Five Steps to Prepare for the Unpreparable in Innovation
“In life, change is inevitable. In business, change is vital.” -Warren G. Bennis
If there’s one sure thing in life, it’s that change is constant and inescapable. And when it comes to business, change is the crucial, center pillar. It is the gateway to explore new opportunities, exercise creativity, learn new skills, and discover inventive solutions to problems. Ultimately, change, and navigating it well, leads to success in business and innovation. That’s why a change management plan is crucial.
So, how do you “control” change in the workplace? In essence, incorporating a change management process to a project or an organizational transformation provides a structure to adapt to change, rather than blindly react to it.
A sound change management plan can be the difference between a successful and failed project.
It serves as a roadmap to manage and control change during pivotal phases of a project’s life cycle. Let’s take a look at what a change management plan is and to construct one.
The five steps of a change management plan
What are we really talking about when we talk about a change management plan? In regards to the project you are pursuing, it answers the questions: “Who?” “What?” “When?” “Where?” “Why?” And, “how?” of change. Follow the steps below to create your own change management plan:
1. Identify “who”
First, clearly define who all is involved in the project, across all levels. Who is responsible for what in the change management plan? What role do they play in managing, reviewing, and authorizing change requests?
2. Select a change control board
Secondly, staff a change control board. This group of carefully selected individuals is solely responsible for making decisions about whether or not proposed changes should be implemented. They help guide the change process for optimal success.
3. Develop a process
In order to effectively conduct change management, you must identify a process to do so. This process will allow people to efficiently submit change requests that will then be evaluated, authorized, managed, and controlled by the change control board. Change management is unmanageable without a structured process and training in project management.
4. Change request materials
Once your change management structure is organized, you need a way for people to submit change requests. A change request form is one way to receive ideas and data. Having a consistent procedure to gather information throughout the process is important for the project’s fluency and ultimate success.
A change log serves as a central location to collect and track all proposed changes. It is here that change can be identified and requests can be made and approved. It’s purpose is to hold all matters of change so you can then manage and track it.
5. Manage and Track Change
Measuring and tracking change allows you to successfully monitor progress throughout the project process. In order to track change, you must have something to measure it against. That is the project baseline, or the defined scope of the project. It includes the desired results, expectations, and restraints of the problem you are addressing, as well as the fundamental details of the project like time, cost, and quality. The project baseline is backed by the change control board and used as the reference to identify and track the “how”, “what”, “when”, “where”, and “why” of change.
So where does a change management plan come in to play in a project’s life cycle? Big change occurs in the prototyping and testing phases of the designing thinking process. Below, we take a closer look at the project life cycle process, through the eyes of design thinking methodology, to better understand how and when change plays a role.
Design Thinking Project Life Cycle
The first step of any project is to clearly identify the objective and need you want to address. In design thinking, this starts with empathizing with your target audience to thoroughly understand their desires and needs in order to best meet them. This stage is focused on gathering as much information as possible about the target audience to prepare you for the next step of the process.
Using the information gathered in the first phase, it is now time to put it all together to define the problem you want to address. This step’s objective is to convert the identified problem into a human-centered statement to keep the audience as the focus, rather than focusing on technology, monetary returns, or specifics of a product. The insights and perspectives defined will guide you throughout the rest of the process; they serve as the backbone of the project.
Now that you have identified the objective/problem, the third phase is where you generate as many possible creative solutions as possible to solve it. Nothing is off limits here: think outside of the box, get creative, and say “yes” to all ideas. By the end of this brainstorm session, your team will have possible ideas to then test.
4. Prototype & Test
It’s time to test all of your creative ideas! Through a process of trial and error, your team identifies which of the proposed solutions would best address the identified problem. Once those are decided on, you then create collaborative, rapid prototypes–a simulation of your ideas and designs–to properly investigate their effectiveness in generating solutions. This is a phase where change happens.
It’s only natural that after you have defined the problem and start executing possible solutions that change will occur. You will likely find through prototyping that there are unanswered questions or holes in the project that need to be filled in order to successfully address the audience’s needs moving forward. Your team may need to go back to the drawing board to adapt to these changes. Therefore, it’s imperative to be able to manage and track the changes with a change management plan to keep the project’s momentum going.
Once you arrive at the core solution to solve the identified problem, you tangibly test it by showing people in your target audience a prototype and collect their feedback. Change also occurs here. User feedback will likely alter your original prototype, in a good way. You use the feedback to refine the product and fine-tune it so that it optimally serves the user. Even after you identify the “winning” version of your product, you will continue to adapt to environmental and systematic changes that influence and alter the users’ needs. Therefore, you will return to the design thinking process and your change management plan to refine the product and adapt to the evolving needs.
Preparing for the inevitable change that you will be faced with during the design thinking process will equip you with the tools you need to gracefully navigate it. With a solid and reliable plan in place, you will be able to work with the flow of change, rather than against it.
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