Managing Change Effectively: An Art or a Science?

Are there secrets to managing change effectively?

Some view change management as an art.

Others as a science.

But the best change managers know that it is both…

On the one hand, you need to approach it methodically and systematically.

However, there is also an art to change management. 

Change practitioners must be able to balance employee sentiment, executive requirements, data, and project results … among other things.

In this sense, it is both an art and a science.

Below, we’ll explore some secrets to managing change effectively – whether you view change management as an art, a science, or both.

What Are the Secrets to Managing Change Effectively?

Here are some of the most important principles to keep in mind when executing organizational change projects.

A Change Management Process

Change management frameworks describe organizational change processes.

These frameworks are typically centered around individual change. That is, they focus on helping employers influence and motivate employees.

These are usually action-oriented – they are meant to be applied.

For example, Prosci’s ADKAR model consists of five steps:

  • Building awareness of the need for change
  • Creating the desire for change
  • Providing workers with the knowledge they need to change
  • Ensuring they have the ability to demonstrate skills and behavior
  • Reinforcing change to ensure that it sticks

There are certainly other change models out there. 

John Kotter’s 8-Step model is one of the most well-known.

Regardless of the framework you choose, using a change model can improve your chances of success.

And, just as importantly, it can help prevent your change management project from failing.

Change Leadership

Management alone is not enough to ensure success … you must also be a good leader.

Change leaders:

  • Create a vision for the desired future state of the change project
  • Embrace and embody the change first – setting an example for employees to follow
  • Drive the change forward, so that managers can ensure it operates smoothly and meets its objectives

The right leadership can make all the difference when it comes to organizational change.

Good leaders can motivate followers, earn support, and produce great outcomes.

Poor leadership, on the other hand, can demotivate employees, produce lackluster results, or even cause projects to fail.

A Strong Change Team

A strong change team is essential. 

This team will be responsible for coordinating your entire change project.

They will help:

  • Assess risk, rewards, change readiness, and other relevant metrics
  • Coordinate and conduct the change project
  • Manage and communicate with other groups related to the change project, such as frontline employees, outside vendors, and executives

The right change management team can make or break a project.

Perpetual Learning

A culture of learning can be one of the most valuable assets to a change management department.

Such cultures base their values on:

  • A mindset of continual improvement and growth
  • The perpetual search for truth
  • Openness to change

Among other principles.

The value of a culture such as this cannot be understated.

Employees who are lifelong learners will be more willing and open to change. This, in turn, will improve your projects’ outcomes.

Soft Skills

Soft skills – particularly communication – are absolutely critical for successful change management.

The right soft skills form the “artistic” side of change management. 

They are necessary to earning employee support, reducing employee resistance, and improving teamwork.

Soft skills include:

  • Communication
  • Problem-Solving
  • Creativity
  • Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

In an era where technology rules, soft skills such as these are essential to keeping your organization centered around humans.

Technology Skills

Alongside soft skills come “hard skills.”

That is, the change management department must be able to crunch numbers, analyze data, and learn from that information.

Today, this means:

  • Using data and analytics to gain insight into change management projects
  • Use digital technology to its fullest extent, in order to maximize employee productivity, minimize errors, and improve efficiency
  • Benefit from the latest change management software and tools, such as project management software

This isn’t to say that a change manager must also be a data scientist.

But having data scientists on board certainly can’t hurt – in fact, it can only help.

The right technology and the right knowledge can significantly benefit your change initiatives. And, in an era when every business is exploiting digital technology, it’s practically a prerequisite for success.

Adaptability

Continual change requires adaptability.

The right change management approach will be flexible, nimble, and responsive.

Earlier, we mentioned that change management frameworks are crucial to successful change management. And that is certainly true.

However, today’s organizations are undergoing continual change. This means that the most adaptable change managers will be the most successful.

Staying adaptable, in other words, means:

  • Being open to changing your own processes when necessary
  • Responding to real-world data, not preconceived notions
  • Shifting tactics when it’s called for
  • Collaborating closely with employees, executives, customers, and stakeholders

The more agile and adaptable your change management style, the more effectively you’ll be at managing change.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.