In today's business landscape, change is constant. Digital transformation, strategy pivots, and organizational restructuring—leaders need to handle an endless list of daunting initiatives while keeping their teams motivated and focused. Change management is the art of doing all this efficiently and effectively.
Our change management principles, best practices, and resources guide you through the challenges of change with confidence, whether you're a seasoned leader or a new manager. By the end of this article, you'll know how to anticipate, plan, and execute change in a way that creates alignment, buy-in from all stakeholders, and lasting results.
Principles of organizational change management
There are many models for successful change management, but their aim is always the same: to help organizations optimize the people, business processes, and technology needed to deliver results. The following principles are the foundation for the best practices we discuss later and can give guidance regardless of the strategy or framework you use.
Clarity of purpose creates alignment and commitment
A well-defined purpose is critical for any change management initiative. When you articulate a compelling vision for the future, team members align and commit to the cause. To make this happen, leaders must explain why the change is needed, clarify what they hope to achieve, and explain the steps required to reach their goals.
Stakeholder engagement leads to sustainable change
Not much changes—especially in the long run—without the involvement of all stakeholders. Securing buy-in in your change efforts ensures a sense of ownership among employees, partners, and customers. Early involvement of people from across the org chart also helps identify potential roadblocks, allowing you to address concerns and mitigate risks proactively.
Open communication builds trust and reduces resistance
Clear communication builds trust and reduces uncertainty, which makes people less resistant to change. Leaders must be open about the challenges and opportunities the change presents. They should also confront disruption and resistance with ongoing dialogue throughout the change management process.
Cultural adaptability enables organizations to thrive in dynamic environments
By nurturing a culture that values adaptability and flexibility, companies can handle change better and take advantage of new opportunities. To develop such an environment, business leaders need to fight the status quo and promote ongoing learning, experimentation, and creativity across the organization.
9 Change management best practices
These nine best practices for change management build on the previous principles. They allow you to turn those fundamental ideas into action through a change management strategy that’s comprehensive, supported, and sustainable.
1. Craft a strong vision with goals
A compelling vision addresses the head and the heart, with attention to logic, data, emotions, and desires.
Present the big picture by outlining the company's goals and how the proposed change helps achieve them. Use statistical and financial data to support your case, but also include the benefits for employees—what’s in it for them? For example, implementing a flexible work policy can enhance employee satisfaction and work-life balance while reducing office space costs.
Examples of vision statements and goals for change initiatives:
Green Initiative Vision: "To become a leading environmentally sustainable organization in our industry." Goals: Reduce carbon emissions by 25% in the next five years, increase renewable energy use by 30%, and implement a comprehensive recycling program.
Digital Transformation Vision: "To harness the power of digital technologies and transform our company into a data-driven, customer-centric organization." Goals: Implement an advanced customer relationship management system, train employees on data analytics tools, and automate repetitive processes to increase efficiency.
Diversity and Inclusion Vision: "To create a diverse and inclusive workplace where every employee feels valued, respected, and empowered." Goals: Increase diversity in leadership roles by 30%, provide unconscious bias training to all employees, and develop mentoring programs to support underrepresented talent.
2. Develop a change management plan
Selecting the right change management approach is crucial for successful organizational transformation. To create your plan, you can choose from different types of change management models, including:
Kurt Lewin's three-step "Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze" model: A foundational approach that involves breaking down existing structures, implementing change, and solidifying new behaviors.
Prosci's ADKAR® Model: Focuses on Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement to facilitate individual and organizational change.
Kotter's 8-Step Model of Change: A comprehensive framework that emphasizes building a strong team, effective communication, and embedding change into organizational culture.
PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act): A continuous improvement strategy for iterative evaluation and implementation of change.
McKinsey 7S Model: A holistic approach that considers the interplay between multiple aspects of an organization or project to ensure comprehensive change management.
Change management roles and responsibilities
Make sure to identify and assign change management roles and responsibilities as part of your plan, for example, by appointing change agents or ambassadors to champion the initiative internally.
Middle managers also need support, as they often face the most resistance to change. You can help them with one-on-one meetings, training materials, and by involving them throughout the project.
In your plan, make sure to consider the perspectives of frontline employees. Ultimately, success depends on whether most individuals embrace change and shift their behavior in their daily work.
3. Conduct change management stakeholder analysis
By understanding the needs of different stakeholder groups, you increase the chances of success for your change plan.
Stakeholder analysis allows you to identify for each party:
How they’re affected by the change.
Their ability to influence adoption.
Their concerns, resistance points, and preferences for involvement and communication.
To perform a stakeholder analysis, list all the people or groups—internal and external—impacted by the change. You can start from the center of the change initiative and expand outward.
For example, when introducing a new CRM system, identify the primary users, like Sales, Marketing, and Support. Then, think about other departments the rollout might affect, like IT and Finance, as well as people outside the company, such as vendors, partners, and customers.
You can use this list to create a customized approach for each group based on the needs and preferences you discover during the next step (”Asses organizational readiness”).
4. Assess organizational readiness
Identifying resistance or potential friction in advance allows you to adjust your plan before launching your change initiative.
Conduct surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one conversations to assess values and attitudes toward change in your organization. Positive indicators include openness to new ideas and adaptability. Troubling signals are fear of the unknown or a lack of trust in leadership.
You also want to assess the availability of human and financial resources to support the change. Determine if your team members have the necessary skills and capabilities, and identify any gaps where they need training or recruitment. Plan budgets for new technology, education, or external consultants.
5. Communicate the change everywhere, all the time
To get and keep everyone on board with the change, leaders and managers should address concerns from people at all levels of the organization. Better yet, stay one step ahead of questions with consistent and constant communication throughout the process.
Employees want to hear from both the CEO and their immediate supervisor, as they can each provide different perspectives on the impact and implementation.
The CEO can explain the overall effect on the company. Managers can offer specific details on how the change affects their team members. This multi-level approach ensures that everyone stays informed and engaged.
Here are some ways to announce and share the change plan internally:
Company-wide meetings or town halls: The CEO or top leaders share the vision, objectives, and rationale behind the change with all employees. These meetings set the stage for open communication and provide everyone with a comprehensive understanding of the change initiative.
Departmental or team meetings: Managers hold meetings with their teams to discuss the change plan in detail, focusing on how it affects their roles and responsibilities.
Newsletters or memos: Regularly update employees with progress reports, success stories, and any adjustments to the change plan. Such information helps maintain momentum and ensures the change initiative remains a priority.
Knowledge base, blogs, or discussion boards: Create a centralized platform where employees can access resources, ask questions, and share feedback about the change.
6. Build a supportive organizational environment
Begin by providing training and assistance. Offer opportunities for employees to build new skills and knowledge to increase their chances of succeeding in the new environment.
Share valuable resources, like our10 Tips for Handling Change in the Workplace, and keep internal materials updated. Up-to-date information helps existing employees adapt faster and brings new employees on board from the moment they start.
Don’t forget to recognize the efforts and accomplishments of employees as they adapt to the change. Offer praise, awards, or other forms of recognition to celebrate successes.
7. Address resistance and anticipate setbacks
Timing your change plans and preparing for resistance is essential for success.
Avoid significant changes during periods when people are already overloaded, and roll out changes incrementally. This approach allows employees to adapt gradually and reduces the likelihood of resistance.
Middle managers—the vital link between senior management and frontline employees—may be most reluctant to change. To win over this group, try these tactics:
Involve them early in the change process by getting their input.
Listen to their concerns and give them the resources and support they need.
Give them specific responsibilities for the initiative to help them lead the change within their teams.
Holding one or more pre-mortems is another excellent way to anticipate setbacks and prevent them from happening at all. By identifying potential challenges and proactively developing solutions, your organization is better equipped to navigate the change process smoothly.
8. Track progress with change management metrics
Managing change requires measuring progress with metrics and adjusting your plan based on what you learn from those numbers.
Meaningful change management metrics:
Employees’ job satisfaction, trust in leadership, and sense of job security.
Change adoption rates.
Training participation rates and effectiveness.
Project KPIs like time-to-completion or cost savings.
Digital adoption platforms (DAPs) are also helpful for integrating feedback, enabling adjustments, and enhancing engagement. Use the insights you gather to inform decisions, strengthen your communication program, and make necessary changes.
9. Double down on wins
You can use early successes to create momentum and motivate employees.
Analyze what’s working well and spread those insights across your organization to enable continuous learning and accelerate the change process.
Say a team has tweaked your standard project management workflows to reduce completion timelines. In that case, share their experience and methodology with other departments so everyone benefits from their discovery.
Finally, celebrate accomplishments with your team. Organize meetings and other events to acknowledge people's efforts and highlight effective practices others can learn from and adopt.
A change management checklist for success
Effective change management requires a strategic approach and thoughtful execution. Here's a checklist to help you remember the most crucial aspects of managing a change initiative:
Craft a strong vision with clear goals: Establish a compelling vision and outline the objectives that support the proposed change.
Develop a comprehensive change management plan: Choose an appropriate change management model and assign roles and responsibilities.
Conduct a stakeholder analysis: Identify the needs, concerns, and preferences of various stakeholder groups affected by the change.
Assess organizational readiness: Determine the organization's preparedness for change by evaluating values, attitudes, and resources.
Communicate consistently and frequently: Use a multi-level approach to inform and engage employees, addressing their concerns.
Build a supportive organizational environment: Offer resources, training, and recognition to foster a positive atmosphere that encourages adaptability.
Manage disruptions and resistance to change: Implement changes incrementally, maintain open communication, and address concerns promptly.
Track progress with change management metrics: Measure and evaluate performance using relevant metrics and adjust your approach as needed.
Collect and act on feedback: Establish a robust feedback collection process to incorporate employee insights and make necessary changes.
Double down on wins: Recognize achievements, analyze success factors, and celebrate accomplishments to maintain momentum and commitment.
By following these best practices and maintaining open communication with your team, you can confidently manage change and achieve lasting results.
Navigate change management challenges with Quickbase
Quickbase is a powerful no-code platform that can help leaders and managers execute and monitor their change initiatives. With its intuitive interface and customizable features, Quickbase simplifies the complexities of coordinating such projects, streamlining workflows, centralizing data, and improving team collaboration.
Our dynamic solutions allow you to automate processes, assess organizational readiness, and track progress through real-time reporting and analytics. Quickbase empowers leaders to successfully navigate change, overcome challenges, and drive lasting positive impact in their organizations.