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Spacer Understanding and Overcoming Organizational Resistance to Change: 8 Tips

7 Recommendations for Leading Marketing Change – Guest column by Andrew Watt, Senior Director of CRM Analytics, The Gap

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The journey of managing any change process begins with understanding organizational resistance. Stated simply: Corporate culture will actively resist change, regardless of the potential benefit of the change.

Each individual may benefit by accepting the change, but collectively they will fight tooth and nail. Needless to say, resistance to change is the most frequent cause of failure. Corporate culture is lethal to change.

You see, corporate culture behaves like a rubber band. No matter how you stretch it, it wants to snap back to its original shape. And when it does snap back, someone usually gets stung. Or, in the words of Walt Kelly, “We have met the enemy and he is us.

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  • Monday, 10/16, 3:00pm – 4:15pm
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    • 7 Step Process for Achieving Double-Digit Response with Best-In-Class Consensual Opt-In and Integrated Marketing - Learn How IBM, and Microsoft Increased Response by 300% and Sales by 88%!


To succeed as a Change Agent, you must be a lot of things to a lot of people. But there are three roles that you must fulfill:


This project is important to your company’s future and you are its champion. Everyone is looking to you to lead them through the change process.

A Great Communicator

Show coworkers and management the vision. Be persistent and persuasive. Help team members understand:

  • What’s in it for them.
  • How this change is relevant to what they do.
  • What, specifically, they should do.
  • How their efforts will be measured.
  • The consequences of their efforts.
  • What tools and support are available.

Keeper of the Flame

Confront any negativity with personalized benefits (here’s what’s in it for us and especially for you). Be watchful and take immediate action when (not if) regression/insurrection begins.



  1. Channel Conflict (or Turf Wars)

    Unfortunately, interdepartmental conflict is the norm. Organizations are structured in silos, each of which has different and conflicting goals and measurements.

    • Form a cross-functional team to steer implementation from the planning stage through measurement and refinement.

  2. No VOC Input

    Voice of Customer Relationship Research is essential to understanding how customers define value and relevance. VOC Relationship Research also:

    • Generates powerful, directional, qualitative marketing intelligence.
    • Allows you to pretest critical parts of your strategy (positioning, messaging, creative, offers).
    • Helps you avoid making significant (and sometimes, expensive) mistakes.

  3. Insufficient High Level Support

    Implementing the CMO process involves a great deal of change, both overt change that can be seen and internal change that can’t. Both create pressure, and the manifestation of that pressure is resistance. Resistance can compromise results. Only visible, sustained, proactive senior management support can break the log jams of resistance.

  4. Sudden Agendas

    The most typical sudden agenda goes like this: “Sales are below quota – we need to take action now. We’ll do this Opt-In Marketing stuff later, when we have time.” These sudden agendas derail long-term change and innovation.

  5. Lack of Field Integration

    Within a corporation, there is generally a lack of recognition that there are two kinds of customers. There is the big “C” customer, who buys the products and services. Then, there is the small “c” customer, Field Sales.

    Field Sales often has no input regarding the strategy and execution of a marketing program. Thus, it is no wonder that Field Sales feels no ownership and exhibits no buy-in. Integration of the field from day one is the only answer.

  6. Conflicting Measurement

    Traditionally, Marketing is measured and rewarded based on gross response – inquiries and leads. Field Sales, however, is measured by net sales and dollars. This creates enormous tension. To achieve lasting change, all areas must be measured and rewarded based on revenue contribution, customer satisfaction and retention and lifetime value.

  7. Ineffective Lead Criteria and Classification

    As the cross-functional team votes on the information that comprises a lead, the most important votes are from Field Sales – because what’s at stake is their sales efficiency and compensation.

    Field Sales must also drive the classification of leads (i.e. A, B, C, D, etc.) For instance, when is it appropriate to invest their time in following up on a lead? Which leads are to be nurtured by other media?

  8. Ineffective Lead Tracking

    Full-loop management is an area where most companies fail. Field Sales must champion the process of lead tracking both as a concept and in practice. Not only must field management be visible supporters, they must also educate the reps as to the ultimate value of lead tracking – more sales.

    Feeding results back into the system will fuel continuous improvement, which will generate more qualified sales opportunities, a higher close ratio, and more net revenue.

Senior Director of CRM Analytics, The Gap

Marketers hate process. I remember telling one of my bosses early in my career that “process will kill creativity.”

But never have I been so wrong. Good process will actually spur innovation and creativity. Bad process, which most marketing organizations currently have, kills creativity and prevents change from happening.

Having been through several marketing organizational change programs in my career, I speak from experience. And from this experience I offer seven high-level recommendations for leading a marketing change effort, derived from 20 years of experience in Fortune 100 companies attempting such change.

  1. Get intimate with the principles of process development and process improvement.

    Understand that a process is merely a set of steps to get something done.
    Ask yourself (and the organization) the tough questions. For example, “Do we have too many steps to get a campaign out the door?” or “Do we have too many people involved who are unclear of their role?”
    If you are hiring an expert, be sure to seek a process specialty shop where you will be dealing with experienced people, not the shop’s “B” team.
    I suggest reading the following books: “Managing Transition,” by William Bridges and “Continuous Process Improvement,” by George Robson.


  2. Get your leadership engaged in this understanding of process and change management.

    Make sure your CEO knows how difficult this will be (without scaring them) and make sure they champion the effort.


  3. Rethink the roles of your people as defined by revised business processes. This will include training, and some restaffing to new talent needs.

    Remember that change is hard for most people, especially when it requires that they develop new skills or stop using old skills that they have worked hard to acquire.


  4. Get metrics that matter and make sure everyone in the organization shares accountability for those metrics.

    Shared goals are what make winning teams. Find metrics that are core, such as revenue (or margin) growth, balanced by a customer satisfaction-type goal.


  5. Keep a firm hand on the wheel, yet be flexible and have empathy.

    You’re going to hear whining…a lot of it. Listen and tolerate some of it, but don’t give in.
    Understand that it will take people months to get used to their roles and it will take time for teams to gel.


  6. Always engage others in the benefits of the change and get them involved early.

    Get leaders of other departments involved when your process involves their people.


  7. Appoint change leaders, empower them and hold them accountable, as well as holding the executive leadership team accountable.

    Even the most talented manager cannot implement a change management strategy on top of an existing 50-hour work week. Dedicate talented people to the effort and be sure to train and coach them.


    And finally, buy stock in J&J since your upcoming Tylenol consumption will probably move their share price. Good luck!


Change is in the air…the weather is changing, the leaves are changing, and so it is a perfect time to talk about Change Management.

Change management is crucial to your ability to successfully implement the Consensual Marketing Opt-In Process® and the Integrated Direct Marketing methodology (IDM®), and hinges on two challenging issues:

  1. Managing the organizational change process to ensure lasting improvements
  2. Becoming a successful Change Agent

We have included a number of articles to help you not only understand these challenges, but offer assistance in addressing them.

I am also pleased to introduce Andrew Watt, Senior Director of CRM Analytics, The Gap, our guest columnist. He offers seven recommendations for implementing organizational change, derived from years in the trenches. Don’t miss it!

They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol

And lastly, a big “thank you” to all who have visited ERDM’s new website, and offered terrific feedback. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to drop by and visit, please click here.

Happy reading, and don’t forget to keep sending your thoughts, questions and suggestions, at Drop me a note if you’d like to be considered for a guest column in the future.

Best wishes,

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