Strategies for Successful Change Management

Change coaching as a key for creating the organizational mind-set to drive long-term value.
by Jan-Peter Höltgen, Andreas L. Gross-Zerilli November 2016


Traditional change management no longer withstands the test of time. Companies are proving increasingly resistant to process classic change models and tools. Projects fail because of rigid organizational structures and employees rejecting classic change management measures or exhibiting passive resistance.

At the same time, the pressure to evolve is growing rapidly. Companies and employees have to adapt increasingly fast to new market conditions in order to survive and grow successfully.

Companies therefore need an expanded management approach so that they can adapt quickly and flexibly while retaining, or even increasing, the motivation and creativity of their employees. This white paper describes the change coaching approach to bring sustainable progress to organizations.

The right mix of activities, methods and tools in change coaching and change management are crucial to successful, sustainable change.

Why is change so difficult?

Why is change so difficult?

Common problems with this type of change management include:

  • The overarching vision is not clearly formulated, so employees do not understand the motivation for change.
  • A communicated vision is perceived as inconsistent or implausible.
  • The affected (groups of) people cannot recognize why they are affected and what the transformation means for them (“What’s in it for me?”).
  • Change management tools and processes are implemented for their own sake and not adapted flexibly to conditions within the company and the project
  • The fear of loss of any kind (prestige, position, prospects) outweighs expectations of the achievable benefits for the company and for its development.
  • Management doesn’t succeed in motivating employees or to function as role models for a demonstrable willingness to evolve.
  • Change is part of a very specific project and is planned and budgeted for as part of fixed measurement criteria.

In the worst-case scenario, these issues lead to the phenomenon of “change fatigue”, whereby the mere announcement of a new change project prompts reflexive rejection among those affected.

Characteristics of a successful change project

Characteristics of a successful change project

Successful transformation programs make “sense” of changes for those affected by offering them answers to these basic questions: Why? Why now? Why me? This can mean, for instance:

  • Affected parties and people recognize and accept the opportunities that the change offers. The results of the transformation are recognized as “normative” and crucial, and are integrated into the execution of day-to-day processes.
  • The willingness to help shape the future structure increases – both on management level and among employees.
  • The change process is explained in plausible terms and is implemented consistently (end-to-end); changes in the methodology are avoided.
  • The transformation is supported by coordinated information and training programs (multi-channel).

It is not so much about administrating the processes as assuming a leadership role in it within the company, and establishing a broad coalition for its implementation within the organization.

This means the change manager becomes a “change coach”. Change coaching deals with motivational factors for and against change among all affected groups. It combines traditional change management disciplines with participatory methods to achieve sustainable change.

A manager must not only be able to master the basic methodology for creating and implementing development programs, communications as well as training plans for the affected groups, but must also function as a coach who encourages affected parties to actively engage with the change and its implementation.

Fig. 1

An integrated change management program is the basis for successful, sustainable change projects.

Traditional change management disciplines must be combined with participatory methods to ensure sustainable progress.

Key factors for successful transformation projects

Key factors for successful transformation projects

  1. Clear assignment of tasks
  2. Proven methods and realistic estimations
  3. Experienced resources
  4. Appropriate budgeting

These general conditions bring about a program that combines elements of traditional (deliverables-oriented) change management and elements of change coaching to drive forward successful, lasting implementation of changes. The advantage of such a combined approach is the effect it has beyond the project timeframe. Employees on various levels of the hierarchy can also apply the methods used in future change programs. This builds the foundation for an improved and potentially faster capability of the organization to transform.

Like the gears of a clock, elements of change coaching and change management mesh together to bring about sustainable progress. At the detail level, the individual elements address the following topics:

Change Coaching

Change Coaching

Methods and measures of coaching go beyond a concrete project plan and aim at the development of general change competencies within an organization.

Change agenda
Here, the goal of the change is specified from various perspectives, consequences are analyzed and a corresponding program drafted. Typical work elements include:

  • Taking stock of the present situation and projecting the target outcome against the individual backdrop of the organization
  • Coming to an understanding of the motivation for change and determining possible consequences
  • Identifying, coordinating and choosing potential courses of action
  • Defining and planning the program
This is where the organization develops its change competency. Individuals and/or groups are identified so that they can be trained to become “change agents” in the context of individual or group coaching. Change agents are key figures in the implementation of the plans within the company. But they must understand the appropriate instruments and methods, and use them in a practical setting to ensure the necessary professionalism in the implementation of the program.
Feedback & dialog
Listening to and responding to feedback from affected parties plays a key role in the success of change processes. Therefore, it is important to establish channels that enable communication between the parties involved. The “recipients” of this feedback must be prepared for it and deal with it constructively (particularly criticism). For this reason, the following activities are important:

  • Defining, coordinating and establishing feedback channels
  • Defining clear responsibility for feedback channels
  • Preparing/coaching those responsible
  • Regular “pulse measurement” of the state of change based on feedback
Intervention & adjustments
In many cases, the change cannot be implemented as planned. Interventions may become necessary if a counter-productive dynamic develops, for instance, when different positions of various groups paralyze the process or if there is disagreement over the right way to proceed with the project. These types of situations demand selective intervention which must follow an approach coordinated between change management and project management.
Change Management

Change Management

Here, structured methods and measures for implementation of changes are addressed. The focus here is on concrete, predictable and measurable activities that make it easier for employees in the company to find their way in an evolving working environment.

Training & instruction
Transformation affects various areas of a company. For example, the work processes employees have learned can evolve, as can functional processes, IT systems or the organizational structure of the company. The affected parties need the right training to ensure a smooth transition to the new working environment. Therefore, typical elements in this area are:


  • Requirements analysis for training and instruction
  • Definition of training content/curricula
  • Planning and implementation of the instructional/training program
  • Success monitoring
Along with the opportunity to communicate through feedback channels, initiatives like this also require communicating standardized information to affected parties. Here, the spectrum ranges from general information about the program to specific information about training plans. The activities in this area therefore include:


  • Definition of communication plans
  • Coordination between the project parties
  • Implementation of communication plans
  • Ad-hoc communications measures

This form of communication is generally distributed one way through defined channels (for example, in newsletters, briefings, town halls). It offers relatively little room for individual dialog.

Organizational structure
Transformation often requires adjustments or a complete reordering of a company’s structure. Here, change management encompasses various tasks, particularly the appropriate communication (description, rationale, motivation) of the new structures to the affected areas of the existing organization. This cross-departmental issue is addressed jointly by the affected areas and the Human Resources department, also taking into account any existing participation bodies.
Not all change-related activities can be carried out by the change management team alone. Complex, cross-departmental activities require the expertise and sometimes also the the assertiveness of various participants. Here, the change management team coordinates relevant participants to identify, plan and implement the activities required for the change. The foundation for these activities includes questions such as:


  • What impact does the project have on the affected areas?
  • Will work processes, requirements, qualifications, structures, IT systems be changing?
  • What measures have to be taken in each area to ensure clean implementation with as little friction as possible?
  • Will the workload of affected employees evolve?
  • What will the new or adjusted organizational structure look like?
  • Exactly which employees are affected, and how?
  • What qualification measures are required for which employees?

“Traditional” change management approaches no longer fulfill the requirements of companies in rapidly shifting markets. The brevity of change cycles means that a generation of employees can pass through multiple cycles.

The development of competencies in this domain is therefore essential for companies to ensure their competitiveness does not suffer, which is why they must rely on external expertise and strengthen internal competencies in each project. To do so, they need external partners with experience in many different change management projects who at the same time have excellent command of the entire set of change coaching instruments – partners who can execute a concrete project on time, on budget, while also strengthening the transformation competencies within the company.

A coach needs to directly address the change and its implementation by the affected parties.

About the authors

Jan-Peter Höltgen

Jan-Peter Höltgen

Jan-Peter Höltgen has worked in the areas of change management and coaching for top consultancies for over 15 years. In his work he creates added value for clients by combining traditional change management disciplines (such as change leadership, communication,
training) with coaching approaches. In his project activities he develops and implements change programs for clients in various industries.

He has been working for Infosys since 2012 and, from 2014 has been head of the Infosys Consulting Change Management Community in Germany.

Andreas L. Gross-Zerilli

Andreas L. Gross-Zerilli

Andreas L. Gross-Zerilli holds a degree in computer science, is a coach and certified mind trainer, and has been involved in organizational development, innovation management, change management, design thinking and coaching of individuals (managers) and management groups for over 20 years. In global organization development projects, he has gained experience and knowledge in globally active companies, working with renowned leadership coaches such as John Mattone. In 2013 he joined Infosys Consulting, where he is responsible for the Swiss change management practice.

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