Change is often needed to help your business processes flow easier and more cost-efficiently, improve productivity and agility, and foster a more competitive and customer-centric organization. In this blog, you’ll get an overview of the discipline of change management and how you can optimize results following our ten best practices.
What is a Change Management Process?
A change management process is a sequence of steps or activities that a change management team or project leader follow to apply change management to a change in order to drive individual transitions and ensure the project meets its intended outcomes, according to Prosci.com.
Change management has been an evolving science for over 100 years, with its earliest beginnings rooted in health- and job-related grief studies. Today, most change management processes, especially those designed to drive business transformation, draw inspiration from everything from behavioral and social sciences to IT and business solutions.
There are a wide range of change management process models to explore and consider—each with their own strategic approaches based on the expertise and experiences of their developers. A few of the more common change practice examples include:
- Kurt Lewin’s three-step “Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze” model, proposed by the universally recognized founder of social psychology in the 1950s. It is still highly relevant today and often used as the basis for many change management strategies.
- Proski’s ADKAR® Model: an acronym for a strategy that encompasses: “Awareness of the business reasons for change; Desire to engage and participate in the change; Knowledge about how to change, Ability to implement change, and Reinforcement to ensure change sticks”.
- Kotter’s 8-Step Model of Change, developed by Harvard Business School’s John Kotter, focuses on efficient and effective change management in a competitive world. Highlights include building a strong, collaborative team and a solid strategy; creating effective communication channels; supporting staff empowerment; using a phased and steady approach; and securing the change within an organization’s culture.
Despite the multitude of change management process models out there, the mission behind them remains the same: to help organizations optimize the people, processes, and technology needed to deliver business results. To augment your strategy, we offer the following best practices.
10 Change Management Best Practices for a Successful Journey
The following best practices advice is offered to help you optimally support and expedite a successful change management initiative.
1. Choose the Right Change Agents
The change process, especially at the beginning, can often be challenging and unpredictable. Identifying and selecting the right change agents will help support the change process and keep it running smoothly. Key attributes might include choosing individuals with:
- A stake in the game; someone who takes the job personally and is committed to making a difference.
- Strong communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills.
- The capacity work effectively in a variety of situations; change management is known for its surprises.
- The ability to set priorities and keep team members engaged and moving forward.
2. Make the Change Desirable
Help your employees understand the need for the change in the organization by discussing problems with the current system and soliciting advice in making the change successful. Compile this feedback with statistics and financial data. Design a presentation that promotes the change.
3. Make the Change Relevant
Present the big picture, by outlining the organization’s goals and illustrating how the change will help achieve them. Then break down the benefits as they apply directly to the employees. For example, more efficient sales software will benefit sales reps because they can spend less time on paperwork and more time earning commissions. Managers will benefit because they will get reports quicker, instead of having to wait for sales reps to finish documenting.
4. Communicate the Change on All Levels
A study conducted with input from 288 organizations found that employees most want to hear messages about change from their CEO and their immediate supervisor. The CEO can communicate the broad impact on the company. Managers can provide more detail based on the way the change affects their team members.
5. Time It Right
Employees tend to resist change more when it is sudden and they have little time to adjust. It’s important to release change information as soon as possible, then roll out the change in incremental steps. Try not to implement change during a time of the year that is busy, or when the organization is under exceptional pressure.
6. Iron Out the Kinks Before Release
Nothing is more frustrating than a new software system that is buggy, or a new set of rules that never stays the same. Make sure the change is rock-solid before you start implementing it.
7. Recruit Help from Within to Manage Change
David Capece, founder and CEO of Sparxoo, recommends identifying and training “change ambassadors”. Choose individuals with charismatic personalities who are widely respected among their teams. Train these employees first, then allow them to set a positive and encouraging atmosphere while guiding other employees.
8. Fully Integrate the Change
Help existing employees adapt to the change faster, and make sure new employees understand it right away by keeping material within the organization up-to-date. This might include everything from your company’s mission statement, to performance review guidelines, to new-hire orientation programs.
9. Keep Checking In
Regularly meet with your change team and encourage employees to provide feedback on the modified operations to quickly identify what is working and what is not. If your plan hits a snag, correct it as quickly as possible before it sours the atmosphere.
10. Give It Time
Don’t expect your employees to adjust to the change right away. Make it clear that there is a learning curve, and that you are open to questions, concerns, and suggestions. Accept course corrections. Remember that being flexible and collaborative will help you perfect the change even if you take a slightly different route to your goal.
Editor’s note: This blog post was originally published on December 24, 2012 and has been updated for relevancy and accuracy.