What Is Change Management?

What is Change Management? Change is the one constant in business, and Change Management is a process that ensures people are able to embrace organizational change successfully. People comprise organizations and they will make or break the success of an initiative – whether it be a merger or acquisition or the implementation of a new process or workflow.

Change Management

Change Management Definition

To us, the change management (CM) definition is simple: change management is the systematic approach to managing change that impacts people.

There is both individual change management and organizational change management. Both are crucial to the success of managing change effectively (e.g., implementing significant projects or changes within an organization). See the below table for common steps in the change management process.

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Change Management Process

  1. Define

    • Problem
    • Ideal Solution(s)
    • Scope
    • Analysis
    • Stakeholders Align Expectations & Perceptions Risks Costs
  2. Plan

    • Steps
    • Communication
    • Process Modeling
  3. Execute

    • Measure / Reporting
    • Tools
  4. Reinforce

    • KPIs
    • Rectify Pain Points
    • Address Fears
    • Tweak Plan & Processes

Change Management Process

The case for change management is strong, and if you are a consultant or plan to be one, understanding its use and how to apply it with your clients is a must. A benchmark study by Prosci documents a strong correlation between change management and meeting and exceeding expectations.

According to Prosci, “Data from the 2013 benchmarking study showed that 96% of participants with excellent change management met or exceeded objectives, while only 16% of those with poor change management met or exceeded objectives”. Statistics like these underscore why effective change management is a necessary component to success in today’s business environment.

People comprise organizations and for change to be adopted, employees must embrace the reasons behind change. Once embraced, employees can commit to initiatives, even if they cause a mild amount of discomfort.

Change Management Principles

There are 10 commonly accepted change management principles:

  1. Begin at the Top of an Organization

    It is critical that organizational leadership fully supports a change initiative. For any change to be accepted below the officer and executive level of an organization, the executive team and officers must model enthusiasm and support.

  2. Address the People Issues

    Most people do not readily embrace change as it can be threatening to what they know and their perceived stability. Positions may change and new skills must be learned to support changes. This is why a formal change management plan must be created (more on this below) and agreed to by all key stakeholders prior to implementing change.

  3. Explain the WHY

It is critical that each internal area impacted by change understand how it will specifically impact them and why the change is needed. It is far easier for employees to accept and support change when they understand its need. This is why customized messaging for each impacted internal audience is key, as one message does not usually fit all within an organization.

Employees must believe that the desired end-result is achievable and that the organization is committed to seeing implementation through. This sometimes involves having really tough and realistic conversations about what will be required, but it is worth the early investment in uncomfortable chats.

  1. Involve Everyone Impacted

Involve everyone impacted from the top to the bottom of an organization. Leaders in various departments throughout an organization impacted by change must buy into the need for change prior to expecting employees to embrace any change. Their teams will look to them for guidance and must see that their specific leaders support and believe in the need for the work it will take to accomplish the needed change. Without buy-in throughout all layers of an organization, critical initiatives may not be successful.

  1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

During any change, lack of information can create confusion and lack of faith in a work effort. It is essential that employees are kept informed of the progress of change that impacts them so they may remain focused on what must be accomplished and not be distracted by possible “what ifs”. Most employees do not love surprises and would rather be in the know.

  1. Create Buy-In

Change must be owned by leadership but adopted by all members of an organization. This means that leadership must be an example to all by involving and incentivizing all to move towards the new normal. This may include rolling out an incentive plan or a reward for implementing a new project.

  1. Be Clear About Culture

In order to support change, leadership must be clear about how the organization will look in the future and how all participants will behave. Leaders must also model these desired behaviors for all layers of an organization to follow suit.

  1. Assess Organizational Behaviors Early and Often

It is important to regularly take the temperature of the internal environment. How are employees handling change? Are they as productive as usual? What changes need to be made to better support employees during times of change?

It will be far better to make small changes along the way to rectify any concerns to ensure the successful implementation of any desired change.

  1. Get Personal

Change may be an organizational effort, but it impacts each human within the organization, and sometimes in differing ways. It is critical to remember the impact change often has on the individual, which is why allowing team members to ask questions will help them better handle and manage the change they are experiencing.

  1. Be Ready for the Unplanned

Nothing ever goes exactly as planned. As such, every change management plan must flex to address issues as they arise. New data comes in all of the time from within an organization and from the external environment, so baking in the ability to make adjustments is a necessary part of change management.

Change Management Tools

There are a number of change management tools available, however here are three tools that should not be overlooked during any change management initiative:

  • Process Maps and Flow Charts

These tools allow employees impacted by change to visualize the steps of any change initiative and how it impacts them directly. These tools may be modified along the way to ensure all necessary steps in the implementation of any change are accounted for and communicated as appropriate.

  • Gantt Charts

These charts help employees see when tasks will take place and how tasks overlap and impact each other. They can also communicate which tasks are on track for timely completion – and which are not.

  • Stakeholder Analysis

Stakeholder analysis is necessary to identify who within an organization is impacted by change and their role in its successful implementation. This tool also assigns the priority of each stakeholder and ultimately results in a map that outlines how all of these stakeholders come together to ensure the success of a change initiative.

See here for examples of each of these change management tools.

Change Management Plan

Crafting a change management plan is crucial in preparing to lead individuals through change effectively. A project that would otherwise be successful can fail if people are not prepared, trained and ready to embrace the changes they are facing.

Change management plans should include/document the following:

  • Why change is needed. If the why isn’t clear, it will be nearly impossible for employees to get on board and embrace change.
  • Scope of change. Clearly define what is changing and how long it should take to implement the change.
  • Stakeholders. Document who is involved and why.
  • The change management team. These people will be responsible for the change management plan and all of its components.
  • An approach for managing change to include senior executives and officers. Explain how change will be managed and shared throughout the organization.
  • Stakeholder-specific plans. Each stakeholder within the organization must receive specific direction on what they must do to implement change and how their role impacts other areas.
  • Communication plans. Communicating about any change is necessary to ensure buy-in at all levels of an organization. Determining how to best approach the delivery of this information should be defined early and communication lines should remain open throughout a change initiative.
  • Resistance tracking. Questions or issues that arise should be addressed early and often to ensure productivity remains high.
  • Change control procedures. These procedures must be established initially to ensure unplanned issues or internal resistance is addressed quickly to keep a change initiative on track and to ensure its success.

Change is Inevitable So It Is Best to Manage It

Unsurprisingly, change can create chaos within organizations if it is not managed effectively. Change Management calms the chaotic waters of change by systematically defining why change is needed and how everyone involved will help to achieve the results the change will bring.

There is no one-size-fits all approach to change management but following the above change management principles and using tools will go a long way to ensuring success.

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Filed Under: Consulting skills, Corporate Training, management consulting