“How can we handle change management?”
This question frequently comes across anyone’s mind who must initiate corporate change – but lacks the requisite experience.
Managing organizational change is certainly no easy task, but it can be done.
With the right tools, know-how, and techniques, it is possible to implement change projects that get real, substantial results.
Let’s look at a 10-step approach that you can follow to get real results in your next change project.
How Can We Handle Change Management?
The list below will give you some stepping stones for executing change projects, from start to finish.
1. Take a Systematic Approach to Change Management
The best first step is to actually learn about change management itself.
This discipline is decades old, with many time-tested techniques, approaches, and methods.
Here are a few key concepts that can get you off on the right foot:
- Learn about change management frameworks
- Understand why change management is important – that is, its ROI and business value
- Develop the necessary skills and tools for change management – through schooling or change management certifications, for instance
- Make change management a dedicated function in your business.
And so forth.
In short, the best way to start managing change is by learning about it and developing a change management business function.
2. Learn About the Drivers of Change
If you’re reading this, chances are there is a need for change in your business.
Understand, in detail, what is driving that change.
Examples of change drivers include:
- Growth opportunities
- Competitor pressure
- Customer demand
- The need for IT modernization
And so forth.
Understanding those drivers and needs will help you define specific goals for your change project.
3. Understand Challenges
What challenges will you face during your change project?
Understanding potential roadblocks is absolutely critical – failure to address them can lead to project failure.
Here are some common challenges faced by every change project:
- Employee or middle manager resistance
- Budget constraints
- Lack of executive support
- Technology constraints
Map out potential challenges, then think of ways to overcome those challenges.
4. Define Goals
Most likely, you already have some goals in mind for your change project.
However, when designing a systematic, methodical approach to change, those goals must be codified.
- Document those goals within your change plan
- Create and document methods you will use to achieve those goals
- Set metrics and KPIs
Clear, achievable goals are an essential part of any business project.
They help everyone have a purpose, stay in sync, and gauge progress.
5. Develop a Roadmap
Each change project will have its own unique set of goals – and these goals will have their own unique set of change management processes.
For example, imagine you are implementing a new in-house software platform.
Processes could include:
- Installing and pilot testing the program among a small group of employees
- Collecting data about the pilot test to use during rollout
- Onboard and train new employees with a digital adoption platform
- Conduct regular reviews
- Continually collect data and make adjustments as necessary
- Finalize the project
A roadmap is a very valuable tool in your change management toolbox.
It can serve as a guide for everyone involved, helping them know where they are, where they are going, and what needs to be done.
6. Choose Tools
Tools and technology are another essential asset for change managers.
The right tools offer significant benefits, such as:
- Cutting project costs
- Improving project outcomes
- Increasing efficiency and speed
- Streamlining communications
To name a few.
There are many tools that can help you during your journey, including:
- Project management tools
- Digital adoption platforms
- Change management tools
- HR software suites
There is no “ideal” tool for change management.
It often comes down to choosing the right tool for your needs and your budget.
7. Build Teams
Who will manage, lead, and execute your change project?
Though each organization may structure its change teams differently, here are a few common change management roles:
- The core change team, the team that manages the effort
- Supporters, such as outside vendors, who consult or assist with specialized needs
- Executives and senior management, who oversee the project
- Staff and managers, those who will actually implement the change
It is important to assign these roles and responsibilities early on.
After all, if no one is assigned a duty, it is unlikely to get done.
Communication is a fundamental pillar of change management.
On the one hand, communication helps employees understand the what, why, and how of the change project.
On the other, two-way communication helps employees feel included.
This is very important for preventing feelings of alienation and besiegement.
And it goes a long way towards reducing employee resistance, one of the most common barriers to change.
At this point, you have all of the pieces in place – your roadmap, your goals, your teams, and so forth.
Now, it’s time to actually put the plan into action.
While each roadmap will be unique, most change projects follow similar trajectories.
These are mapped out in change frameworks, mentioned earlier.
A very simple execution plan would follow Kurt Lewin’s change model:
- Unfreeze – Take steps to build awareness of the need for change and prepare employees for the change.
- Transition – Implement the processes you developed earlier, such as your communication strategy, employee training, and so on.
- Freeze – Make these changes permanent through reinforcement, ongoing training, and other mechanisms that prevent reversion to old habits.
These three stages offer an excellent overview of the change process.
For more detailed models, consider Prosci’s ADKAR model or John Kotter’s 8-Step Model for change.
As you go, don’t be afraid to make adjustments.
Use data, analytics, and feedback to find out what’s working and what needs adjusting.
If necessary, make changes to the actual plan itself.
In change management, agility is a good thing.
By keeping yourself open to change, you are staying focused on the needs of the stakeholders and the organization.
This approach will help you get better results, stay more relevant, and be more successful.