An efficient change management process is at the heart of every example of bold organizational change that results in business success. To build that kind of infrastructure, you need a change management plan that’s tailored to your company’s needs.
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Despite the amount of online content and how-to books that are available on the subject of change management, success rates haven’t exactly skyrocketed in recent years. In fact, according to McKinsey, 70% of change management strategies fail to deliver optimal results.
While this is at least partly due to internal resistance and lack of managerial support, research indicates that the sheer pace of technological innovation is becoming an increasingly important factor in long-term change management success.
Therefore, it’s more important than ever to build a solid change management plan. Doing so allows you to strategize without fear, and emphasize both confident execution and continuous improvement. Without such a plan in place, enjoying the widespread benefits of meaningful digital transformation is next to impossible.
This blog post will focus on constructing the best change management plan for your business–one that respects your organizational needs and goals but also opens you up to bigger and better possibilities for growth through a commitment to IT.
As if that weren’t enough, you can also download our free change management plan template at the end of this blog post, for easy sharing and future reference as you embark on your digital transformation journey.
To get your copy now, click here to skip to the end of this article.
Otherwise, let’s get started!
The biggest hurdle standing between lasting organizational change and your organization’s ability to implement it is internal resistance.
Whether it’s employees who have endured uninspired digital transformation efforts in the past or managers who are unwilling to commit the resources needed for proper execution, change management plans fail when you don’t have majority stakeholder buy-in across all departments.
Establishing a culture that supports your change management plan involves creating awareness about the issues that stand in the way of productivity and your company's ability to compete.
It's more than just a question of identification, however. Being problem aware also means answering, with full transparency and honesty, the "why" and "how" questions as they relate to those roadblocks. Doing so may be uncomfortable for decision-makers, but it's also the first step you can take towards bettering the IT side of your operations.
You can establish a strong sense of problem awareness by:
- Identifying current strengths and weaknesses. These can be separated into different categories, from the purely technical to larger, mission-related issues to problems with how teams are working, instead of simply what they’re working on.
- Clearly communicating why these issues are affecting productivity. Whether it’s because of differing viewpoints or ignorance, your staff must know exactly why the problems listed in the previous step are getting in the way of productivity and growth.
- Discuss organizational change options and highlight their importance. Now that you’ve identified the “what” and “why” of your organization’s issues, you can move on to the “how” of potential solutions. The importance and feasibility of those remedies must be clearly communicated and also have some bearing on your long-term vision.
Creating problem awareness not only clarifies any efficiency gaps when it comes to your IT implementation and planning, but also helps your entire team to align with an underlying change management purpose. The “why” and “how” are just as important as the “what.”
Also, your change management strategy needs to resonate logically and emotionally for your employees. That level of initial approval and eventual buy-in needs to permeate your business' long-term outlook for any additional progress can be made.
Once you’ve created problem awareness, it’s time for the next and arguably most important phase of building your change management plan: setting goals.
Without constructing goals that link the benefits of organizational change to improved business outcomes, you'll hinder your team’s ability to produce at a high level. Goals also trigger behavior that makes it much easier to focus on, align with, and sustain workplace momentum as you work towards those objectives.
Here are some important points to keep in mind when setting your change management goals:
- Draft goals that are both ambitious and realistic. Essentially, you want to strike a balance between establishing targets that are either too safe or wholly unachievable given your resources. You want to push yourself, but not recklessly so.
- Tie change management benefits to business objectives. Each change management goal that you present to your team organization at large should be tied to larger business objectives. You can formulate them scientifically, in the style of an “if/then” hypothesis.
- Identify risks and address internal fears associated with your goals. Pinpoint the hazards and concerns associated with your change management goals. Keep lines of communication with all stakeholders open and be receptive to feedback.
Remember that any goals you set aren’t permanently rigid either. Part of being agile is allowing for enough flexibility so that, if you need to pivot or revise those targets based on tangible data and/or performance metrics, you can do so.
However, that doesn’t mean your goals should be abandoned or fizzle out after three or six months because getting the results you desire proved to be difficult. That’s a by-product of ambition, not a question of employee or managerial aptitude.
Working through organizational change is never easy–frankly, nothing worth getting in this world ever is. But don’t let that stop you.
Once your goals are set and potential solutions to change management issues have been decided upon, you can turn to the next crucial step: knowledge and skill acquisition.
While some managers may recoil at the thought of investing resources into a process that doesn’t yield immediate results, helping employees and external stakeholders grow their respective skill sets and knowledge base is crucial to enjoying long-term success.
There are plenty of affordable online options when it comes to learning professional skills. Even Google has a growing education hub that can be hugely beneficial to staff members. However, it’s critical that the learning part of change management is done the right way.
Here are some factors to consider during the skill and knowledge acquisition phase:
- Emphasize skill acquisition and teamwork. This is the foundation upon which successful organizational change is built: obtaining new expertise through collaboration with other team members. It’s critical for long-term innovation and growth.
- Share all new information with relevant stakeholders. With the acquisition of new skills comes the opportunity to share those experiences with all stakeholders involved in the change management initiative. This keeps everyone on the same page.
- Optimize workflows for efficiency, easy communication. Your workflows and operational framework should facilitate learning and information sharing. By doing so, you’ll build an efficient change management learning process through ease of communication.
Gaining knowledge in order to facilitate organizational change means that the democratization of information needs to happen right from the start. In other words, everyone who needs specific training or mentoring should have access to those tools at all times.
If skill and knowledge acquisition becomes a chore, team-wide motivation to see your organization’s change management plan through to the end will take a nosedive.
Now, we come to the execution part of your change management strategy.
It’s certainly the longest and most glamorous part of the entire process, but confident execution can’t happen without strong, ambitious preparation, so don’t skip or rush through the previous stages.
A thorough understanding of a project’s requirements and how it ties into your overall goals will go a long way to minimizing any wasted time during the execution part of this journey. This way, your team can follow through on those plans with confidence and precision, even with a suitable amount of pressure to perform.
Once you’re ready to start executing different initiatives en route to your change management goals, keep the following in mind:
- Establish a strong governance foundation. This involves laying out the various roles, responsibilities, and micro-goals (also known as "quick wins") within your organization, as well as how different change management initiatives intertwined with one another.
- Focus on smaller, iterative deliverables. In the spirit of agile change management, make sure that your plan emphasizes smaller, iterative deliverables. They give your team the flexibility and dynamism needed to complete tasks with speed and effectiveness.
- Keep stakeholders updated at all times. Information sharing shouldn’t cease after your change management goals have been set. Update all stakeholders regularly on team-wide progress and identify any potential bottlenecks or obstacles that could impede execution.
One last thing to note before we move on to the next phase: Every new stage of your change management process builds on the one before it. Therefore, absorbing each new lesson and applying it to the next chapter in that journey is vital to successful, lasting organizational change.
Finally, we arrive at the last and most open-ended phase of any digital transformation–observing and refining your strategy to maximize your returns.
A good part of change management involves trial-and-error, but you can also reduce the number of times you’re forced to go back to the drawing board by doing regular check-ins. Monitor individual project progress, measure performance and, most importantly, be honest with yourself and your team.
Other factors that make optimizing your change management process easier include:
- Measuring change management performance using KPIs. In order to gauge the success of a change management strategy, you must continually measure your progress using appropriate KPIs. This will allow you to gain data-driven insights into how well or not you’re executing your plan.
- Identifying your wins when reflecting, not just your losses. While lots of managers and team members can get hung up on efforts that ended in failure, it’s important to highlight your victories as well. This boosts organization morale and can help energize your stakeholders before the next stage of your project.
- Learning from your mistakes and adjusting your plan over time. Part of setting ambitious goals is understanding that you may not attain them. That said, mistakes are important learning tools, so use them to help you refine your change management strategy over time.
Are you getting the most out of your resources? Is there new information or data that opens up new avenues for organizational improvement? What small tweaks can you make to take your productivity levels from good to great? Those are just a few questions that can help you focus your attention when refining your processes.
The objective here isn’t to be “done” in any respect. Digital transformation initiatives are living, breathing organisms that are continually changing alongside evolving technologies and consumer expectations, so you’ll need to monitor progress and adjust on a regular basis.
Originally published Aug 14, 2019 1:05:11 PM