I’m told I have a unique accent. At least, here in the United States, when I meet new clients, co-workers or random baristas, I’m often asked where I’m from. When I explain that I’m South African, a surprisingly high percentage of conversations wind up turning to the film Invictus. If you’re not familiar with it, the movie focuses on a particularly pivotal moment in my homeland’s history, as Nelson Mandela began his presidency and South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup tournament.

I’m usually quite happy to engage in the conversation because, despite Matt Damon’s attempt at a South African accent, I really like the film. For one thing, it chronicles my country’s transition from the apartheid era – the bleakest period of its history – to its first steps as a modern nation taking its place on the world stage. It also serves as a master class in leadership, culture and change management.

This strikes a chord with me professionally, as I’ve been focused on helping clients navigate their way through change management. While they have a very different task than trying to evolve a nation’s collective psyche, many organizations are seeking to reshape their organizations in an increasingly digital world. Interestingly, 83% of executives we interviewed for CGI’s 2019 Client Global Insights rank culture change and change management as the top barrier to digital transformation.

Why change management matters

In Invictus, President Mandela’s chief of staff (played by Adjoa Andoh) asks Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman) if he’s making a political calculation by hosting the World Cup. Mandela replies that he’s making a human one. Similarly, digital transformation takes more than technological calculations; it also requires human ones. Effectively managing the human side of change helps accelerate adoption, increase overall engagement and improve the benefit each and every employee realizes from a change, increasing the initiative’s ROI, including being on time and budget. In fact, initiatives with excellent change management are six times more likely to meet objectives than those with poor change management.

Digital transformation requires organizational agility where culture is a key determinant of success. Building a culture where digital technologies and processes can thrive requires everyone in the organization, from the C-suite to front-line employees, to be prepared to work in a more collaborative, agile and transparent way. It’s hard for an organization to transform digitally if the culture is built on functional and departmental silos, risk aversion, and a fractured view of the customer.

How can organizations succeed with change management?

Succeeding with change management requires embracing three key principles:

  1. On leadership, it means leading with culture and ensuring that strong executive sponsorship is in place.
  2. In terms of vision, it requires an organization understand where it is currently, where it wants to be, when, why, and what the measures will be to get there.
  3. In practice, it requires leaders to plan and manage progress in achievable, measurable stages, and to communicate, involve, and engage people as early and often as possible.

There are several examples in the film where all of these principles are present, but I think this actual quote from President Mandela summarizes it well, “Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world.”

Maybe it’s a bit presumptuous to see this work as changing the world, but for the organizations with which we partner, it can have a profound impact on their future success, and the livelihood of their many stakeholders.

A practical approach to organizational change management

How can an organization get started with their change management initiatives? We often break down the process into the following stages:

  • Establish change focused leadership: Cited as the #1 barrier to change success we ensure executive sponsorship, alignment and to promote leadership engagement throughout the project as a core accelerator of successful change.
    Once the leadership coalition is established, the following phases are executed;
  • Plan for change: Build the change strategy and change management plan to assess, evaluate and anticipate the organizational readiness and capacity to adopt the change and move to the desired future state.
  • Manage the change: Manage the change journey by engaging the organization and enabling the impacted stakeholders by ensuring that they have the necessary skills, knowledge, tools and capabilities for change adoption.
  • Measure and reward success: More than just ensuring that the necessary behavioral shifts have been made for sustaining the change we help build the organization’s muscle to continuously embrace change thus becoming a more agile, change ready enterprise.

Easy, right? While the steps may be straight forward, the real-world process is filled with unexpected twists and turns. Yet, with the right disciplined approach and commitment to make change work, success is achievable.

At CGI, we’re there to partner with you at every step of the way, co-creating solutions together. This applies not only to change management, but to all aspects that impact one’s digital journey. Learn more about how CGI helps clients navigate their way through their digital journey to achieve real results.

Download the CGI Next Viewpoint How to get unstuck: traction for transformation

About this author

Picture of Conrad Jooste

Conrad Jooste

Director of Consulting

Conrad is a strategic organizational change leader with over 25 years global experience across industries, business types (start-up, growth, mature), and organizational functions. He is passionate about helping build high performing cultures where people can be unleashed for both personal meaning and peak performance. ...

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