David Bowie and Procurement – Dealing with Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes


Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, (Turn and face the strange),

Ch-ch-changes, Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it,

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, (Turn and face the strange)

Ch-ch-changes, Where’s your shame,

You’ve left us up to our necks in it, Time may change me,

But you can’t trace time.

I recently sat through a presentation on dealing with change and being resilient. Sadly most of what I took away was negative, telling people to “get over it”. It reminded me of the Bowie song, and I decided to write some thoughts about change management down.

A former manager of mine once said, “Gordon, in procurement we are basically change agents.” Every organisation needs to bring about changes in its management and policies, but besides the improvement of systems, there must be a change in the people as well. If not then the thousands of dollars invested will go to waste. Therefore every organisation needs to support the employees in the process of making transitions or changes. These individual transformations can be traumatic and may involve a lot of power loss and prestige issues.

In reviewing the range of literature there are some guiding principles for change management that have jumped out:

  • People – the main point to address are the people who impact or who are impacted by the change being proposed. Therefore there is a need to address the “human side” systematically
  • Change starts at the top – if you haven’t got buy in from decision makers, its unlikely that the change will happen. If the exec champions the change, then the change will be made.
  • Burning platforms – if there is a reason for the change to happen that everyone can relate to, the change becomes smoother. A friend once said to me that he had found lots of issues with a process that could have caused a large problem, however he couldn’t make those changes because they had “got away with it”!
  • Empower the “bottom” – although it starts at the top, it’s imperative that those directly affected have the chance to shape the nature and implementation of the change. This may then head off any disruption part way through.
  • Be realistic with the change – if you try and change too much too soon, you may end up actually losing ground like Evil Knievel and his Snake river canyon jump
  • Communication – I am planning the next article to discuss more on this important aspect, but suffice to say, the type of communication and the language you use is important.
  • Scenario plan options – I have written previously about the need to scenario plan.

Change Models

Here are the most used change models with a summary of them:



The Kubler-Ross Change Curve (which is also known as the 5 stages of grief) is a model consisting of the various levels or stages of emotions which are experienced by a person who is soon going to experience change. The 5 stages included in this model are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. This model was introduced by and is named after Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in a book called ‘Death and Dying’ which came out in the year 1969.

The ADKAR Model

This Model was created for individual change management by Prosci. This model demonstrates the 5 ingredients needed for change to be possible and successfully implemented. These 5 ingredients are given as follows:

  • Awareness – Awareness is a very important building block that helps one understand why change is important and needed.
  • Desire – The desire to be a part of change and support it is another vital ingredient.
  • Knowledge – The desire is incomplete without knowing how change can be brought about.
  • Ability – Even on having the desire to change and the knowledge to bring about this change, things can go in vain if the individual does not have the ability to grow with it.
  • Reinforcement – This building block is important to sustain the change.

John Kotter: 8-step Strategy for Change Management

John Kotter suggested a strategy for change management consisting of an 8-step process to deal with change:

  • Create: Establish a feeling of urgency or hurriedness towards change.
  • Build: Formulate a guiding coalition.
  • Form: Develop a strategy to bring about change. This requires having a plan and a vision.
  • Enlist: Communicate or put forth the vision or strategy for change.
  • Enable: Empower the employees for taking action to incorporate the changes.
  • Generate: Formulating and generating short-term goals and achieving them
  • Sustain: Capitalisation of wins or gains in order to produce bigger results.
  • Institute: Incorporating new and better changes in the workplace culture.

Kurt Lewin – Force Field Analysis

This is a tool used to understand what’s needed for change in both corporate and personal environments. Typically used in the change part of his Freeze, Change, Refreeze model.

Lewin wrote that “An issue is held in balance by the interaction of two opposing sets of forces – those seeking to promote change (driving forces) and those attempting to maintain the status quo (restraining forces)”.

Essentially you brainstorm what would drive change or what would stop it, and the scale of each of the forces. You then identify what you can do to affect those forces; i.e increase driving, decrease restraining, eliminate restraining, add new driving, or turn a restraining into a driving force.


The common point about change is dealing with people as individuals and recognising that everyone reacts to change differently, its critically important therefore not to tell people to shake it off, or tell them they are overreacting, people deal with change differently and if we don’t acknowledge the issue, people won’t really change and will find more passive ways to resist, when the ideal is to accept and even drive the change though.

Remember people are the most important asset for change, so as David Bowie said…”Ch-ch-changes, Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it”.