Driving successful change requires a well-structured change management strategy, careful execution, and ongoing effort.
As change managers and business leaders know, the stakes are high when it comes to organizational change.
- Organizational change efforts are expensive, time-consuming investments
- Successful change is by no means guaranteed … in fact, many change efforts fail
- Failed change efforts not only result in financial losses, but lost employee confidence, motivation, and productivity
Fortunately, change management can dramatically improve the chances of successful change, increase project efficiency, and improve employee productivity … among other benefits.
Driving Successful Change: A 3-Point Strategy
Change management is a sophisticated business discipline and we certainly cannot cover it comprehensively in this article.
However, the following 3-point strategy can act as a guide for organizations that need to better understand the principles behind change management.
Changing processes and systems is one important aspect of change management (see below).
However, changing systems is not enough to effect change.
Most change management methods and frameworks actually focus on people, since people are the ones who make it possible to drive successful change.
When developing a change management plan, put people first by focusing on areas such as:
Culture. An organization’s culture is derived from employees’ beliefs, values, and attitudes. It is important to have a culture that meshes well with a change initiative. In some cases, it may be desirable to change a culture in order to facilitate an organization’s evolving vision.
Communication. Earning employee support is crucial to driving successful change. Strategic, goal-oriented communication is critical to motivate workers and maintain productivity.
Skills. Unless employees have the skills to be productive, they won’t actually succeed. Change management programs should employ effective digital training efforts in order to achieve substantial results.
Accountability. Accountability systems, incentives, and other reinforcement mechanisms keep employees from slipping into old habits. When changes are not reinforced, employees can easily revert to previous workflows and methods, undoing all the changes made.
When people are supportive, motivated, and engaged, change efforts will be much more likely to succeed.
Many organizations focus on changing business processes during organizational change.
However, rather than just focusing on changing a business process or system, organizations should also change their fundamental approach to a business process or system.
For instance, applying the following approaches to change management can increase change project outcomes:
Agile. Agile change management, like agile software development, focuses on responsiveness, collaboration, and adaptability. When applying agile thinking to change management, change efforts will become more flexible and more relevant – which, in turn, can improve employee engagement and the overall results of the program.
Lean. Lean, like agile, prioritizes activities that are built around users and data, rather than processes that are pre-planned and static. Effective application of lean principles can reduce waste, improve efficiency, and help programs stay more relevant.
User-centered design. User-centered design, a design process built from user input and data, is another design approach that emphasizes the role of user input and data. Employing user-centered design principles can help process designers, employee experience designers, and others develop process that are more relevant, useful, and profitable.
Data-driven. Data provides a great many advantages wherever it is employed. In change management, data can be used to measure employee productivity, gauge program health, measure ROI, and much more. The results: improved efficiency, effectiveness, and performance.
The right business approach can make a great deal of difference.
But there is another important element to include in a change management strategy – technology.
Many organizational change efforts focus on technology in today’s business environment.
Digital transformation, for instance, is a business process that revolves mainly around the adoption of new technology and tech-enabled processes.
Having the right technology, therefore, is critical for ensuring that change programs succeed.
Here are a few tools that change managers should include in their toolbox:
Project management platforms. Project management tools include kanban boards, calendars, collaboration tools, and many other tools useful for project managers. They can be extremely useful for coordinating organizational change activities.
HR tools. HR platforms are multi-functional platforms that provide a wide range of capabilities. Most include all of the essential HR functions, such as payroll, attendance, and communication tools. These platforms can be very useful in change management, which often leverages HR to communicate with employees and manage restructuring efforts.
Communication tools. As we saw above, communication is an essential ingredient for any change effort. Communication software can include chat software, employee surveys, knowledge base platforms, and more.
Data and analytics. As mentioned, data-driven business practices can add a great deal of insight and efficiency when applied to change management. Of course, without analytics tools, it is impossible to engage in such data-driven practices.
Digital adoption platforms (DAPs). Digital adoption platforms are onboarding, training, and adoption solutions that can streamline many aspects of the change process. With effective training solutions, employees can gain the skills and the confidence they need to drive successful change.
With tools such as these – and the strategies mentioned above – change managers can deliver better outcomes at a lower cost and in less time.