Change is the only constant goes the timeless adage. But in a business setting, change can be riddled with all kinds of challenges—from ineffective implementation and employee resistance to an underwhelming return on investment. That explains why 50 percent of change initiatives fail.
What if there was a way to move past these roadblocks and make transitions at the workplace a success? The good news: there is.
A change management plan is a proven solution to eliminate expected (and unexpected) problems and implement a change across the organization. It involves careful planning and strategizing that streamlines this transition from before to after.
This article will give you a deep dive into the concept of change management with a seven-step framework to make your own strategy.
Let’s get started!
What is a change management plan?
A change management plan is a strategically designed roadmap to implement a significant change in your organizational setup. A good plan pinpoints the need for such a change, lays out the roadmap to gradually embrace the change, and explains the expected impact.
Large-scale changes can be disruptive. Think of a change management plan as a start-to-finish guidebook containing concrete steps that simplify this massive transformation.
For example, let’s consider your organization is set to introduce a new HR management tool. Executing this change would require:
- Informing employees about why you’re introducing this software.
- Training them to use the new tool and answering their questions.
- Monitoring the tool’s usage and collecting feedback.
This seems like too much work, but it doesn't have to be. With a well-defined and integrated change management strategy, you're better equipped to incrementally implement a big change, set up knowledge-sharing processes, and tackle any resistance in your team.
Why do you need a change management plan?
A change management strategy steers your team in the right direction to achieve the desired goals. It also serves as an actionable resource to fall back on whenever things go south in the execution phase.
Besides these key benefits, a change management plan can:
- Communicate the reasons behind adopting a change and answer why it’s critical.
- Help employees take in their new roles without any points of friction.
- Make an accessible and inclusive knowledge management framework.
- Adapt your organization to the latest market trends and technologies.
- Map out the scope of change and list concrete steps to make the transition seamless.
Introducing any change—whether minor or massive—can impact different people differently. A change management strategy factors in all possible outcomes of implementing a change, allowing you to brainstorm possible solutions to avoid major disruptions.
4 key elements of an effective change management plan
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to building a change management plan. Your plan has to be aligned with your organizational needs and the projected scope of change.
That said, every successful change management strategy has these four must-have components:
Before you jump into action, dig deeper into your current setup to establish the need and goals for the desired change. Like every journey has a destination, your change management goals define the destination you want to reach.
Clarify your vision in SMART terms—make it specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, if you want to embrace automation, your goal should be to automate different workflows by picking an appropriate tech stack and minimizing manual work within three months.
2. Readiness assessment
Once you've laid out your goals for an upcoming change, take a pulse check of your staff to see how ready or willing they are to adapt. A readiness assessment collects data about employees' capacity for and perceptions towards change. It also identifies potential risks and roadblocks to the implementation process.
This test is critical to making informed decisions when preparing your change management game-plan.
3. Change management team
Change management is a continuous process, and you need a solid team to oversee it. Here are a few crucial roles in a change management team:
- Sponsor: Member from the upper management to communicate the plan to the top-level executives.
- Project manager: Team leader recruiting and directing the group in every phase.
- Leadership: People with the highest understanding of the concerned change.
- Team members: People who work on multiple tasks to assist in the transition.
This team will bring varied employee perspectives to make your plan more robust and fail-proof.
4. Communication plan
The success of any change management strategy is closely tied to how well the team builds awareness around the expected change. You need a well-thought communication plan to transfer accurate information, maintain transparency and create a healthy momentum for your plan.
A 7-step framework to design your change management strategy
Introducing an org-wide change can be taxing, to say the least. However, when you approach it with a well-laid-out roadmap, the process becomes far more accessible and more exciting.
So, let’s look at our 7-step framework to create a power-packed roadmap for your change management plans.
1. Conduct a change impact analysis
Changes can be big or small. But the real measure of an organizational change lies in the impact it creates for the people involved—both employees and clients. So, the first and most important piece of your change management puzzle is an impact assessment.
Impact assessment lies at the core of your planning efforts. Without it, your plan can become arbitrary. Besides, when you're aware of the outcomes of introducing a change, you can brainstorm solutions, design contingency plans, and identify critical areas of implementation.
Here’s a helpful list of questions to measure change impact:
- How different does the desired outcome look compared to the existing setup?
- What are the possible effects of the change for each department?
- What are the expected modifications in processes, roles and training materials?
- How will this change affect business relationships and the people involved?
Change leaders can develop questions more relevant to their strategy. It's crucial to involve all the stakeholders in this assessment to understand the impact of the change truly.
2. Gain employee buy-in from the start
One of the biggest barriers to the success of your change management strategy is employee resistance. Every change—irrespective of its scope—will attract some level of resistance from your staff. That makes winning employee mandates a necessary part of your preparation.
Raise awareness about the need for a change and emphasize the problems it would solve to create a positive team opinion and minimize dissatisfaction. An easy way to do this is to build a business case for the change you’re introducing.
Communicate details that explain why an employee should care about this plan, such as:
- How will the change affect their roles?
- What’s the expected ROI from it?
- How will it affect efficiency and daily productivity?
- In what ways is the change different from the status quo?
Help your team realize the benefits (and need) of the change before you start implementing it. This translates to less friction and lower resistance once the plan is in motion.
3. Create a fail-proof implementation strategy
Your change management plan is only as good as the implementation strategy. This is where all the action happens—from goal setting and picking metrics to risk analysis and drawing tactics.
The more detailed and realistic your implementation plan is, the better chances you have of succeeding. Let's look at the core components of a robust implementation strategy:
- Vision: Brainstorm, discuss and break down your goals for adopting the change. Explain what the organization will achieve through this move.
- KPIs: Define your metrics to track progress. Establish a baseline and review your performance to iterate your strategy regularly.
- Responsibility set: Delegate specific responsibilities to all members of your change management team. Clarifying duties early on can minimize confusion and streamline the execution process.
- Scope: Think of change management as a subset of project management. So, you have to outline the project scope and stages of implementation at the outset.
This process of devising and documenting your strategy is the most critical link in the chain. Expand your focus to account for all possible roadmaps and ideate in the agile mode to make your strategy more fail-proof.
4. Bring your roadmap into action
Once your implementation plan is ready, brainstorm the best ways or sequences to initiate the execution process. Depending on your team’s readiness, you can either implement the change all at once (also known as Big Bang adoption) or take a phased approach.
During this phase, you should focus on:
- Providing resources necessary to implement the change and tackle obstacles.
- Anticipating challenges and proactively offering solutions for these issues.
- Communicating the value of this change and the desired outcomes it will achieve.
- Sharing wins related to the change to win the team's trust.
Embracing change is not easy, especially when our brains are wired to resist it. So, patience is the key to unlocking results and maximizing your results.
5. Reinforce the change with supportive activities
The next best step in your implementation process is enabling employees to adapt to the change. This is possible by reinforcing how your team is transitioning. If you're revamping your sales strategy, celebrate the small wins and early results to boost your team's trust in the new strategy.
Likewise, you can follow any of these activities to empower the employees working towards the change:
- Create milestones and metrics to track progress.
- Simplify execution with an improvement strategy.
- Offer time for experimentation to get attuned to the change.
- Invest in knowledge management tools to build infrastructure.
Producing relevant training material about a change is one of the best ways to support your team in the transition period. This is where Scribe can make life easy for you. Easily convert any process or guidelines into a step-by-step tutorial in a matter of minutes. Create standardized documentation for everything and curate an internal knowledge base.
6. Build a resistance management plan
Where there’s change, there’s resistance. This resistance can take many forms—minimal output, increasing attrition, hostile work environment, transfer requests, and possible strikes.
So, a golden rule of thumb for introducing any change is preparing for resistance. If you think a resistance management plan comes into action once the change is implemented, think again. You can't stall or stop the resistance if employees are already dissatisfied. The efforts to reduce resistance begin even before the implementation process.
Let’s look at three tried-and-tested methods to plan for resistance:
- Increase employee involvement: Get employees to participate in your change management process either as stakeholders or representatives. By involving staff members in the ideation process, you can overcome resistance from the roots.
- Resolve the cause(s) of resistance: Take an employee survey to understand the driving factors for their dissatisfaction. It can be the increased difficulty of their roles or the need to unlearn and relearn their tasks. When you understand these reasons, develop constructive solutions and build relevant messaging to address the issues.
- Be proactive and reactive: While it's vital to deal with resistance proactively and think about it from the start, you also need to take reactive measures to tackle resistance. This is when managers and stakeholders can prioritize communication to clarify the causes of dissatisfaction.
In essence, resistance management is an inevitable part of your plan. Design and develop the right tactics to handle employee dissatisfaction at every stage.
7. Track and review your strategy
The last piece of the change management puzzle is measuring the results. Conduct a post-transition assessment once the implementation process is complete. This will provide insights into the actual ROI of your strategy.
Revisit your goals for the project and map the KPIs to every goal. These numbers should tell you how the change has impacted your org's performance.
Remember to give your team enough time to get accustomed to the change before performing your first review. This interval can ensure that you’re measuring your team’s top productivity performance.
Design a bulletproof change management plan
Change management is an invaluable part of organizational success. It's essential to minimize the disruption resulting from change and boost the team's efficiency.
You can supercharge your change management strategy by making it an agile process of iterative testing, feedback and flexibility. Offer employees complete visibility into your strategy's goals, implementation process and expected roadblocks.
You're all set to work out your change management strategy with this exhaustive guide!