You need both in your toolkit to implement change successfully.

The Internet abounds with commentary about the terms methodology and model—what they are, who owns them, and which one is more important in the business world. The fact is that planning and managing successful change implementations requires that you have both in your toolkit.

My initial encounter with the word “methodology” was when my first consulting client asked my partner and me to help him with his mission to implement a standardized project management methodology in a global technology company.  Since he had worked for NASA in its early days, I figured he took the word mission rather seriously!

And so we did—implemented a major change within the company that resulted in the entire organization being able to execute product development efforts efficiently, effectively, and repeatedly, with considerable cost savings and early market share.

A methodology provides a logical, repeatable way of accomplishing work to get consistent results. Methodologies come in all sizes, shapes, and extent of rigor, and they can be scaled and tailored. The fact that an organization uses a methodology consistently has been proven to contribute significantly to the success of projects.

This is the first finding in Prosci’s 2007 Benchmarking findings: In all of Prosci’s five change management benchmarking studies, we asked participants about the greatest contributors to overall success for their programs. In each of the last two studies, the use of a structured approach to change management was cited as the #2 contributor to success (behind only active and visible executive sponsorship).

A methodology is closest in concept to a process where there are defined steps and deliverables.  With methodologies, the “steps” are likely gated phases or stages as business methodologies encompass a much larger scope, for example, product development methodologies, investment management methodologies and, in our case, change implementation methodologies.

The key to successful use of any methodology, particularly in managing change, is in tailoring it to the organization and scaling it to the specific change initiative.

In turn…

A project management methodology should reflect the size, duration and complexity of each individual project, and be adapted to the industry, organizational culture and level of organizational project management maturity of the organization.

In complementary fashion, a model, or conceptual model, provides a framework for thinking about a body of work that needs to be accomplished. Conceptual models consist of elements, factors, or conditions of a larger system and show their interrelationships. They act as a reminder of what you should be analyzing and how you should be planning for work in a complex entity (such as an organization).

Change management thinking abounds with models from Kurt Lewin’s model for change to Kubler Ross’s change curve to the Hammer’s process reengineering model. In fact, an organizational structure is a very practical model that helps us understand who we have to talk to when we want to get things done during a change implementation. These models give us many practical tools and insights:

  • A way to understand what’s involved in change management
  • A likely state of emotional being at a given time
  • A way to work with people impacted by change
  • How people might be experiencing the change
  • A big picture view of the organizational dynamic

Models give us the framework and parameters for our change thinking and actions, but they do not give us the roadmap. This is the purpose for a methodology, not as a rigid set of processes and practices, but as a way to wind our way through the complex world of a change implementation.

A methodology does not kill creativity (as I heard recently); rather, it takes the work out of continually redefining the process for completing work instead of focusing on the content of the work itself—the people impacted by the change.

What’s in your toolkit – methodologies, models, or both? Share your thoughts on the Change Management Review Facebook page, or leave a comment below.