In this post, we’ll outline the organizational change process one step at a time, defining a roadmap that leaders can follow when implementing any business transformation.
Understanding the organizational change process is the first step towards effective change management, the business discipline dedicated to coordinating and implementing organizational changes.
Though all projects are unique, most organizational changes follow the same general process, which we’ll take a look at below.
A Step-by-Step Outline of the Organizational Change Process
Here are five steps that offer a high-level overview of how changes are implemented in organizations, regardless of their size or industry.
The first step in any change process is clearly understanding the current state of the organization.
That information will help managers decide on the project’s starting point, strategy, and action plan, among other things.
Assessments can include:
- Gap analyses
- Risk assessments
- Digital maturity assessments
- Change readiness assessments
- Skills tests
Some assessments will be common to all types of change programs, while others will depend on the nature of the program itself.
A digital skills test, for instance, will be necessary during programs that involve technology adoption. They may, however, be unnecessary during other types of change efforts, such as organizational culture changes.
2. Envisioning and designing change strategy
Early on, change leaders will often create a vision for change that paints a picture of what the organization will look like after a program has been completed.
That picture – as well as the change story that accompanies it – will act as a guiding light as well as a benchmark for teams to follow when implementing the initiative.
That end point, in conjunction with the assessments above, will act as both the beginning and end points for the program.
Together, they will help managers:
- Define a trajectory for the organizational change itself
- Develop a change management strategy
- Design an actual roadmap for change, as discussed below
In short, assessments and visions help managers decide how the organization should get from point A to point B – and create the best strategy for implementing that change.
Strategies, however, only define the overall approach to solving a problem.
Next, change managers must translate that approach into a concrete series of activities
3. Planning a roadmap
A roadmap for change, much like a project management plan, will map out the change program in stages.
Like other business programs, change plans should include goals, milestones, objectives, metrics, and other elements common to a business project.
When developing this plan, change managers should focus on tasks such as:
- Assigning teams
- Documenting the project schedule, team responsibilities, and project guidelines
- Creating a visual journey map that teams can refer to throughout the project
- Developing a communication strategy and incorporating that into the plan
Roadmaps such as these should be based on change models, which are frameworks that outline the organizational change process.
Many of these frameworks, such as Prosci’s ADKAR framework, are practical models. That is, they provide managers with a series of steps that they can follow in order to achieve their goals, overcome obstacles, and maximize results.
Others, such as the Lewin change management model, offer a more generalized framework that offer insight into how change processes affect group psychology and dynamics.
4. Implementing change
Up until now, the entire focus has been on preparing for the actual change process. Those these preparations can be time-consuming, they are necessary and well worth the investment.
The next item on the agenda is to actually execute the change project.
When implementing change, managers should bear a few points in mind:
- The more closely and carefully a project is managed, the better its outcomes will be
- Like most other business projects, change programs should use data to inform decision-making, gauge performance, and judge results
- Agile change management practices will allow managers and leaders to respond quickly to obstacles or unforeseen circumstances and, ultimately, achieve better outcomes
- If leaders are visible and actively engaged with the workforce, employees will be more supportive and there will be less resistance to change
How effectively a change project is implemented will have a direct impact on how well it meets its objectives. Yet, as mentioned above, managers’ ability to perform their jobs will rely on how well the project is structured and prepared.
5. Reinforcement and review
There are several tasks that should be continued, even after a project is complete.
- To ensure that the change sticks, managers should continually review employee productivity and maintain strict accountability
- Reinforcement of change, through mechanisms such as rewards and incentives, can help prevent employees from slipping back into old habits
- Reviewing the performance of the change initiative can provide useful information to incorporate into future initiatives, while also demonstrating the value and ROI of the program
Enterprises with lower levels of change management may manage every project separately, but this can lead to ad hoc standards, practices, and results.
Reinforcement and review can both be used to further incorporate change management into an organization’s standard operating procedure and, as a result, elevate the organization’s change management maturity level.