A Wholistic View of Change Management: Q&A with Gosia Walendzik

With our ‘Wholistic View of Change Management’ event right around the corner we decided to catch up with our speaker, Change Management Consultant and Chapter Leader of the London branch of the Change Management Institute, Gosia Walendzik.

With over a decade of experience in leading complex, multinational change programmes under her belt, Gosia now also shares change management best practice across industries and advocates for strengthening the case for people change through her work with the CMI.

We were keen to find out more about her unique approach to the psychological aspects of change management as well as learn what makes or breaks a change project in Gosia’s book.

Gosia Walendzik

Hi Gosia, could you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into change management? 

I’ve spent the last ten years or so leading change programmes encompassing transformation, people behavioural change, process implementation and re-design as well as strategy development and various ideation projects. I am a certified Change and Project Management Practitioner and a member and an ambassador for Change Management Institute UK where I co-lead the London Chapter.    

We know you’re a big believer in the psychology of change having a great impact on the success of a project, could you expand on that a little for us?

The subject of psychology behind change and the people aspect of it is what really interests and motivates me. People are my passion and when they achieve success and feel empowered at the end of it, it really makes me feel inspired and accomplished.

Early in my career as a project manager, I began to realise that the definition of a successful project isn’t just about hitting key milestones and delivering the transformation. In order for the change to work in practice one mustn’t forget about the key factor – people. It is the people involved that will ultimately be responsible for the success in the long run and who, if approached correctly, will be able to understand how their psychological reactions to change are affecting their behaviours towards it.

I have always felt that this psychological aspect of any change affecting individuals should not be forgotten; that it is imperative for any change journey to be successful. Ultimately it is people who are affected by organisational change and are the crucial drivers to what we call ‘making the change stick’.

I have always operated this way throughout my project management career and will use various change techniques to gently nudge people in the direction required thus, ensuring lower change resistance levels and higher adoption. This approach has never failed me and always resulted in positive feedback and long-term success for organisation.  

With the psychological impact of change in mind, would you say that change management and delivery are separate skillsets or are they one in the same? 

Change management and project delivery are two separate skillsets. A key distinction for me between change management and change delivery is what I call ‘transition’ and ‘tangible delivery of change’. ‘Tangible delivery of change’ would be an actual activity and steps that can be put into a diary or project plan and if followed though, would result in a desired tangible outcome. To provide a rather simplified example: in order to move my offices from one building to another I need to hire an office relocation company and set the date for the move.

The ‘transition’ however is the human, psychological process of letting go of one thing – a pattern, process or habit - and engaging with the new one. As it’s a psychological process it needs to be managed as such. In addition to the ‘tangible change’ activities, we need transitional processes to strengthen the case for change and ensure people know their purpose, understand the part they play and can ‘touch and feel’ the positive situation after the change has taken place.

In your experience, what would you say are some of the key challenges faced by global companies when it comes to implementing change?

I think one of the main challenges for the companies these days is the change overload and lack of proficient mechanisms to manage the portfolio of changes in an organisation, both short and long-term. Just as economists apply a time dimension lens when looking at the influence change will have to the concepts they are modelling; organisations should apply the same to ensure the change is managed well. Accurately mapping the impact of all changes on individual business units will manage the risk overload.

Increasing complexity is another one – this leads to more uncertainty of what to change and, finally, an additional factor that often goes hand in hand with all of the above is the need to create more capacity for the business to participate in changes they are impacted by. This in turn links to the need for the effective sponsorship of change, leadership participation for instance.

Do you think change management is typically considered early enough in the project lifecycle? 

Change management is a relatively new discipline and, in my experience, is not yet well known across all industries. However, what is clear is that when change management is introduced as part of the project delivery, determining when change management activities should begin is often  driven by the milestones laid out in the overall tangible project plan. Unfortunately, it’s frequently not considered as a value-adding delivery partner and thus isn’t introduced from the start.

In my experience such an approach significantly constrains the extent to which the change management discipline can add value to ensure proper adoption. 

Are there any key takeaways for organisations who want to drive change, but may be struggling to get buy-in from higher-ups?

Change management is often considered as something soft and fluffy and that’s not the case – it’s also managing the risk of the project failure. As a lot of material aimed at sponsors comes from the world of project management, it usually concentrates on the project delivery and not the implementation.

However, when asked, all sponsors would likely agree that what they really need to achieve is the need for the business to operate differently and this is where change management comes in. The question then that we ought to be asking our leaders and sponsors is this: What is the cost of the project failure?

If you’re keen to hear more of what Gosia has to say on change management, she will be speaking at our ‘Wholistic View of Change Management’ event on the 30th of May. For more information please speak to Amber on 0203 7956 531 as spaces are limited and filling fast. Not able to make it? You can also find her on LinkedIn.

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Amber Lyon-Lee

16th May