Change and Benefits Realization

Here is a difficult topic that we often avoid to deal with as change managers: the difference between installation and realization.

Most of us think that benefits realization is solely related to the process of project management and therefore draw an imaginary wall between our craft and ‘rest of the project’.

As much as I have difficulties with not being taken serious as a change manager, to the exact same extent I have difficulties with those colleagues who prefer to live on a cloud of exclusivity and speak a language that only PhD’s can understand. To hell with that.

In the below video you can see an interview I did with Hannah McBain, a UK-based Organizational Change Practitioner. She was involved in the change program of the BBC and there she witnessed the constant balancing that is needed between the craft of change management and that of benefits management.

Practicing our craft means fully contributing to the process of project management from the very beginning. Usually this includes an involvement even before the project is called into existence.  The business case for the project and the feasibility study (most of the times, this is the same document) indicate which benefits are anticipated and over which period they should be realized.

The balancing act between change management and benefits management can be explained as wearing two hats at the same time. More precisely the hat that gives us the installation mindset on the one hand (short-term checklist-driven) and the hat that gives us the realization mindset (long-term, value-driven). Daryl Conner gives a clear definition of both terms:

  • Installation is defined as putting the intended change in place. Installation occurs when the change (e.g., hardware, software, training, new organizational structure) is deployed into the workplace
  • Realization: Reaching realization means achieving the expected value of your change. Realization occurs when the intended outcomes of the change are attained.

I don’t tend to think of them as two hats you need to wear at the same time – which inevitably indicates a sort of conflict of interest. I’d rather think of Installation and Realization as two legs – which indicates that you cannot stand on one leg. To me, that is closer to the truth: you need an installation mindset to get things done and you need a realization mindset to know if you are heading in the right direction.