Meet Organizational Change Management Lead Jonathan Monson

By Carly Erickson | May 1, 2023

Meet Jonathan Monson

Meet Jonathan Monson, Organizational Change Management Lead at Stoneridge Software. Jonathan is passionate about empowering others through practicable, human-centered solutions. As part of the organizational change management team, Jonathan links strategic thinking with tactical execution to tie project vision and success criteria to the behavioral outcomes needed from your teams to realize the ROI.

Q: How would you define Change Management?

A: One of my favorite ways to define organizational change management is strategic empathy. You can find formal definitions with a web search but at the end of the day, organizational change management focuses on the people side of any undertaking. In considering the people side, we strive to understand their experience and the ways in which humans are predictably irrational. We empathize.

The strategic component is understanding that adopting a change is not just a matter of training — we have all known the right way to do something but still not done it. We need to engage people at a deeper level, and in different ways depending on the person, to bring them along rather than just force them to adapt. Human behavior, especially within our jobs, is often a function of identity. We understand ourselves to some extent by what we do—the role and mindset of an accountant differs from someone in operations which differs from a salesperson, even though they might all be working toward the same overarching vision and perhaps even identify strongly with the organization over their individual jobs.

Q: Why do we need to think about how employees relate to their job?

A: I think there are two separate topics here: identity and impact. Thinking about the impact first, many small changes can create a significant impact. In change management, we assess and strive to account for the level of impact in how we manage the change. So, if in fact there is minimal impact, we don’t over plan. That said, even small changes can have a big impact. For example, one of the goals we often hear on implementations is to automate parts of the business process, freeing up employee time to do things like analysis instead of just input. An employee might lose one seemingly small task to automation, but the shift to analysis could be a substantial change in the type of work and even the concept of the role that often has different knowledge, skills, and abilities needed from that employee. So, a small change with a big impact.

The second topic, beyond the question of impact, is again the way someone identifies with their role. Before even asking if they have the knowledge, skills, and abilities for the future state, I think about what they find meaningful in their current job. Taking the example of automating a task: automation may be a benefit of the implementation, but if the person in the impacted role finds a sense of meaning in adding value to the company at that moment of input and has pride in their work, we are taking that away. Now a computer is doing it. That’s a mindset shift not everyone is ready for.

Q: As an Organizational Change Manager, how do you handle change in your own life?

A: I might be an organizational change manager, but I’m still a human! It’s interesting being aware of my change response and identifying when I’m resistant to something because I don’t understand what’s in it for me or feel I’m losing agency in something. As an example, I identify as an empathetic and strategic person. As AI is increasingly capable of creating high-level organizational change management plans and writing communications, this could pose a challenge to me and my role. I recognize, though, that it’s only pseudo-empathy and cannot actually account for cultural considerations or the human dynamics that guide my work. It takes intentional reflection and pursuit of understanding to not react to this sort of change negatively and instead strive to see it as an opportunity. I aim to provide opportunities for others undergoing their own change to similarly reflect, understand, and see the opportunity in what’s coming.

Q: How did you get into Organizational Change Management, specifically focused on Dynamics 365 implementations?

A: I have always been focused on empowering people, which has brought with it a variety of roles. Before entering the Microsoft world, I counseled people addicted to opiates, coached through a boutique communication consulting firm, and led training at a financial services firm. I have taught at a variety of levels, before, during, and after graduate school. I am a curious person, so any opportunity to learn is intriguing to me, and if I can apply that learning to help others, I’m happy.

Once I joined the Microsoft ecosystem, I found the junction where learning and helping others meets as an organizational change manager and trainer. I earned several Microsoft Dynamics and organizational change management certifications, and continue seeking opportunities to add to my knowledge of change, human behavior, design thinking, and strategy. Having this combination of knowledge and experience puts me in a unique position to help hundreds or thousands of people at once, which not every career gets to do.

Q: What does your typical day-to-day look like?

A: It depends on the client, how I’m supporting, and where we are in the implementation. Different clients require different approaches based on temperament, internal resources, and other changes happening in the organization. Some clients just want light touch guidance, but they own all the work, so we have a meeting for an hour or so a week and I make recommendations and provide tools and input and they do the rest. For other clients, I might spend that same hour on a call with them, but then spend 5-10 hours writing communications, planning a change champion program, and delivering workshops to managers on how to lead change for their teams. From an implementation timeline perspective, I tend to spend the most time with key project leaders up front working on strategy: what are the vision, success criteria, and key performance indicators of the project? How will it impact which audiences? How will we engage which stakeholders when? Then I slow down through development, just keeping a pulse on the project and addressing one-off concerns, and pick back up with tactical execution in the months before going live.

Q: What's the most common challenge you run into with your clients?

A: Busy leaders. Leaders need to be the ones setting the vision for the project, identifying success criteria and relevant metrics, accounting for the cultural context, and translating the impact of the change into meaningful messages for their teams—the “what’s in it for me?”. Too often they overschedule meetings, overly democratize decision making (as in there’s a lack of accountability for decision making, not that they get too much feedback), and get either too in the details to lead or remove themselves entirely and aren’t actively and visibly making the strategic decisions.

As an organizational change manager, I help identify when these things are happening and facilitate mitigation, but I am behind the scenes. Teams don’t want to hear from me, they want to hear from their senior leaders. And while being busy is expected, it can’t be an excuse not to lead.

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