Knowledge Management

From Chaos to Clarity: A 10-Step Guide to an Effective Change Management Process

Learn how to manage organizational change with this comprehensive guide on change management processes. Get tips creating a solid plan and providing training and support to employees.

Introduction

From implementing new processes to restructuring teams, you must ensure your organization is constantly adapting and evolving so it stays competitive and relevant.

But let’s be real, change can be stressful, confusing and at times, even scary. 

That’s where change management processes come into the picture. 

Implementing the right change management process can help your team navigate the complex and often overwhelming task of managing change in a way that minimizes disruption and maximizes success.

Think of it as a personal roadmap for navigating the sometimes bumpy road of change.

Whether you’re looking to implement a major change within your organization or simply want to improve your team’s ability to adapt to change, there’s something for everyone in this article.

So buckle up, and let’s get started!

What is the change management process? 

The change management process is a series of related tasks required to implement a change management strategy. It involves building and executing effective change strategies for implementing changes across teams and organizations. 

You can have an individual change management process — or a combination of them — for the following:

  • Improving team processes and workflows.
  • Introducing new technology.
  • Reducing costs.
  • Increasing profits.
  • Changing staff structure.
  • Shifting operational and business goals. 

Suppose you want to ensure successful software adoption in your business. 

The challenge isn't just implementing the technology change. But you must also be prepared for the change in staffing levels, new recruitment drives, eliminating redundancies, and making structural changes. For example, training employees on new technology effectively can add to business costs. 

Clearly, you need to remember all kinds of things to successfully implement new technology into your business. With a carefully drafted change management process, you can cover all bases, making the transformation more likely to be successful.

What are the benefits of implementing a change management process?

At this stage, how will change management benefit your business — and it’s a viable question.

So, let’s get straight to it! Here are the key benefits of implementing a change management process:

  • Driving change successfully: Following a change management process forces everyone to work towards a common goal. While it may not be comfortable and disrupt day-to-day activities at first, it helps uncover problems that need to be addressed and resolved for the company to grow and move forward.
  • Facilitating better communication: An integral part of successful change management processes is thorough communications planning to keep everyone in the loop about the process, what’s happening and what to expect. This allows the members to learn to communicate better going forward while facilitating the change project.
  • Creating better leaders: Change management best practices suggest appointing an effective change agent who is well-versed in the basics of change management. While you can pick someone outside of the company, many leaders prefer choosing a current employee. Not only does this create new opportunities for an employee, but also hones their leadership skills, which leads to increased job satisfaction.
  • Smoother change transitions: With a carefully drafted change management process, your organization will transition from your current state to your desired state more smoothly. It also helps control resistance from individuals, teams and operational managers, which is one of the biggest challenges of change management, to make this possible.
  • Improved internal and external alignment: Change management is also helpful for aligning internal business functions with your business strategy and goals. Simultaneously, it’ll also align your entire business with its marketplace, increasing team responsiveness and improving customer experiences.
  • Better project outcomes: Effective change management processes shorten implementation times, ensuring more projects have successful outcomes. Also, as time passes, your team will be more confident in your business’s response to internal and external influences, helping drive change.

The 10 crucial steps of a standard change management process

The steps of effective change management
(Image Source: ETQ)

The key to successful change management is clearly defining each change management process step. 

To help you avoid missteps, here are the ten steps of a complete change management process:

Step 1: Figure out what needs to be changed

Identify what changes need to be made to improve operations.

To start, determine your goals for the change.

  • Culture: Do you want to make your company culture more positive or community-oriented?
  • Communication: Do you want to improve your company's communication flow — horizontal, vertical, or lateral?
  • Problem-specific: Is your company facing problems or issues that need to be addressed and changed?
  • Training: Do you want to improve the training your employees receive at the different levels of the company?

Once you know your goals, you can come up with the required changes. Look for opportunities or threats, and evaluate whether they are critical enough to be worth the time and effort involved to make the changes. 

Then consider the following:

  • Will it help boost productivity?
  • Will you see a return on investment (ROI)?
  • Will it eliminate process bottlenecks? 

If you anticipate these changes happening, focus on building a change management plan to realize the required changes.

Step 2: Understand how the change will affect your company 

The main purpose of change management is to ensure your plan works with your employees and not against them. 

Improve communication between your leaders and employees, so they’re unified toward the common goal at every level and across all change management steps. Explain why each step is necessary and what you expect to come of it.

Setting expectations helps improve change outcomes.

Step 3: Get stakeholder buy-in

Getting buy-in from stakeholders is as important as your employees’ input and participation. If the former doesn’t back your goals, you’ll find yourself struggling for the financial and overall support needed for implementing your change initiative. 

When presenting proposed changes to stakeholders, keep in mind their interests. Adjusting your specific goals and presentation without losing sight of why you’re making the changes in the first place. 

We highly recommend implementing a mandatory stakeholder sign-off for all steps to avoid complications in the future.

Step 4: Prepare for change

As the ones implementing the changes, your team members are a critical part of this process. To make them feel involved and excited to be a part of the change, make sure you:

  • introduce the changes to them appropriately.
  • include team members in your process.

This increases team morale as your employees feel like you value them enough to involve them in implementing the changes.

Stakeholders and team leaders should also have a clear understanding of your vision so they can communicate the same to their teams to keep everyone on the same page. 

Step 5: Assign a change agent(s)

The change agent is the person in your organization who takes the initiative and realizes changes within your teams. This helps smoothen process transformation, adding to it positively and not detracting from it.

Be sure to appoint the appropriate number of change agents based on your company size and the number of teams. Too many change agents could lead to communication errors and other misunderstandings. 

Step 6: Identify and remove change initiative obstacles

When evaluating improvement areas, you should also identify obstacles that could potentially prevent you from achieving your goals.

Remove your identified obstacles to track progress. Delegate to the change agent ways to resolve issues to speed up and streamline the change management process.

Step 7: Set strategic goals for the change initiative

This is the stage where you’ll further refine your vision by setting strategic goals you can measure using key performance indicators (KPIs). 

(Source: Fossil Consulting)

A reliable goal-setting methodology is the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Relevant, Timely) framework that lets you manage and achieve your vision. Of course, you can use other evaluative systems that work best for your company to deeply analyze every area and find where changes are needed.

Step 8: Implement the change plan

Break down your change plan into actionable phases. This will simplify the process and convey your ideas clearly to the involved team members, while improving execution and accountability.

All this, in turn, will increase your chances for success. 

You can also consider implementing a technology solution to gain new insights into the change management process and measure your initiative’s success. Use it to see which project aspects are on track, off track or at risk to provide accountability for the results.

Step 9: Introduce changes in your company’s culture and training

Embed your desired changes in your organization’s training and culture to make your goals achievable.

Here are a few pointers to get started:

  • Coaching: Implement some type of coaching to develop your change agent’s leadership skills, enabling them to appropriately train the team members under them.
  • Communication: Hold regular meetings and appoint yourself or the change agent as the primary point of contact to address any questions and concerns.
  • Training: Train your employees to adjust their workflows and processes to accommodate the new changes.
  • Sponsorships: Arrange for sponsorships to fund your change initiative. This is an often overlooked but important part of successful change management.
  • Managing resistance: Prioritize getting your team members on board with your desired changes. Control any resistance to achieving your goals quickly by easing concerns and doubts.

Step 10: Review, revise and improve 

Change is an ongoing process; therefore, it‘s critical to continuously revise and adjust your change management strategies. This will help you identify and remove roadblocks to achieve your change management goals faster.

Remember, change management isn’t a one-time task—it’s a continual process that will help your company grow and thrive. After completing the change management process, conduct a “project post mortem“ to analyze and review what needs to be adjusted for your next change initiative.

What are the common challenges of a change management process?

Like any other organizational process, you must be prepared for certain challenges when implementing a change management process. 

Here are a few to keep in mind:

1. Lack of change management buy-in & active sponsorship 

Many executives don’t understand change management—its purpose, the resources required and their role in the whole process. 

This leads to inconsistencies in communication, transparency and visibility, which then results in a lack of buy-in, dwindling support after go-live and infrequent engagement. 

In short, lots of bad news.

The lack of active sponsorship is another problem inhibiting and delaying change progress. In fact, the 11th Edition research report found a direct correlation between the effectiveness of sponsorship and the likelihood of meeting project objectives.

Employees also take inactive or absent sponsorship as an indication of how important or unimportant your change initiative is.

2. Communication breakdowns

To execute a change management process successfully, you need to prevent any breakdowns in communication.

Communication breakdown—at any point in the change management process—makes process and technology change implementation harder. If executives, managers and team members aren’t in constant communication, they’ll end up spending more time and resources clarifying roles and communicating expectations.

The first step to streamlining communication is considering preferred senders. According to the 11th Edition research report, employees prefer: 

  • Top-level executives to send business messages (think: We’ll be introducing a CRM to streamline lead prospecting)
  • Team supervisors to deliver personal messages (think: How will the change benefit our employees?)

Ensure the senders keep your team informed on what’s changing in their individual roles and responsibilities and how these changes will benefit/affect them.

3. Misaligned project goals

Project leadership should agree on common goals. Otherwise, you’ll find it difficult to design and execute a stakeholder communication strategy. 

You must obtain organizational alignment before developing messaging for a communications plan. Think about what you want to achieve by implementing the change. Maybe you want to automate core business practices or achieve a higher level of customer service. Perhaps you want to cut down costs. 

Make sure everyone is on the same page on what to achieve from a change initiative.

4. Limited resources and knowledge

The lack of knowledge about the value of change management makes acquiring the necessary resources and budget for success a lot more challenging. You’ll find it harder to realize the benefits of the change and ensure its successful adoption and usage.

Why?

Due to not understanding the benefit, it’ll bring to the organization, front-line managers and executives don’t want to assign budget or personnel to a change management activity

Considering change management isn’t a done-in-your-free-time activity makes it difficult to resource change management according to the required scope and skill.

5. Employee resistance

Many change management initiatives fail because employees refuse to get on board. Unfortunately, employee resistance is something you must expect as it’s human nature to question unfamiliar things that disturb one’s everyday routine.

The best approach is to learn why employees are resisting a change and taking active measures to control it. Consider including resistance management as part of a change management plan to mitigate as much of the potential resistance as possible and stop the spread of misinformation.

Keep communication clear and consistent and designate change champions to build employee trust in the change initiative.

How to successfully manage your change management process?

The good news is you can overcome the above challenges by using the following change management process tips and best practices:

1. Put your people first

Your employees are the very foundation of change management. They fuel change and sustain its momentum, so if they don’t understand the reasoning behind a change initiative, they won’t believe in it, causing the plan to fail.

Engage employees in the change from the very beginning. Use proactive change management communication to get them to believe in the effort and encourage action.

2. Communicate constantly

One of the reasons we recommend assigning a change agent is to create an avenue to effectively communicate with your employees and keep them updated on the ongoing process. 

Make sure you’re honest and transparent, even about the failures and obstacles you’re currently facing. This shows your organization is willing to recognize when things don’t go as planned and can quickly adapt to move ahead towards success. 

3. Use a change management model

(Source: Prosci)

Change management models (for example, Prosci’s ADKAR model) have similar core tenets to identify organizational needs and plan for and execute a change management process.

They leverage organizational momentum and human psychology to enact change by helping leaders connect business strategy to action, increasing the possibility of success.

4. Document whenever possible

Documenting everything is key to driving effective change (and retaining) effective change. Have a trail for standard change catalogs to change records to approval processes. everything. Have a trail for standard change catalogs to change records to approval processes. 

There’s no such thing as too much documentation, really. It’ll help you avoid the wrong moves made when executing a previous change management process, as well as imitate successful elements. 

To get started, use Scribe to transform workflows into visual, step-by-step guides. All you have to do is hit ‘Record,’ go about the new process—and you’re done! Here’s what this will look like:

There’s also a handy ‘Pages’ feature that lets you combine multiple scribes into one. Use it to document the entire change management process from start to finish.

Sounds interesting? 

Learn more about how Scribe makes process documentation 15x faster.

5. Follow through on change management plans, but be flexible

While you should stay firm with your change management goals to implement changes properly, don’t be overly rigid. 

If a part of your change management process is ignored or unfinished, it’s likely those elements are necessary. Remember, change is a process, and to manage it effectively, you may have to take detours at times, and it’s okay—as long as your team can reach the intended destination. 

Be flexible and alter your strategies to get ahead of roadblocks where needed.

5 tips to train and empower employees during the change management process

Considering how important employees are to handling organizational change, training and empowering employees during the change management process is a no-brainer.

Keeping this in mind, here are a few tips to help you build a team that makes change possible:

  1. Provide training: Offer training on the new processes, systems, or technologies that will be implemented as part of the change so your employees feel more confident and competent in their ability to adapt to the change.
  2. Involve employees in the change process: Help your employees to feel more invested in the outcome by involving them in change planning and implementation. Form a team of employees to help plan and execute the change.
  3. Communicate clearly: Communicate the reasons for the change, the expected outcomes, and how it'll benefit the company. This will help employees understand the importance of the change and their role in making it successful—and how it'll benefit them.
  4. Provide support: Offer support to employees as they adapt to the change. This may include resources such as training materials, support hotlines, or one-on-one coaching. Consider getting Scribe to give them anytime-anywhere access to critical change management documentation.
  5. Encourage feedback: Encourage employees to share feedback on the change management process. By listening to their concerns, you can identify any challenges or roadblocks and, more importantly, address them to get buy-in.

And that's a wrap on change management processes! 

Understanding and following our steps and tips for change management will help you make your employees more confident in adapting to the change and contribute to the overall success of the change management process.