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4 Questions Leaders Must Answer When Managing Change

Posted by Ron Snyder in Other | 0 comments

Celebrating successful changeThink back on an important change effort that you were involved in; implementing a new direction, system or process. Though some changes go smoothly, most change efforts experience resistance.

Why is it an uphill battle?

One reason is that we’re biologically wired to resist change. The human body is designed to be homeostatic – stable and balanced. When change occurs, our body makes every effort to restore its original state. The human brain forms neurological patterns that inform our behaviors. The path of least resistance (both neurologically and psychologically) is to continue our current behavior.

Another reason is that old habits die hard. Most people prefer to do things “the way we’ve always done them.”

With a reasonable effort, however, you can forge a new path… and with it, achieve new results.

People react differently to change. Some are open to it; even thrive on it. Others are more risk-averse and resist change. Typically, the people who drive change are more visionary. They can see the benefit of taking a new course. Visionaries need to realize that, even though they see the potential positive impact of a change, it may not be so obvious to others. To be effective, visionaries must sell their vision and the need for change… and have to work harder at maintaining the momentum than they expect!

When considering change, our thought process is very similar to how we make a buying decision. We work through a similar set of questions:

  1. Are we motivated to solve this problem?
  2. Is this the right solution?
  3. Is it worth the effort or cost?
  4. How do we succeed?

If you are a leader executing and managing change to drive results, you need to go through this process yourself first, then with your management team, and finally help the people involved realize that the value is worth the effort.

Let’s explore these questions and how to answer each of them to help those involved embrace the change.

  1. Are we motivated to solve this problem?

People need to understand the rationale and come to the conclusion that this is important enough to act on. For example:

  • We really need to do something to improve sales!
  • Our sales funnel is weak and we need to fill it.
  • Our win ratio is too low. We are losing to a major competitor too often!
  • It is taking too long to close sales. Too many deals are languishing with no decision.
  • We are missing big opportunities in our territories or major accounts!

Another factor is whether people see this as an issue that directly impacts and thus motivates them.

  • If the issue is hampering their ability to achieve quota or MBO objectives, they will want to solve it.
  • If it is intended to help the business as a whole, people need to believe that this change will accomplish the promised outcome. There is incentive if people share in the results, such as through profit sharing or if part of their performance review or compensation is based on organizational performance.
  1. Is this the right solution?

The team needs to believe this is a good solution to the problem. Such as:

  • This is a good way to improve sales.
  • Implementing a new sales methodology or tool will really help us.
  • We do need sales or product training.
  • Focusing our efforts on a new target market will make it easier to reach our goals.

At the end of the day, people need believe that the solution will help them do their job better, faster or more easily… or is it important enough for the organization as a whole. The management team making the decision must go through this process first and then present their conclusions to the team in a credible manner so they buy into the solution.

People also need to know that management has listened to the needs of the team and have taken them into account when establishing the selection criteria and choosing a solution. It is a good to have a few members of the team participate in the selection process, thus lending credibility that the solution will work well for the users.

  1. Is it worth the effort or cost?

In order to prioritize the required actions into their activities, people need to feel that the change will lead to achieving the intended outcome!

Sometimes this is obvious; especially if the problem is having a significant impact on the business. Other times the team members do not have visibility into the impact the issue is having on the business. In this case, it is incumbent upon the management team to show the importance of taking action… and how the selected solution will accomplish the objectives.

If the organization has started and stopped programs in the past, people will question management’s commitment and often will not take the change effort seriously. Ironically, this creates a self-fulfilling prophesy and the effort fails. Management must demonstrate its commitment by using the new solution themselves and building its use into daily operation.

  1. How do we succeed?

People need to know exactly what is needed to make the new solution successful and that they will be supported when they need help.

  • Make sure everyone knows how to use the new solution and how it helps them do their job. Users must be trained on the basic use of the system.
  • Establish the business rules and guidelines for using the system. For example, what accounts require an account plan.
  • Management must know how to use the new method/tool from the user’s perspective.
  • Managers must use it to manage the team. The best way to do this is to incorporate the use of the solution into their calendars and daily/weekly/monthly operation and require that team members do the same.

For more on this, see our Management Guide and Checklists.


Once you have answered these questions, it is important to keep the goal in front of you and the people who must make the change. This will provide a rallying point that excites the team and drives you to a sustained change that enables you to accomplish your objectives!

For more on how to make your efforts at managing change successful, see our article: “Seven Steps to Ensure Software Adoption.”

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