Change is Hard: Reflections from the 2016 ACMP Conference

By Geri Johnson
Geri has over 20 years' experience from the Fortune 100 financial services industry & is a Prosci-certified change management expert. Geri is phenomenal at enterprise-wide transformation & pushes boundaries every day with innovative problem-solving.

I love change. I thrive on the challenge of getting my company to its desired future state. There’s an Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) who are just like me, and I have attended several ACMP conferences over the years. However, this was my first year attending on behalf of SSPR.

I am a change ambassador with experience driving large-scale transformation projects at a Fortune 100 company with over 10,000 employees. I now find myself at a 70-person company that is a more agile, flexible and, most refreshingly, not constrained by federal regulations. When I accepted the position at SSPR, my thought bubble said, “We will change so fast! This should be easy.” Spoiler alert: not so easy.

Organizational Change Management (OCM) is not IT Change Management. This is not the practice of logging and reviewing system changes. OCM is the people side of change. It is understanding that change is made up of individuals, and each individual must change for the project to be successful.

I attended this year’s ACMP conference looking for some profound insight. I was reminded of a humbling conclusion I learned years ago…change is hard. I see it as a compound equation:

OCM is about getting people through change


each change has its own journey


each person faces many changes at work and at home

As a company, we have strategic priorities. As individual contributors, we have SMART goals, projects and day-to-day work. As people, we have marriages, illness, moves and newborns. This is change at SSPR.

Why is change so hard?

Think about a personal change you have been wanting to make. Pick something simple like waking up 30 minutes earlier each day to exercise. What’s holding you back? You have the skill, an alarm clock, and you know it’s good for you. Why not make the change?

Now take that same conundrum and apply it to work. Your ability to change becomes even harder. If you can’t change in your personal life, how do you make a change at work? What happens if you don’t even like or understand the change? How much harder does it become?

This is why resources like the ACMP and its annual conference are so valuable. Change is hard, and we need help to make it happen. Companies need to understand the people side to change and learn the tools and techniques to help everyone get through their change journeys.

What does it take to change?

How do you take a leap of trust? What do you need to see, hear and feel to trust moving forward when you are comfortable with the current state? Here’s what change requires:

• Individuals to connect and find a fit

• Buy-in to the change

• Skill and ability

• Trust

• Desire to change

Change adoption requires an initiative to be realistic, achievable, well-defined and reinforced. And that’s hard! We have to do all of those things on multiple change initiatives while going through the change process ourselves. It’s important to be patient with change, it’s not something that will happen for you overnight. Additionally, have the presence of mind to recognize when your team is reaching the point of change saturation—it does happen. These three things can help your change initiative:

  1. Use visuals to help the brain fill in the blanks and get on board
  2. Tell a story to help people feel connected and build trust
  3. Practice rational optimism. Build trust by being transparent and honest. Do not sugar coat or ‘PR spin’ it.

At SSPR, we are on an epic change journey, and it will be hard. We want to be a kick-ass team of innovative thinkers who are connected and continuously curious. I am confident our vision is achievable. As we are successful in our change journey, our clients will reap the benefits.



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