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Benefits driven change – a quick look

The Benefits Management ‘movement’ has gone a long way to enabling effective Organizational Change. Having said that it is worth emphasizing what the Change Management enablers actually are lest they be overlooked and not exploited to their full potential. The key attributes of Benefits Management that support Organizational Change are:

  • it provides a context for general change discussion it sets an agenda for change that everyone can relate too
  • it lends itself to process and procedure and thereby enables a platform for continuous improvement
  • it reinforces the need for effective stakeholder identification
  • it produces and validates change related information
  • it enables agile organizational change management
  • it enables alignment of change activity with organizations strategic objectives
  • resources can be directed toward those change needs that provide the greatest business benefit
  • realistic prioritization of change project and programmes can be made with the availability of accurate and timely information
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The role of Change Management

It is evident that Benefits Management has the potential to provide a significant boost to the results of Organisational Change initiatives but there is much to suggest that the increased utilisation of Change Management knowledge and practises would increase those gains further.

However, although recognised as a key management discipline, the role and utility of Change Management is often ‘under-estimated’ and ‘under-exploited’ resulting in unnecessary stakeholder uncertainty and frustration which, in itself, can have a significantly adverse impact on change performance and increase the build up of resistive and regressive forces.


Whereas the Benefits Management discipline tends to treat a specific change as a ‘black-box’ up until its deployment is being considered, Change Management manages the overall organisation’s readiness and preparedness for change and seeks to go ‘inside the box’ to analysis and expose the characteristics and nature of the changes to be made e.g. people, systems, process, behaviour, culture, environment etc at the earliest opportunity in the process.

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In raising the profile of Change Management, the role that Benefits Management plays in implicating the organisation’s personnel in the identification and design of the required changes should not be ignored. When combined, the practises and rigour of Benefits Management and the learning and experience of the Change Management discipline do much to enable successful and sustainable change.

Considering the Change Manager

It is apparent that there is so much that can be done to understand the needs of a given change such that, for every facet for which an understanding is achieved, a reduction in the risk of its failure or an easing of its passage is gained. This pragmatic perspective also suggests that, to be effective, a Change Manager must have a minimum set of skills and qualities; Kanter (1989, cited in Buchanan & Huczynski, 2004 p.634) suggests that these include: 

  • ability to work independently, without management power, sanction and support
  • an effective collaborator able to compete in ways that enhance cooperation
  • the ability to develop high trust relationships, based on high ethical standards
  • self-confidence, tempered with humility
  • respect for the process of change, as well as the content
  • able to work across business functions and units, ‘multifaceted and ambidextrous’
  • the willingness to stake reward on results and gain satisfaction from success

It is possible to relate these attributes to many management roles but the important point to note here is that the management subject and context is ‘change’ i.e. helping organisations and people to do things differently. 

The need to see things from the perspective of others plays an important role in enabling and progressing change (Paton and McCalman, 2008) with this in mind, and based upon his personal experience, the author would also add the ability to empathize with people to this list. This suggests that a Change Manager may well be more effective if they have working knowledge of the practices in the arena in which they are operating and also that they have non-change related man management experience.  

During a formal discussion of a change related topic it is the Change Manager; with no other agenda except the successful outcome of the change effort, who speaks out, albeit in context, in support of the specific change management need. Not an easy proposition because as Machiavelli, quoted in De Caluwé and Vermaark (2003), writes: 

‘nothing is more difficult to take on, more precarious to lead, or less certain of success than introducing new things, because the person introducing them makes an enemy of those who fared well under the old situation and those that might fare well under the new situation do not (yet) defend it zealously’ 

Although certain aspects of change management will be apparent in functional areas of an organisation such as Engineering & Project Management i.e. measurement, control, impact assessment etc. they would not be generally recognisable as pertaining to the science of change management. It is the willingness of the Change Manager to take on multiple and sometimes conflicting agendas seen as necessary for them to be successful change agents that sets them apart from other arbiters of change in an organisation (Buchanan and Boddy, 1992). 

No different from another occupation, Change Managers are always learning and there is no shame in having weaknesses or even gaps in experience that need filling. But paramount is the need for the Change Manager, with often so much at stake, to be able to operate as a neutral force for good (Paton and McCalman, 2008), declaring when appropriate, limitations which, if left unacknowledged, could adversely impact the performance of a given change. A consequence of this is that the Change Manager must be prepared to grow in the role and constantly learn from his experiences.  Kolb (1984 p.1) states that: 

‘our survival depends on our ability to adapt not only in the reactive sense of fitting into the physical and socials worlds, but in the proactive sense of creating and shaping those worlds’ 

This must surely be the case for the Change Manager who, using his own individual change management style must work to do what is required to achieve a given change within the presented context. The Change Manager must leverage his knowledge and interpretation of the available reference material to analyze the prevailing change scenario and provide a service such that an appreciative but effective understanding is gained and an appropriate strategy produced and successful outcome achieved. This fundamentalist stance, when coupled with ‘whole solution’ cyclic approaches that include such stages as problem definition, context, diagnosis, intervention and monitoring, together provide the Change Manager with a basic framework and toolkit with which to work. 

Stages may be revisited iteratively, as the change initiative progresses to enable the change environment and context to be fully revealed and reconciled. Within this cycle other models can be used to learn from experiences and feed that learning back to produce an evolved way of working (Buckler, 1996 cited in Paton and McCalman, 2008) (Kolb, 1984) (Argyris, 1977a).


Buchanan, D & Huczynski, A (2004) Organizational Behaviour, An Introductory Text, 5th edit, Harlow, England, Pearson Education Ltd

Paton, R and McCalman, J (2008) Change Management – A Guide to Effective Implementation, 3rd edit, London, Sage Publications Ltd

De Caluwé, L and Vermaark, H (2003) Learning to Change: A Guide for Organization Change Agents, London, Sage Publications

Buchanan, D & Boddy, D (1992) The expertise of the Change Agent, Public Performance and Backstage Activity, 1st edit, Hemel Hempstead, England, Prentice Hall International (UK) 

Kolb, D (1984) Experiential Learning, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, Inc

Argyris, C (September-October 1977a) Double loop learning in organizations, Harvard Business Review, pp. 115-125

A focus on the people side of Benefits Realisation Management

The mainstream Benefits Management discipline goes some way to establishing the need for effective people engagement. Having said that, it is from a Change Management perspective that the full potential that positioning of people engagement within Benefits Management can be fully appreciated. It is only when this Change Management understanding is leveraged that its true worth can be realized. The key organizational Change Management enablers include:

  • the provision of pre-defined processes – overt knowledge of the process provides for a confident change arena
  • the fact that Change is now an organizational constant is much more palatable when relatable to a credible organizational change capability 
  • pre-defined Change Management related roles and responsibilities – this open culture enables frank and realistic communications
  • overt discussion around organizational strategy enable the disclosure of concerns that may otherwise not be sought but that could impact downstream change performance
  • benefits identification – the insight provided from the people that ‘really know’
  • benefits ownership – having agreed what benefits are to be achieved this key step enables the ongoing focus on benefits rather than change delivery
  • control of organizational change dynamic – effective decision making is enabled through the accessibility of accurate and validated change information. Both for the people making management decisions but those that are impacted by any subsequent changes.
  • enabling ability to ‘stop’ this change projects which are unable to evidence linkage to the organizations strategic objectives
  • participation of stakeholders within the change process – simply having a change process and understanding where the current changes are in that process helps build a trusting environment
  • implication of stakeholders in the definition, measurement and realization activities
  • although the need for effective communication is much vaunted it is often nebulous and weak on meaningful content. Benefits Management provides for accurate and timely information as all stages of the initiative including strategy, projects, programmes and overall portfolio performance
  • the fact that Benefits are generally realized at the back-end of change initiatives ensures that business performance is kept on the agenda.

Event ROI


This post recognises the great work being undertaken by the ROI Institute and luminaries such as Elling Hamso which has provided me with the insight I needed to improve the experience of those engaged in benefitsdrivenchange.

As stated previously, one of the distinct attributes of Benefits Management is that it positions and sets the expectation for all stakeholders within a change initiative. But identifying stakeholders and engaging them meaningfully within the change process needs careful consideration and preparation. This is where the thinking behind Event ROI can be exploited.

Fundamental benefits realised through Event ROI

The basic benefits of using Event ROI thinking in the benefits cycle are:

  • Reduce the overall cost of change to the organisation
  • Provide for a richer and more inclusive organisational culture
  • Understand the costs associated with staging event
  • Be able to calculate the ROI of each event
  • Develop and improve event management to ensure optimal ROI is achieved

Essential to the activities within the change lifecycle is that the participants are enabled to contribute to the full. That is that the event organiser and the each participant achieved a valuable and rewarding outcome. To do this they must feel confident and willing to challenge norms and explore areas of interest that may be outside of their current thoughts.

Take the example of Benefits Workshop; that is a workshop activity being undertaken to identify and gain a common understanding of what ‘Benefits’ and ‘Dis-benefits’ should are to be realised through the successful meeting of a given objective.

Drawing on the thinking and methods promoted by the ROI institute the following can be seen as relevant to an activity:

  • Both for the event organiser and each participant the following should be established:The process for organising the event can be analysed and improvements to increase the ROI made
    • Their objectives to be met as a consequence of the event
    • A method measuring to what degree the objectives were met must be established
  • The process for  organising the event can be analysed and improvements to increase the ROI must be made

This approach has the added benefit that all of the stakeholders will have had the opportunity to prepare for the event and be able to participate more effectively.

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