Successful Change: Good Implementation is only a Third of the Equation!


Marge Combe 

Wisconsin, USA

I’ve decided that change initiatives are like my gardening project.

I wanted to plant a flowering hedge.  I did my requirements-gathering: what kinds of flowering shrubs were hardy in my climate, how far apart to plant the shrubs, how deep to dig the holes, how much to water to get the roots established and what kind of fertilizer to use.  I was ready to tackle the big planting job.

But then someone sent me an article that caused me to rethink the scope of my effort.  The article talked about soil preparation to obtain the right acidity, and the crucial importance of slope for water runoff – a multi-month work effort on my flat, poorly pH-balanced property.  Without this work, the article emphasized, the shrubs would flower very little, or worse, would become just spindly sticks with few leaves.  The article went on to talk about care needed to turn a bunch of plants into a hedge – an inch of water a week (but not all at once; a little each day), careful pruning every month, only pruning where a flower had just bloomed and died – no run-through with the electric trimmers, or I’d stop getting flowers.  Lots of work on the back end, too, if I wanted my pretty idea to become a reality.

How often, when planning for change, do we do a great job of planning for the event (the implementation of a new system, the construction of a new building, the acquisition of a company) with inadequate preparation of the soil and environment, and little planning to assure that once planted, the splendid vision is tended in a way that assures it will materialize?

There are really three phases in a change effort:

  • Mobilizing for the change – making sure you have the ideal (or at least necessary) environment in which to execute the implementation.
  • Do you have access to all the resources you’ll need, when you need them?  Are the resources that are available skilled enough to really deal with the complexities of your change effort?


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About the Author 

flag-usamarge-combeMarge Combe 

Wisconsin, USA 

Marge Combe is a coach/consultant with Vernal Management Consultants, LLC (VMC), a firm specializing in the professional development and effective business practices of leaders and leadership teams (www.vernalmgmt.com).  VMC currently coaches a number of leaders and business owners in the project management profession, in North America, Europe, the Middle East, the Pacific Rim, and South America.  Marge joined VMC in 2008 after more than 35 years in portfolio management, strategic planning and large-scale change management for Northwestern Mutual and Whirlpool Corporation.   She has leveraged that experience and a passion for coaching and mentoring into a consulting and leadership coaching role with special focus on her roots: change management, strategic planning, and project management.  Marge is a former PMI board director and Chair of the Strategic Planning and Program Alignment Committee.  She was instrumental in shaping and leading a Fortune 500 Project Management Benchmarking Forum.  She is certified in coaching through Lominger International and in emotional intelligence through the Institute for Health and Human Potential.  She received the 2007 Woman of Influence Award for mentoring, and the 2010 Leadership Excellence Award from Marquette University.  Marge can be contacted at [email protected].