Whether you’re planning something as small as a new app rollout or as significant as a complete restructuring, having an effective change management process in place is a must. But don’t worry, we have everything you need to know to be an effective change agent for any new solution.
Change management is fundamentally about successfully guiding people through a behavior change. It’s easy to get bogged down in business jargon when we talk about organizational change (“We have this new tool and we need to successfully deploy it by EOW to meet our Q4 OKRs!”), but the human factor is at the core of all change. If old habits die hard, any change management strategy has to fully account for those who will be impacted by the update, or it will fail.
We’ve all seen the outcomes of poorly managed change: low adoption, fear, anxiety, and falling back on old habits. After a series of failed changes, people eventually stop trusting that any change will be successful, then stop even trying to effect change — at which point a business ceases to be competitive, and stagnates. Having an effective change management process in place is a risk mitigator and enables organizations to sidestep this stagnation cycle altogether.
The first step in a good change management process is knowing the why behind the change, and then following it up with clear communication and an incentive to change. After all, not getting buy-in is one of the main ways change management processes fail, but it’s not the only one. Get a deep dive into why change management efforts fail.
In order to set your organization down the path of successful change (and mitigate potential risks), there are five major steps to take.
When we think about prep, we tend to think about logistics and solutions (which are important), but an underrated aspect of the preparation process is looking at how a change can be supported by behavior and culture. Help employees and leadership understand where the problems are before introducing a new solution; actively solicit feedback on the current state of things and use it to inform how you communicate your upcoming change and identify who needs to be a stakeholder.
Now that you understand how to position your change for broader organizational buy-in, you’re ready to determine the scope, craft a rollout plan, pull in the right stakeholders, and determine how you’ll measure success. It’s also important that you share the why behind the change as part of your buy-in process as you present the plan to different constituencies within the company, and speak to how it will impact each one individually.
Next, get your project off the ground. Follow the action plan you’ve laid out, but make sure to solicit feedback at every step to see if you need to make adjustments as you go. Not only can this mitigate longer-term failure, but it can also help maintain buy-in as employees see their needs addressed and integrated as you hit milestones.
You finished the change rollout and everything is going great — for about 6 weeks. How do you keep people from reverting to old habits and undoing all of your team’s great work? Reinforce the behavior change through incentives, documentation, ongoing communication, and, perhaps most importantly, visible ideal state modeling by leadership.
It’s time to review the success of your change. Look back at the key performance indicators you assigned before the rollout (before/after snapshots are very helpful), and run a post-mortem to get a holistic view of how the process went, and how “sticky” it’s been.
If you want to excel at change management, you’ll need to learn the lingo. Here’s a quick cheat sheet.
A change management model is a pre-built structure (informed by a lot of real-world experimentation) for crafting an effective change management process within a company. Common models are ADKAR, Lewin’s, Kotter’s, McKinsey’s, and Kübler-Ross’s.
A change management process is the end-to-end implementation of a change within an organization.
A change management plan is the specific way change is effected within the larger process. Here is our expert guide to writing yours.
Now that you know how to run a smooth change management process, you might be wondering what steps you need to take to create that process in the first place. Here’s what you need to do:
Change for change’s sake isn’t helpful to anyone. Step one is to figure out exactly what needs to change, and why. Not only does this clarify things like scope and timeline, it also helps you identify who needs to be involved and at what level.
Having the right stakeholders involved is key. After all, they’re going to be the ones helping you properly implement change! They need to be bought in before anyone else and can help you identify the best way to prepare the organization for what’s coming.
Here’s where you want to document what your key performance indicators will be throughout the change process. You’ll want to grab snapshots of your current state in order to judge success at pre-identified progress points (as well as after the process is complete).
What do you need to effectively implement the change? What do you want the future state to look like? Be as granular as possible in determining success metrics.
No one likes being in the dark! Make sure your process, checkpoints, and metrics for success are visible to everyone who’ll be affected — and frequently solicit feedback, so that you can...
Again, change is hard. Making sure people feel heard can help you reduce resistance levels and make the process easier to undertake. Additionally, occasional reminders of the why behind the change and how it will benefit those affected can keep everyone working toward a common goal.
At the end of the process (or, better yet, at each big milestone) celebrate what you and your team have accomplished. Positive feedback makes any future plans for change that much easier to buy into.
Recognize that there’s always room for improvement. It’s called a process for a reason. What worked for you years ago might need to be completely overhauled now that you have a new team/organization/product. Take what you’ve learned and adapt.
Equip yourself for change management success by using the right tools for the job. Here are some of the best solutions: