Strategic Change Management

Organizations, governments, and donors often demand change, but most resulting programs fail. Restructuring can result in confusion rather than constructive change. Unless the people within that system change, very little can actually be achieved in attempting to change an organization.

Real improvement requires individuals who can find new ways of leading, thinking, and behaving.

Strategic change management develops skills for transformation, enabling participants to manage themselves and lead their teams and organizations through change. It explores alternatives and creative approaches to the problem-solving and change management that is suited to an increasingly complex and uncertain world. Strategic change management involves a response to provoke immediate change by choosing different ways of behaving, planning, and managing projects and people to achieve continuous improvement. It takes a broader view of specific critical interventions that can in turn alter the fortunes of the company.

Change management in a broader sense can be defined as the methods and manners in which a company describes and implements change within both its internal and external processes. This includes preparing and supporting employees, establishing the necessary steps for change, and monitoring pre- and post-change activities to ensure successful implementation.

Significant organizational change can be challenging; it often requires many levels of cooperation and may involve different independent entities within an organization to work toward a common goal. Developing a structured approach to change is critical to help ensure a beneficial transition while mitigating disruption.

Many factors account for the failure of changes in an organization. Chief among them include:

– The real promoters of the change in management roles often do not apply themselves to the necessary processes needed for change management.

– A lack of effective communication. All individuals involved must understand the progress that will occur through the various stages of change and be able to see results as the changes cascade.

With this background of knowledge, the need to take change management a notch higher necessitates the introduction of strategic change management. This concept is borne out of the fact that not all the interventions in this vein are productive and profit-oriented. There is therefore the need to target change management in a well-calculated manner to achieve the desired results.

Strategic change management is the process of managing change in a structured and thoughtful way in order to meet organizational goals, objectives, and overall mission. Some organizations that readily come to mind in terms of successful implementation of strategic change management are the Barclays bank, Standard Chartered bank, and the international microfinance organization Opportunity International headquartered in the UK and US with other subsidiaries in several African countries.

Barclays and Standard Chartered banks, in the heat of the global credit crunch from 2008 to 2009, commissioned their change management unit to come out with innovative strategies of staying afloat in the face of fierce competition from other banks, such as notable banks in Nigeria and South Africa that were making serious inroads and competing with them on the African continent. It was also the situation that other competitors in the banking space were making serious inroads in the industry, which was an existential threat to the survival of Barclays and Standard Chartered. Through a thorough brainstorming session, it came to light that the current model of sourcing business solutions for these traditional banks was laidback, unambitious, and not customer-friendly enough. A more significant part of the Barclays and Standard Chartered businesses operating worldwide at the time relied heavily on the conservative approach of clients visiting their business premises for their banking services.

But the moment the Nigerian and South African financial powerhouse introduced the concept of relationship banking into the banking system, it significantly impacted the previously booming business portfolio of multinationals like Barclays and Standard Chartered. In a bid to redeem themselves after having suffered a jolt from the incursion of these competitors, they launched their change management units with a charge to reverse the downward trend of the company and return it to its competitive status with haste.

The immediate response of this unit was to come out with a concept modeled along with the lines of relationship banking, which was very much in vogue at the time. In order to not mirror their competitor’s concept and make it look like a flank attack, it was strategically code-named the “Direct Sales Unit” where they specifically recruited outsourced staff and trained them to aggressively pursue customers in their homes, offices, and business premises with their banking solutions. In a little over a year, it began to yield dividends as the market share of the company began to grow exponentially.

Opportunity International, on the other hand, is an international microfinance organization with a focus on helping the entrepreneurial poor in developing countries. The major hurdle for the business was an effective means of managing and tracking the repayment of loans from individual clients. With the onset of the change management unit, they were able to research a sustainable means of tracking individual repayment through a concept dubbed “Misinghi.” This system allows the institution to individually credit clients’ accounts instead of the previously used group format. By doing so, they are able to track individual customers’ repayment records for proper reconciliation.

Clearly, these two examples represent an effective outcome of strategic change management that were introduced to achieve a particular purpose. It therefore stands to reason that change management as a concept should not be pursued solely for the sake of change but instead systematically introduced to produce a particular desired outcome.

The outcomes, on the other hand, should be able to meet the SMART acronym criteria explained below:

Specific: There should not be any ambiguity about the desired outcome.
Measurable: It should be easily quantifiable.
Achievable: It should be realistic and not under- or overambitious.
Relevant: There should be some direct association between the goal and the core business.
Timely: Time should always be of the essence in achieving outcomes of strategic change management.


Phidelia Johnson is a global Human Resources Practitioner with eighteen years of leadership success. With a focus on streamlining Human Resources administration, she’s well-equipped to find the right solution to a myriad of concerns. Her experience as a commercial business leader gives her a unique ability to advocate for both the employer and the employee.

In her down time, Phidelia is a master of her kitchen, creating wonderful dishes filled with passion and flavor. If she’s not cooking delicious food, she’s stretched out with a good book. She hopes to use her experience to help others, guide company leaders to best practices, and help build better professionals and stronger organizations.

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