Change management often puts companies and project teams in shifting sands. It requires discipline, commitment, skills, resilience, creativity, people / soft skills and a hell of a lot of common sense.
The October 2005 issue of the Harvard Business Review contains an article about "The Hard Side of Change Management". The authors report the findings of a research project they started in 1992 showing that there are four "hard factors" to take into account in any change management endeavour: project duration, integrity of performance (capabilities of project teams), commitment of senior execs and staff, effort required of employees over and above their usual activities to execute the change initiative. They call their framework DICE and it's been used by the Boston Consulting Group in 1000 change initiatives since the mid-nineties to assess change management initiatives.
What I found extremely interesting was the statement that one of the most damaging assumptions companies make in dealing with change is that if a change initiative takes a long time then it is bound to fail. The authors argue that it is rather the time span between project reviews and the managerial discipline to take the lessons / the feedback from each review that are actually more significant than overall project duration. This reminded me that GE, publicly known to be one of the best managed companies in the world, undertook no more than 5-6 change initiatives in the past quarter of a century. And while the authors recognize the importance of soft aspects of change management (which I think are fundamental), they were able to isolate the significant dimensions of the "hard side". The article also makes a very valid point on the commitment of senior execs and people. I know first hand how a change initiative fails when commitment is insufficient because I took part in a major project of this type at MasterCard Europe.
Definitely a "must read" for anyone interested in change management, which I suspect is every manager in today's world.