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Explore the Levels of Change Management

Are You Getting Things Done or Getting Things Adopted?

Written by Scott McAllister

2 Mins



“This has been really informative, but my plate is really full, and I need to get back to the office and get some things done.”

This was a Chief Marketing Officer’s response at the end of a day-long leadership meeting on the fundamentals of change management. Worse, she brought it up in response to how the team would implement what they had learned during the meeting.

As she demonstrated, it is easy to slip back into the thinking that change management is a nice-to-have, something that needs to fit around other pressing priorities. But research shows that change management is often the missing ingredient that makes these other priorities successful. So how do you know if you are giving change management the priority it needs?

Getting Things Done vs. Getting Things Adopted

Here’s how the facilitator who was working with this too-busy Chief Marketing Officer reminded her why change management matters enough to create clear action items and next steps:

“It is clear that you and all the members of the executive team here have many changes underway that require considerable attention. But as you return to the office, my question is: do you want to get things done, or do you want to get things adopted?”

Every organization has lots to do, but the reality is many things get done that don’t ever deliver full value because the people to whom the change happened found ways to delay or deflect the change. In other words, they did not adopt the change that was “done.”

Project Management Gets Things Done

Most organizations have systems, tools, models and methods for assuring that changes get done. Project management and process improvement are but two examples of methods that assure things get done on time, on budget and within scope. However, it is possible for things to get done that don’t deliver their intended benefits to the organization because people don’t always fully adopt the changes that get made.

For example, if you have ever purchased a new piece of technological equipment, you have experienced the gap between installation (getting it done) and adoption. Very few people really use a smart phone to its full capability. We purchase the phone with the intent of having added ease and simplicity to our lives, but without using it to its full potential (adopting it), it cannot deliver all its value. This lack of full adoption is not a phone problem; it’s a people problem and requires people-oriented tools to fix.

Change Management Gets Things Adopted

For any change, regardless of type, to deliver its full benefit, everyone impacted by the change must have:

  • Awareness of why the change is happening
  • Motivation to support the change
  • Skill to succeed in the new environment
  • Ability to practice
  • Reinforcement to sustain the change

Migration through each of those five steps is the process of change adoption. Facilitating individual change adoption is called change management.

What This Means for You

Leaders who get things done:

  • Define success of a change as implementation alone. They shunt change management to the side as being nice to have.
  • Think change management is important but don’t invest time, money, people and mindshare in making it a reality.

Leaders who get things adopted:

  • Define success of a change as a realization of the benefits of the change. This means investing in methods, model and tools for facilitating individual change adoption.
  • Modify their own behavior to become good sponsors because they know sponsorship is the number-one contributor to change success.
  • Require their direct reports to understand and embrace their respective roles in change.
  • Equip individuals with the understanding and tools they need to facilitate their own change adoption.

Which leader are you? Are you getting things done and getting things adopted?

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