very high in order to reap some immediate gains. It is really the organization’s future liability that needed to be reduced. At the time, strategy likely predicted our growth so we achieved our goal.

  • Which aspect of a change message do you think be constructed with the most care: rider, elephant, or path? Why?

    To me the most important aspect that requires the most care with change is the elephant. The Rider tends to be the rational part that deals with plans and provides analysis on the path to change. The Rider can provide the analysis for which path to take to change and remove the obstacles but if the Elephant isn’t going to move than nothing happens. The Elephant is the emotional side that deals with the real power in accomplishing the journey to change. If the Elephant refuses to accept the plans and analysis for change than the Path to change doesn’t even matter. The Rider has to tap into the emotional side of the Elephant to get them to accept the change before the Path can even be discussed.

    • Hi Stan, I agree that the elephant is the aspect that needs the most care. When dealing with change, the emotional aspect can determine if a change will be a success. If people don’t feel good about the change than it most likely won’t be successful even if the the rider and path are on track. They will be more hesitant to accept the change even if it is ultimately for the better.

    • I agree that crafting the emotional message should be done with the most care. Most managerial decisions are made with logic in mind, so it should be relatively easy to explain the reasoning. Considering and addressing all of the complex emotional impacts a change decision will have is much more difficult.

    • Hi Stan, i see that how much you emphasize on the elephant as being the most important aspect that requires the most care. I on the hand stand for path, and there are some that thinks riders require most care. I wonder that does these selection changes as per the scenario or these personal preferences. I cannot say that any of the explanations proving which one is the most important is wrong. Each seems to support their choices well. What i get out of all these that if any of the three lack proper care, the change will result into a failure (although i still vote for Path 😛 )

    • Hi Stanley, I came to the same conclusion. The elephant is your irrational self and no matter what kind of contingency plans you have to keep it in check once in while everyone just flies off the handle. After its all said and done you (the rider) begin to think logically and realized you may have over reacted, not lot just a little.

    • That’s a really nice point! If people are not willing to change then no matter how much efforts you put on improving the environment, that would make no difference. I agree that emotional appeal needs to be made for people to accept change because at times, people are not satisfied with only logical arguments.

    • Stanley-
      I’ve definitely worked with many elephants and agree they require a lot of care to accept a change. I think tapping into an emotional takes a lot of genuine finesse and empathy which can be more difficult than providing facts or constructing an optimal environment for change. I’ve worked with a number of people who understood what the change was and the benefits but they were so deep in their comfort zone their resistance overcame any rational logic. Most instances, these people actually left the company because they could not be emotionally swayed. I agree elephants require a lot of care, but I think what makes an elephant unique, is that they have to be open to emotionally accept the change.

  • Describe a situation, in your own experience, where you had a change effectively communicated to you. What made it so effective?

    A few years ago when I was still working as a clinician in the hospital my manager announced the department was getting a new lab machine to run arterial blood work and that everyone had to have training before they could use it. She had 3 shifts to deal with and weekend personnel who never attended the staff meetings so she knew she had to make sure everyone knew about the change. The announcement was first made at a scheduled staff meeting 3 months prior to getting the new machine. She also mailed letter to everyone’s home and sent emails in addition to having postings all around the department. There was also a “News Board” in the department where everyone had to read and sign any new news or meeting minutes posted.
    For the training she had the company’s implementation consultant schedule times over 2 weeks between all the weekday and weekend shifts to educate the staff. One very important administrative aspect she did was to get authorization from the hospital to pay for the additional education/training time if people came to the sessions during their off time or hours prior to their shift. Department educators were assigned for all shifts to be the SMEs and learn from the consultant all the process steps for the new lab machine. She also posted the manual from the company and her own written interpretation in case the company’s manual was too technical for someone. The last thing she did to complete the change was filmed a video of herself working through the different maintenance and usage processes and posted it to the hospital intranet. In the end, she was not only thorough in the announcement but she was equally proficient with getting everyone the training and paying for people to get the training.

    • Wow Stanley, looks like the manager did all her due diligence before the change actually occurred. Although I wouldn’t have liked my office sending me mail at home, I think the manager did her best to bring to attention of the employees the change. She tried to use multiple ways of communication, and most importantly took responsibility of what she wanted to achieve. I loved the way she also posted an interpretation of the manual for stakeholders who found it very technical. Indeed, a great example of how one can effectively communicate change management.

      • It isn’t unusual to get “mailers” if you are a clinician at a hospital especially if you are a per diem worker who only works maybe once a month. Even today there are people who do not use all the technology that is available. Many still do not have or know how to use email or text on phones, etc. For those people the only way to contact them is by phone or mail. For a department manager in the hospital to call 75 people is a bit difficult so you’re left with old fashion mail.

    • Hi Stanley, looks like the manager covered all the ways she could send the message across to employees. But at what point does such communication become annoying? I wonder if she had any resistance when she was implementing this change, maybe from the management for funding training?

    • Wow! I’m really impressed with your manager’s thoroughness. She really covered all the bases. I had a similar experience with training employees and know that paying employees for their time during training is hugely beneficial for attendance and morale. The aspect I am most impressed with here is that your manager not only wrote her own interpretation of the manual but also took the time to make tutorial videos. I think it’s pretty safe to say that no one had an excuse to not learn the new system. This change was clearly very important to your manager and it sounds like she went above and beyond to make the transition as seamless as possible.

  • Which aspect of a change message do you think be constructed with the most care: rider, elephant, or path? Why?
    I believe that elephant is the most challenging part of the change message and therefore should be constructed with utmost care. The elephant is the emotional part, and emotions can be unpredictable. Rider and path have to do with strategy and communications which can be approached I a step by step manner. The elephant on the other hand involves group phycology and appealing to the crowd.

    • Hi Swetha, I agree when dealing with the elephant or emotional part it can be unpredictable. In a way it reminds me of the ongoing presidential primaries. Having an election involves a lot of change, and you can see in the polls that candidates will often go up and down and I think this is the result of people’s emotions. Even if a candidate has a steady rider and path, it is most important to manage the elephant because people will often vote on their emotions and what they are most passionate about.

    • Hi Swetha, I agree with the emotional part there are many employees who gathered emotions with the years of service, sometime decades, they are having certain work patterns which are very hard to change or to break, its hard to make them to give them up and go through new paths, The rider needs to try step by step, but this may depend on the circumstances and on the schedule of the plan for change.

    • Swetha I feel that it may all depend on the number of employees. If we are dealing with 15 or 20, elephant approach may work if it is not a unionized environment. If we are dealing with 1000 employees, the elephant has to be embedded in the path. If it is a unionized environment, there will have to be union, elephant meetings before the path is set and then the issues are handled prior to posting the path.

    • Swetha-
      I agree the elephant requires the most care. I also think it’s the most difficult to reach on a large scale. Most changes happen system or organization-wide. It is easy to send out a mass email notifying everyone of the change, the rationale and the obstacles or path to come as a result of the change. The elephant, however, I think is more specific to an individual. I can understand the value in tapping into someone’s emotions to motivate them to change but emotions are very personal. One message could tap into my emotions but not someone else’s. I think appealing to the elephant takes a degree of individual attention that at times is just not practical. The only way this could be handled is if a change came from top management but was left to individual supervisors to implement with their staff so that individual attention could be provided to the elephants.

    • I agree that with emotions things can always be hard to deal with. The emotional part or person always seems rather tough to deal with because as you state it is unpredictable and can be of anything, thus it is hard to manage such aspects or even people.

    • Hi Rikki, yes I agree that communicating to a larger crowd and managing the elephant of every one in the organization can be extremely difficult. Like Susan said, in such situations the elephant has to be embedded into the rider and the path. The rider must be able to communicate well to the middle management, which then trickles down to the lower level employees. I think the key to this is using various touch points to communicate with the different levels of the organization. As discussed in the previous posts – emails and Town hall meetings seem to be working well.

  • One of the most important aspect of change message that should be looked upon carefully is the Elephant. Elephant which basically represents emotional attributes of the individual is the key element to watch for in the Change Management journey. Often people might drain out in accepting and changing their behaviors or get insure of their jobs or just get frustrated of the environment that can negatively impact the organization to move ahead with the change. Outlining the right communication strategy which motivates people through the various phases can enable in an efficient change process. The aspect emotional changes is also captured in the concept known as Valley of Tears. The employees in the firm have apprehensions prior to the announcement of the change. The first official announcement takes employees into shock as they are unsure what to do next and thus their productivity decreases. The defense reaction which follows the prior stage leads to a short term increase in productivity. In the next phase, employees as even though they understand the need for change but gets frustrated as they do now know strategy for change. Then follows the stage of emotional acceptance and employees loose their known behavior. Next follows with a move towards learning through trial and error method. At the end, the employees integrate the changes in their behavior and this enables to see a first real gain in productivity. Thus, as employees go through enormous emotional pressures and phases, it becomes highly critical to plan and articulate effective communication mechanisms to take the employees through the change process.


    • Rishabh, I have definitely experienced going through this progression of reactions due to a change. Growing pains are an unfortunate side effect of change. A good manager can express empathy and understanding of these issues reinforced by providing a reminder of the logic behind the change to make a transition as smooth as possible. You may not be able to completely avoid “the valley of tears”, but you can do your best to minimize the effect. Thank you for the link.

  • Describe a situation, in your own experience, where you had a change effectively communicated to you. What made it so effective?

    At my job we have a change management process so that anytime a change is needed in our production environment a change ticket needs to be opened. In the ticket you need to include several things such as: the application(s) you want to change, the steps you are taking to implement the change, the time and date of the change, the reason for the change, any risks involved, if it is possible to back out of the change, and the names of the people needed to approve the change. There is also a CAB (change advisory board) meeting to go over the upcoming changes and answer any questions. While filling out the change ticket can be tedious, it definitely helps other people that need to reference the details of the change since there are often multiple people involved (anywhere between 2 and 30+). This helps me when we have our monthly changes go in. I can look at the plan ahead of time and see all the steps involved and what part I have to complete.

    It was effective because I could see everything in an organized format and it breaks down a complex change into smaller manageable pieces. Also, it helps me understand the big picture. My part involves pushing the code into production and ensuring it installs correctly. However, I don’t actually develop the code, so I like to look through the change document to see the specific fixes and features that are going in.

    • Jonathan, I also think that having to fill out the form makes the change maker / person filling out the form think all aspects through and keeps him/her from forgetting any components. I am guessing the form is likely for this reason as well! I am curious if you think the form always works or if it needs to be altered for particular situations / changes / parts of the organization. For example, if the form does not capture all of the specifications for a particular type of change.

    • I agree with Lauren that having to explain how you plan to implement a change, the deadline, etc. is a good way of making the person suggesting the change to really think it through. It sounds like these forms would be useful is someone submitted a change, but left the company before completing it. Has that happened? How did you handle it?

    • Hi Johnathan, seems like change management at your organization is very structured and process oriented. I think what you are talking about a systems change. I have come across similar systems in all the company’s have worked for. The change management tool is a very effective way to keep track of change tickets and know who has made what change. It is very transparent and I’ve seen it work well especially when the teams are big or are spread out in different geographical locations.

  • When you have to do a radical organizational change is very hard to change the attitude of some employees and management who has done the business for 2-3 decades in the old way and all of sudden you come up with new processes, systems and innovation. The people are used to do the things the old way and it’s very hard to take the change the elephant part because they think the old way of doing things is the best way and they are just not giving it up, its in their minds.

    • Bisser, I have certainly worked with people like this who are very stuck in their ways and unwilling to change. It can be very frustrating, especially when the benefits of changing to the new system are so apparent to everyone else and the few stubborn people keep the change from happening or being as effective as it could. I think a big component of this is people being ok with a process simply getting done and they are not concerned with process improvement or efficiency.

      • The worst part in those cases Lauren is the team continues to repeat the same old mistakes and miscommunication, because the processes are just not functioning as expected. The frustration is just a stage in the organizational development, but in certain occasion there is a need of radical change of processes from the rider and enforcing the path rather than waiting the things to change on a good will and desire. The elephant has to be cut with a surgical precision from the people who are not giving it up from their minds.

    • Bisser, The un-changeable Elephant minds are the most difficult to work with. That is why I support the “zero tolerance” policy in today’s work environment because that is the only thing that will bring fairness to all the employees. I feel that everyone must follow company rules once decided and notified. Those who feel that they can do whatever they want, can do out the door. There are rules everywhere, we must all be disciplined in every area of our life especially when our work affects others.

    • Hello Bisser, nice point that mature professionals are set in their ways and its hard to change how they think and do things. When I was a Bristol Myers Squibb the company was rolling out an IBM platform company wide. No more Macs or Apple computers in the workplace. The researchers resented the business folks for taking away their computers and giving them IBMs. How BMS rolled out the change was to put a home screen that looked like the Apple/Mac homescreen. Then have the program icons look like Mac/Apple to get them moving. The challenge was the Word and Excel did not have the same function labels as the other machines. The approached worked because the Scientist felt some relief by having a computer screen that resembled an Apple/Mac. However, this worked and soon everyone in research was on board using the IBM platform.

    • I agree, people who work in any environment who have been there for a long time do not like change and like to keep things how they are comfortable with. A lot of times I think age has to do with this and with technology advancing more and more older workers are not fascinated by it, thus would not like to change their ways.

  • Once they released the CEO, CTO and the VP of eCommerce development of one company I used to work ffor. The message was following the company was losing revenue of sales and software is not preforming as expected for the money and for time what was presented by the senior management. The message was clear that we need change and we need to get back on truck for sales and technology, that’s why we need the change,

  • In my most recent role, we went through a software change that would allow our members to access the website and book tee times for themselves at either of the two properties owned. Management did a good job of communicating the change to us and incorporated the rider, the elephant and the path into the message. The rider was somewhat obvious, through time the system would create less phone calls for us and allow members to book their own times pleasing both parties. The elephant was more subtle, but they anticipated anticipating some of the downsides to this new system including: limited initial functionality, adapting to the new software on both the employee and member side, and less control over the tee sheet. They communicated these concerns to us and by doing so eased concerns of on-going issues. The path was laid out well because the changes were made during the winter off-season months making the transition easier. Most importantly we received a good deal of notice and one on one support with the changes.

    • Hi Thomas,
      It is a good example which includes the utilization of rider, the elephant and the path.
      I am wondering what kind of channel did your company use for communication. Any difference between the message it delivered to employees in different positions? How did it deal with resistance?
      As the employee who were affected by the changes, which approaches (the rider, the elephant and the path) are most effective to you?

      • Good questions Pei Yen, the message was communicated differently internally and externally. Internally we were lucky to be part of a small organization where information flows quickly so information was disseminated mostly in small meetings or one on one. Externally we communicated the change to our customers by way of our email listserv, newsletters, and reinforced this with face to face encounters. To me the rider is most effective, if I think an idea is a logical one I will usually be able to bring myself on-board despite the growing pains that may be associated. I did appreciate the consideration given to the elephant and path in this scenario though, it shows thoughtfulness and respect to make transition as easy as possible.

        • Hello Thomas I like your example of the rider, the elephant and the path. What i like about it that changes goes smoothly when the affected parties feel their situation has been taken inconsideration as part of the decision to implement this change. I have a question, did the golf club make more money as a result of the change? Like what was the financial outcome of this change.

    • Tom-
      I agree, some changes are better communicated when they are expressed ahead of time. It seemed this allowed people the time to process, ask questions and accept the change being implemented. You also used a word that I think is very important but not always considered, “transition”. I think transition is a period of time that is sometimes overlooked or forgotten about when a change needs to happen right away. However, I believe the more successful the transition, the more effective the change will be.

  • Describe a situation, in your own experience, where you had a change effectively communicated to you. What made it so effective?
    When the president of my company decided to retire and a publisher who had been with the company for 20+ years stepped in to fill his place, they held a wine and cheese event in the conference room and made the event mandatory for all employees. The current president announced his retirement and gave a speech explaining why the new president was taking his place. After that, the new president spoke and explained other position shifts based on his changing role. After the event, HR sent out transcripts of both speeches and encouraged anyone with questions or concerns to reach out. Top management below the president had been informed of the shift weeks prior so they were available to answer any questions their direct reports might have. For a relatively gossipy company, I was impressed with how they concealed the retirement for so long and quietly set up a succession plan. It helped that the new president had worked with almost every group at the company so most people knew him and enjoyed working with him, whereas the exiting president was more aloof and rarely came into the office.

    • Hi Colleen,
      It is a really good example! I am impressed by how management level could keep everything quiet and delivered the full pictures in the meeting at once. I am also curious about did the HR department or new president continue the communication about the changing after the event and what kind of action that they took?

    • Colleen, You are right. They sure kept a lid on it. I like time to get ready for the party, that ‘s any party. I like to know, what to expect. For example, when I sent our invitations, I try to include a dress code, be it casual or dress. I want everyone to feel like they fit it and were included when they arrive at the party. Same with meetings, I like to know what I am walking into. Unfortunately it takes me time to adjust to some surprises.

      • Susan, I totally understand and I am sure some people felt that way about how the change was announced. Because of the gossip culture at the company, I think they had to keep a tight lid on it to avoid rumors of layoffs or negative fallout of the change. How would you prepare people for a meeting about leadership change?

    • Hi Colleen, That’s a nice example. It is quite difficult to deal with management changes as employees are often worried about the new manager and how things would change because of new team/new manager. And, this was handled really well. Explaining why the position was handed over to other person would help employees in understanding the situation and they’d know what to expect. And, as the new president also continued to communicate effectively, this would certainly make the transition quite smooth.

      • Sadhana, yes they created a dialogue around the change and helped people feel comfortable speaking up. I think that the new president was well liked and well known was a huge help as well. People already saw him as a leader so it was easy to think of him as the leader of the whole company. When a change seems like a natural progress, people seem to be more accepting (or at least understanding).

    • Colleen-
      I’m not surprised that an event was held to celebrate someone’s retirement, but the fact that they considered and communicated the changes that would be made on other jobs is quite impressive. This demonstrates that leadership was not only considering top management changes but system change as a result of the promotion following your current president’s retirement. Also, asking for additional questions I think is sometimes done as a courtesy but it seems your HR department was well equipped to answer questions and felt it was important to include all employees in this change which I think says a lot about the culture of your company.

    • Communication and getting vital messages written to others seemed very critical in this process and worked! I like how the president was explaining everything before he left so it did not leave others puzzled and they knew what was going on.

    • What a great way to put a positive spin on a big change! I agree with others that making the announcement in a casual way was likely beneficial to keep everyone calm, since the change was affecting everyone. Also, it seems like top management did their due diligence with planning the communication, transcripts of the speeches and any likely questions employees would have. Also, the wine and cheese party makes puts emphasis on the transition being a positive thing for everyone.

  • I worked in a manufacturing company in my home town and the company did a really good job to communicate with us while it decided to switch the CRM supplier and upgrade all the system. First of all, our CEO and general manager were totally committed to the changes. After strategy committee made the judgement call, our general manager immediately formed a cross department team including IT, HR, marketing and sales department to identify the changes and impacts in each department and related employees. The team members belonged to different departments also need to join the external training, be familiar with the new software function and become the “coach” for his/her department to pass the knowledge to other peers. Before the system launched, our CEO wrote the internal memo to address the reason for switching and emphasize how the changes will help company growing. He also gave the clear outline about when the internal training and testing would be conducted and the exact date that we would officially launched the new system. The HR and marketing department also produced series of posters and training packages based on the need of departments. In less than 3 months after CEO officially announced decision, the company successfully switched the system and utilized the new functions.
    As the employee who were highly effected by the changes, I think the company did a really good job to deliver the reason of changing and explain honestly for the impact and inconvenience during the switching. It also provided the solution and schedule for training as well as testing. Furthermore, our CEO and general manager kept discussing the issue in every meeting and internal notes, revealing their determination and faith to implement the changes. As the result, most employees could quickly accept the situation and immerse themselves in the training instead of not cooperating.

    • Pei Yen, it is great that your company not only stated what the change would be, but also provided a timeline and guidance for how employees would learn the new system. It sounds like this was an effective way to gain buy in from various departments and employee levels. Additionally, having a CEO and general manager that were committed to and knowledgeable about the new system likely eased any concerns employees might have had.

    • Pei Yen, that’s a nice transition path to the new change happening in the organization. Keeping all the parties involved, spreading the word across via posters, meetings and emails, and also letting people know about the reason behind the change. A strategy which could minimize the resistors in the change process. But I am just wondering how big this organization was and were there any effect because of this transition with the dealers/customers the company dealt with.

      • Hi Rishabh,
        The company was a start-up and the change was affected around 140 people in different department. Actually the biggest driver of the change came from the internal need instead of external need. The company wanted to enhance its control on top sales and understanding for customers. I think the main reason that make the change so successful is the determination of our CEO and general manager. It is even more effective because employees in Taiwan tend to respect authority more.

  • Describe a situation, in your own experience, where you had a change effectively communicated to you. What made it so effective?

    Our institution announced that it will be moving to EPIC, an electronic health record (EHR) system. It was announced 1 1/2 years before the “go live’ date. There were lots of department/unit meetings with our unit managers. Then there were meeting with the CEO, CIO and the CFO. The employees started to learn the plan: the plan of having subject matter experts (SME), from each area and champions from each type of service. The employees were told that if they were a SME, their shift would be covered by additional staff pre-scheduled for those days. The employees felt very relaxed because they did not have to worry about their shift or their unit or worry about returning to their work area quickly after the sessions! The plan seemed more thought out. Everyone knew the plan. There was time to learn and experiment with the forthcoming EHR. WE met with many of the IT analysts on each team for each area. Their was at least one familiar nurse on the IT team with the IT analyst.
    Lot of the ingredients of effective change was present: notice of plans well ahead of “go live” date, steps of plan, people involved, people in charge, training, descriptions of SME and champion roles, input from SMEs, online training and simulations and team meetings to enhance group cohesiveness and comfort. All in all, I felt very satisfied with the process.
    Later, due to inter-operability issues, the go live date was moved to August 2016. Even that, was a difficult but great decision as they recognize that time is needed for proper installation of the EPIC EHR for end-users.

    • Susan, sounds like they did a really good job of giving you advanced notice and allowing you to experiment with the new system. This must be especially important in healthcare whereas you are not just dealing with customer service (as in my example), but you have lives on the line. Mistakes are much less tolerated in this environment and it sounds like due diligence was done to make the change as effective as possible.

      • Thomas, I thought it was a well thought out strategy. The technical side is so difficult to predict as interoperability sometimes cannot be diagnosed until it is put to test or until you discuss the needs of the individual department. Then all of ta sudden, you have a glitch. But I feel that it is better to know ahead of time and fix or recalculate before it goes live.

        • I like the level of communication and the lengths that Temple went to make you and your colleagues feel at ease. It’s a good sign especially for a Hospital as large as Temple. I am curious, how well did they communicate the change in Go Live, and do you think it will change their previously communicated plan?

    • Hey Susan, Its good that the announcement was made 1.5 years before the change will happen. It takes a long time for change to happen, especially in large institutions. Looks like the management was able to anticipate how long it would take and nailed it with the communication. I hope the system does go live in the newly proposed date.

  • Which aspect of a change message do you think be constructed with the most care: rider, elephant, or path? Why?
    Well, the elephant because it is the biggest and if it decides to go out of control the rider has no opportunity to redirect it. The elephant can make its own path if the need arises. The rider goes where the elephant decides to take the rider because the focus or motivation was lost. In this example the elephant is the irrational self and the rider the rational self. The challenge in constructing the change message is that we need to give the elephant the option to cooperate with the change. To get the elephant in a cooperative mode we need to give the elephant something it wants or likes, a happy place. Like a bag of peanuts to get it moving in the chosen direction.

    • Hi Rogelio,

      I like your explanation as to why the elephant should be constructed most carefully. I felt like the path is the most critical, but at any point the elephant finds an irrational reason as to why my path should not be the road traveled, it could easily change direction and disrupt normality.

  • I thought about it for a while and I think the rider is probably the most important part. Yes, clearing obstacles is important it makes transition smooth, but I think getting everyone on the same page with the same message is very important. No matter how many obstacles you remove the change won’t happen if people don’t believe in it.

    • John, you make a great point. Without buy in from the team, a change will not stick. Much of implementing any change (whether it is a personnel change or a new ERP system) is managing relationships so the Rider is an integral element of the change process.

    • Hi John,

      I see your point, but could you agree that the path could create an environment where people could “buy in”. The path would have some obstacles since nothing’s perfect and that would present itself for reasoning.

  • When we transitioned to our latest iteration of the KIDS Plus IIS we had many meetings covering how and when the change would take place. We also had multiple internal training sessions for our staff and were provided with a plethora of training materials so that we could train provider, which we did over the course of a week. I thought our transition from the old system to the new system went very, surprisingly so given the enormity of the change. I think what made it so effective was that everyone, starting from our leadership down to our clerical staff was excited about the change. The enthusiasm spread from the top down, and I can’t recall any resistance to it. It was made clear that our lives would be made much easier with the incoming change.

    • John, the situation that you have stated where the team went through lot of training’s reminds me of a transition that was happening in my prior job. There was an ITSM tool which was used to capture daily incidents that were logged by the users. Our team was tasked with picking up a new tool which was considered to be more effective (in terms of noting the time for resolution of logged incidents) and user friendly. As part of this change, the team was provided with lot of regular training’s by the Tool Champions that enabled us in smooth transition.

  • Which aspect of a change message do you think be constructed with the most care: rider, elephant, or path? Why?

    While elephant, rider and path are all important, I believe path should be constructed with utmost care because the environment and culture matters a lot in driving the change. It should be set so that it motivates people to embrace change. Probably that is why companies these days give a lot of importance to work culture as it does have a significant impact on the work done. That said, I also think there is sort of connection between all three and they influence each other at times.

    • Hi Sadhana,

      I agree with your response to focusing on the path and the culture as the reason why. I work at two health care systems at some point in my career that had gone through financial difficulties and needed to remove some positions and freeze hiring for vacancies. Company A did an excellent job in keeping the employees involved and informed of the changes to come and where everyone were in the company’s new path. Employees who job’s positions were immediately discontinued were allowed to look through existing vacancies apply to and continue on to another career path within the company. This resulted in a smooth transition 85% of those involved. The other 10 and 5% retired and accepted other employment outside the company. Company B went through the same financial issues, but left it’s employees wondering at all angles as to who, when, and where the cut backs would happen. This resulted in a mass exodus of employees from highly critical areas and back filling in a timely matter impossible. This was due to the distrust of the company. Company A & B had drastically different cultures and outcomes yet shared in the same issue.

  • Describe a situation, in your own experience, where you had a change effectively communicated to you. What made it so effective?
    When I worked in performance improvement in behavioral, I was responsible for reporting sentinel events to the Joint Commission along with a root cause analysis. There was a change in the reporting criteria for what made an incident “reportable”. I used to have to report every suicide attempt (since our patients were outpatient, we averaged 2 a month). The reporting requirements changed to only needing to report suicide attempts that resulted in death. This change was communicated in a number of ways. They announced it in their monthly newsletter that the change was being made so people were aware ahead of time. They also announced it in their meetings with top management so even if you missed the newsletter, key staff were made aware to pass the message along. This was effective in that we were notified a month ahead of time that this change was being made and the new definition for what was considered “reportable” was given to us in case we had any confusion. This was also effective because they re-announced this change in a meeting that was closer to the implementation date so managers could announce the change to relevant staff in case they missed or forgot about the update in the newsletter. This was then followed up by a system wide email so everyone who works with patients were aware of the change.

    • Rikki, the recurring communication that you have outlined definitely plays the crucial role in the success of change. One of the situations that I can recall from my previous job was that there were times when employees use to implement changes(a fix for web applications) in live (production) environment directly. This was because the team was new and things were just shaping up. As a result of it there were few cases where the fix did not went well and came to notice of client and the management. After that a proper set of procedure was outlined to implement changes in the application that were in place. This new procedure was communicated to the entire team via email and also reiterated in the fortnightly meetings for couple of months which ensured the team aligned to the new process.

  • 1.Which aspect of a change message do you think be constructed with the most care: rider, elephant, or path? Why?

    I think the path change message should be constructed with the most care. In my opinion, this approach would effect the largest number of individuals negatively or positively. It involves making changes to the environment to produce a desired behavior that has less resistance, can create positive habits through actions/triggers that promote a detailed planned action for the employee to produce, and shows public praises for good results. The path should be carefully detailed since others will use that direction when searching for guidance or creating the direction.

  • Which aspect of a change message do you think be constructed with the most care: rider, elephant, or path? Why?
    I think the elephant seems the hardest to deal with because emotions seem pretty tough to deal with in general, so in the work environment dealing with the emotional side seems rather difficult to me, therefore it should be handle with the most care. Rational sides need care as well, but since they are rational and are controlled and have some analytic side to it that kind of cares for itself in a way. Unlike the elephant which is strictly emotions and irrational therefore I think it needs the most care so that things do not get out of hand. Emotional children are often harder to deal with and need more care than non-emotional ones, therefore I think the same can be said here.

  • Describe a situation, in your own experience, where you had a change effectively communicated to you. What made it so effective?
    In my previous position the venue that my office was in (we were the exclusive caterer so a few of us worked out of the venue) did a big restructuring, which meant about 80% of peoples roles and responsibilities changed. We had weekly meetings with a few people from the venue (heads of each department) to go over our event schedule to ensure there were not any conflicting room reservations and it was during this meeting we were first informed of the restructure. We were told it would happen in the coming weeks and would be given a full account of everything shortly. Once we received an email with a detailed list of everyone’s new title and responsibilities we then had a meeting to go over everything verbally. It was helpful to get the information in writing and verbally and I felt like I fully understood the restructure after receiving the information in multiple ways. Additionally, during the meeting we were able to ask specific questions, i.e. who we should direct particular events related questions to.

  • Which aspect of a change message do you think be constructed with the most care: rider, elephant, or path? Why?

    I believe the path is the most important aspect of a change message because without some understanding or control of the environment in which you are operating, the rider and elephant stand no chance to succeed. A change message can have a weaker elephant or rider, and still succeed with a strong path (because they have a better opportunity to succeed in a positive environment).

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