“Wellness”… my ass!
published by , on 01/03/2008

Last week I was a few minutes early on the steering committee of a huge SAP implementation (I define ‘huge’ as ‘very big’, both in terms of scope as in terms of complexity). As we were joking around we came to the subject of ‘change management’. One person mentioned that some consulting companies abbreviate it as ‘CMS’, which alternatively translates as “Chicks Making Slides”. All sorts of examples came to the surface that confirmed the “Nice-to-have” brand that is tattooed on the back of each change management team as they start off. Finally, just before the meeting started, an experienced and seasoned program manager summarized it as ‘wellness’.

I gave it the biggest of grins. However, as much as I appreciated the pun, to the same extent I could not provide evidence against it. Painful….

So this one is for all of us who want to endeavor in the domain of change management and take their profession as seriously as I do. If we want to avoid the ‘wellness’ stamp or the ‘nice-to-have’ connotation, we better get our act together!

The ‘act’ to my opinion is composed of four pillars, or ‘containers of work’ as I often refer to them. In the context of a project or a program these are ’streams’ that last from the startup until the very last phase of a project. Each of these project streams has a benefit that is defined in terms of the project’s return on investment.


They are:

  • The Organization Stream:
    The purpose of this stream is to define and implement a new organization structure and to define and realize new responsibilities for working. ‘Who does what’ is the big question this stream concentrates on. The overall objective in this stream is to refreeze a new workable organization structure.
  • The Communication Stream:
    The purpose of this stream is to support the program during its complete lifecycle in staying in touch with the organization. ‘What’s in it for me’ is the big question you are trying to answer in this stream. The main outcome of this stream is the social construction of a new reality in the hearts and minds of all stakeholders. You manage perceptions of what is going on. As such, this is not a big deal. However, you need to do this for every individual stakeholder.
  • The Learning Stream:
    This stream aims at upgrading the skills and knowledge of the organization. The main outcome of this stream is to preserve the quality of knowledge that will be shared across the organization and making sure that it is shared at the right time and to the proper extent. Learning deals with three questions at the same time: ‘1. Why should I care?; 2. What is it you want me to do?; 3. How should I do it and how will I be supported?’.
  • The Performance Stream:
    The purpose of this stream is to implement the new ways of working. In short it aims at translating the three learning questions to practice. This stream answers the question: ‘What will this come down to in practice?’. In addition every reinforcement mechanism that is put in place belongs to this stream. For example: if you would like to alter the appraisal systems, reward mechanisms, and performance measurements so that they support the change.

To me, the above portfolio is a bit different than ‘wellness’. Rather I would summarize it as Michael Hammer once did: ‘The soft stuff is the hard stuff’. I cross my fingers that change management teams all over the world start realizing that they are working with real budgets and that they need to get their act together. Amen!

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