How to Take the Pain out of Change

Christie Vick   •   11.20.2019

Change is inevitable, yet change can be hard – whether its personal or professional, department-level or organization-wide.  As practitioners who are surrounded by enormous amounts of data, the need for and subsequent benefits of change can appear obvious; however, despite the evidence, the way you prepare for and handle change can be the difference between success and failure.  Just picking the right approach for change management can be overwhelming, with numerous models and over 30,000 books available via a simple Amazon search. There is no silver bullet, but the 5 “Ws” provide an excellent framework to help guide you and your team through an upcoming change: 

Why it’s changing 

Ensure there is executive sponsorship. Have them participate actively in the project and communicate the vision regularly.

Make it clear for individuals ‘what’s in it for them’ – even in the most difficult of changes, positives exist. Adapting the messages to different audiences will probably be necessary. Without this clarity, uncertainty can run rampant – breeding distrust and even active resistance.

What is changing 

Make sure that there is a compelling and clear vision for the change.

Make individuals active participants in designing and implementing the change. Ownership of the solution can often turn resistance into support.

Spell out the specifics of what people will need to do differently after the change is complete (i.e., different work, outputs, etc.).

Who it will impact 

Always remember that people are still people, with emotions and different risk tolerances. Address fears and concerns and keep the lines of communication open.

Welcome feedback and go so far as to embrace naysayers – those individuals are likely saying what others might be afraid to mention. Continue to manage expectations and engage leaders in these conversations.

Find champions at every level. You need leaders to set the tone for the change, yet you also want people to be able to lean on their peers.

When it’s changing 

Use a phased approach where appropriate; this provides an opportunity for ongoing training, feedback, and adjustments.

Piloting with a small group first can also be a valuable exercise, before embarking on a broad deployment.

Where (or how) will it change 

Make sure that a comprehensive implementation exists, and the resources are in place to execute against it.

Set quantifiable goals and educate individuals on why those are important and how they can contribute. Measure progress and share results. Identify gaps and be as transparent as possible about any changes in the course.

Provide incentives or rewards, if necessary. Assess if these will drive the behavior you expect beyond the short-term.


That first “W” is likely the most important, yet the one you may assume everyone knows and understands. The common denominator is communication. Telling people once will not convey the nature, importance or impact of the change. Communicate early, often and in different manners.   

This approach applies to any scale of change – company acquisition, leadership changes, software implementation, or even a new data & analytics program.  




  1. Integrated Change Management (
  2. Why Creating Organizational Change Is So Hard (
  3. Is Your Change Management Approach Keeping Pace with Digital? (
  4. Changing Change Management (


Christie Vick


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