Creating an effective change management process: what every manager should know
By: Leanne Armstrong
Whether you need to transition to a new software system, or refocus your entire marketing strategy, following an established change management process will help make the transformation smoother.
Managing organizational change is rarely easy.
It takes a great deal of planning. It requires a strategy that minimizes cost and softens internal resistance. And its success is very much tied to the amount of effort you invest in encouraging a positive outcome.
One McKinsey Global Survey found that only 26% of transformation initiatives typically succeed! Organizations that took a rigorous, action-heavy approach to change, however, saw that success rate climb by more than two-thirds.
In this article, we’ll explore a simple but actionable change management process along with some techniques you can use to streamline change as it plays out across your department or business.
Principles of change management
The change management process is designed to shift your organization from its current state to a desirable future state at minimal cost. The more methodical your approach – and the more pointed the actions you take – the better your outcome is likely to be.
While no single activity guarantees your change process will be 100% effective, research suggests that following certain practices can triple your odds of success:
- Communicating effectively throughout the process
- Leading actively and by example
- Engaging and empowering your employees or team members
- Creating an environment of continuous improvement
In many companies, best practices like these represent the core principles of change management. Keeping them in mind as you develop your change management process will make it easier to accomplish vital improvements.
5 key change management steps
Most organizational change unfolds in three stages:
Stage 1 of the change management process is when you become aware that your current structure, strategy, or technology is no longer effective.
Stage 2 includes exploring and settling on a solution that will either help your company get ahead or help it sidestep a problematic situation.
Stage 3 involves implementing and monitoring the change management plan you create.
Let’s look at 5 key change management steps that will carry you through all three stages.
1. Explore the change you need to make
Every change management process begins with recognizing a problem that needs to be solved or an improvement that needs to be made – whether it includes cutting overhead or ramping up customer service.
- Identify the challenge you’re facing and explore its implications across your organization
- Assess market conditions and examine performance indicators to investigate external factors; take advantage of employee insight to help clarify internal factors
- Determine if the focus for change revolves around your people, procedures, or technologies
Understanding your company’s current state will help you better visualize what needs to change to reach your desired future state.
2. Earmark areas for change
Once you’ve clarified your goals, you can begin to identify those areas where changes will need to be made.
- Make use of departmental feedback and tools like digital problem-solving diagrams to explore system flaws
- Start securing the necessary time commitments and budgetary resources to instigate change
- Build a support team that will “own” the upcoming initiative
Most successful transformations are driven by small, enthusiastic groups that excel at collaborating over a shared objective and bringing others onboard along the way.
3. Create a change plan
Be sure the change plan your team creates leaves winning products, processes, and personnel roles intact as much as possible. Coca Cola’s new 2020 Vision growth strategy, for example, may call for changing the company’s management model, but it leaves core products untouched.
- Map out specific changes to be made, along with measures, resources, and timelines
- Evaluate and prepare for the impact your strategy will have across various departments
- Get your plan approved by stakeholders
Prioritizing continuous communication is the best way to set yourself up for success. MindManager’s visual mapping software will help you create a change plan that can be communicated in 5 minutes or less – and that’s simple enough for everyone involved to understand.
4. Implement your change plan
Implementing change in an orderly way includes taking a design-test-repeat approach to ensure shortcomings are detected and dealt with.
- Look to previous change efforts for lessons learned in terms of employee preparation and training
- Find ways to hold leaders and individuals accountable to their roles as your plan unfolds
- Set up and use metrics and data to analyze performance results
Note that client-centric Amazon won’t let any team begin a new initiative until they’ve figured out how they’re going to use real-time performance metrics to measure customer response.
5. Evaluate the outcome of your change management process
Did you know that the likelihood of a successful change outcome increases when you make continuous improvement part of your plan’s execution?
- Continue to use data and metrics to monitor the results of your strategy during its implementation and beyond
- Have team members engage in daily discussions about the previous day’s results and the current day’s goals (teams that do so are twice as likely to accomplish change successfully)
- Actively solicit and stay open to feedback
Shielding your change project from critical observation and input is a recipe for failure. When everyone understands how their individual contribution supports the broader change at hand, you’re almost six times as likely to achieve transformation success.
How to encourage more positive change management outcomes
Resistance to change is both normal within an organization and the biggest stumbling block in the change management process. So it’s important to stay focused on the people involved in making your transformation happen.
The main reason that certain change management requirements exist around communication and leadership, for example, is because they minimize negative reactions toward workplace adjustments while maximizing positive outcomes.
You can improve your results – and motivate individuals to shake off old ways – by making it a requirement to:
- Implement your change management process in stages, rather than all at once
- Practice transparent communication around the implications surrounding change
- Support team members and actively model the change behaviors you want to see
Here are some change management techniques that will help you achieve those objectives.
- Invite participation: You’ll overcome resistance more effectively within your department or business if you ask team members to get involved in every aspect of the change management process – from the design of your plan to the various phases of its implementation.
- Keep everyone in the loop: Use reports, email communications, group presentations, and one-on-one discussions to keep everyone informed about why change is necessary and what proposed alterations will look like – both before and while they take place.
- Provide practical support: In addition to ensuring your team has the training and resources required to make change as seamless as possible, provide individual support by making yourself available to answer questions and mitigate stress as it arises. It’s also a good idea to spend some time where change is actively happening – whether that’s in your call center, on the factory floor, or both.
The best way to keep your organization moving forward as you navigate the change management process is by committing to a philosophy of continuous improvement and by using flexible mapping software like MindManager to develop and strengthen your knowledge, strategy, and troubleshooting systems.