The principles and benefits of change management.
What is change management?
The sweet spot where change and project management intersect is known as change management. When a company is facing change in any capacity, change management is how company leaders manage the processes, systems, structures, overall morale, and employee responsibilities during a time of transition.
Change is the only thing we know for sure will happen in life and business. Whether a company is planning for change via transformation or is unexpectedly presented with a challenge, having a protocol for change can help companies better adapt to solving problems in a shuffling dynamic.
Firms and companies have carefully-created calculated principles for organizational change management to help navigate the rising challenges of transformation in the business landscape–which is unavoidable in today’s world.
Just how important is having a set of principles to use as a structured guideline? A Forbes Insights and PMI survey found that 85% of over 500 executive respondents said change management is critical to success in times of change of any kind, rather than expecting that workers will automatically react to change well in a competitive marketplace.
Compare this to Forbes Insights’ findings that more than one third (38%) of respondents reported that their employees view change as a significant threat, and it is clear that fear of change is a problem that needs to be planned for and properly addressed.
“The key to change…is to let go of fear.” -Rosanne Cash
Fear of transition can be stifled while also setting up your company up for success by planning for change and creating your own change management plan using the following change management principles.
Six Change Management Principles
(1) Clearly identify the problem
Some change comes when we least expect it, and we must adapt accordingly. When a problem arises, it is crucial to flesh out why and how it came about and what needs to be done in order to solve it.
Some change is planned, like in the case of innovation. It might be the need for a new product, redefining a target audience, or addressing problems within a company dynamic. Whatever the problem, it must be identified and understood before it can be effectively tackled.
(2) Drive new direction with culture
Company culture is the script for how employees interact and work with one another. Change can disrupt the standard workflow and social status quo. Leaders must take culture into account to understand and overcome any resistance born in a time of transition.
Leading with culture also helps to maintain how employees connect and relate to one another, a crucial aspect to sustain during shifts so that everyone in the company is aligned.
(3) Unify top-level leadership
A company is only as reliable as the sum of all of its employees, starting from leadership. All upper-level executives and leaders must form a united front to clearly and effectively communicate the same information to lower-level employees so that the entire company is on the same page and acting congruently.
It is imperative that the corresponding information is shared throughout all levels to find success.
(4) Involve every level
Change shakes the foundation of an entire company; therefore, every employee is affected in some way. Involving mid-level employees as soon as possible opens the door for employees to express their concerns and share any logistical or technical holes they see from the start, working out any glitches.
It also serves as an opportunity for managers and leaders to consider the repercussions and effects the transformation will have on their teams and the customers at large.
(5) Utilize change agents
Change agents are any informal leaders who can help organizational leaders drive and champion change. From influential employees with a reputation of leading by example and earning the trust of others, to stakeholders or veteran employees, change agents help to drive the challenging task of getting all employees on board.
Once identified, leaders should incorporate these people as a coalition. Together, they can help spread the unified message, get their teams integrated, and put people at ease.
(6) Define critical behaviors
Even with a clear vision of the problem/change at the executive level, a unified leadership front, and a coalition to help spread the word and integrate new practices, employee behavior won’t automatically change overnight. It is helpful to provide employees with the “why,” “what,” and “how” of change as well as defined critical behaviors for them to follow immediately–within the first few days of the change.
Old patterns and habits can be hard to break, and new practices must be instilled as soon as possible for a smooth transition. This may mean trainings and frequent smaller meetings with managers so that they are equipped to communicate details of change and new expectations to employees.
Benefits of Strong Change Management
“The rate of change is not going to slow down any time soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades,” John P. Kotter says in his book Leading Change.
Because change is the only constant, having a robust protocol to follow to ease any size of transition sets companies up for triumph in chaos. A smooth transition internally maintains company morale and efficiency and translates directly to the external business.
According to research from Towers Watson, companies with healthy change management practices are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their competition. Being prepared to face change before it even happens immediately gives businesses a leg up on their peers.
Here are a few ways how:
- Change management reduces the risk of project failure: Projects are more likely to fail when there is a lack of preparation. If changes are made too quickly without a proper plan for transition or not everyone is on board with new changes, the project can fall to chaos. A carefully constructed plan already has in mind any potential risks and is accompanied by analyzed strategies to overcome them.
- Change management helps to eliminate confusion: A change management plan helps to reduce any trouble that may arise in transition, as each step of the change management process is detailed and outlined from the top, down before implementation. This simultaneously tackles the fear of change and eliminates uncertainty about new business protocol–everyone is on the same page and adequately prepared for a shift.
- Change management aids in maintaining a budget: Whether planned or unexpected, change is expensive! Incorporate a budget as part of your change management plan so that you don’t blindly pay for it later. Assign a cost estimate to each stage of the process. Doing so will provide an overall assessment of the cost of change and help to keep a new project on budget as it evolves.
Embrace Change to Improve Business
When an organization has a solid plan for how to embrace change, it can be used strategically to its advantage in the workplace and industry. A change management protocol can be used as an outline to evaluate and fine-tune an organization’s goals or priorities as well as to analyze how employees can help the company grow; it can be a tool used to expand and improve business overall, a steady progression of forward momentum.
“Change has a bad reputation in our society. But it isn’t all bad–not by any means. In fact, change is necessary in life–to keep us moving, to keep us growing, to keep us interested. Imagine life without change. It will be static, boring, dull,” Dr. Dennis O’Grady says in his article, The Change Game.
Looking for help with change management in your organization?
Please reach out to Voltage Control at firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation.