What is a change management plan? And how to make one
Before we start any new project or endeavor, we sit down and make plans and try to account for every eventuality.
But no matter how good we get, it’s impossible to foresee every change in the industry or market.
The thing is, change in itself isn’t the problem. It’s when companies dig in their heels and refuse to change their plans that it becomes one.
When the telephone showed up, Western Union said in an internal memo that it had “too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.”
Talk about famous last words.
Don’t fall into the same trap. In this article, you’ll learn how to create a change management plan to adjust the course of your projects so you can stay in tune with the marketplace and quickly adjust to unexpected events.
What is a change management plan?
A change management plan is a plan that outlines how you’re going to control changes to the organization as a whole, or the scope, goals, activities, budget, and resources involved in a project.
Change management plans help companies smoothly execute changes to projects, products, or processes that are already past the planning stage.
Basically, it’s a plan that makes sure you don’t get left behind in the dust as the market changes around you.
You might want to change your company’s KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) if they prove unreliable, or improve your manufacturing process. Your change plan walks you through how to do this fast and effectively without losing control or sacrificing important insights during the process.
What should a change management plan include?
A simple change management plan should outline how you’re going to track and approve — or reject — changes.
It may be as simple as requiring all change requests to include essential data fields such as the reason for a change, its potential impact, status, who requested it, and more.
Often, a change management plan will also outline the workflow for changes. For instance, if a client requests a change, the workflow may look something like this:
- Change request form is submitted
- Request is logged in the change management plan tracker
- Request is assessed by SME (subject matter expert) for feasibility and impacts to the project
- Project manager reviews request and assessment and either approves or rejects
- Client and project team are notified of approved change request and project tasks are amended to incorporate the change
Here’s an example of what the change management tracker might look like:
Here, someone has highlighted the company’s response time, KPIs, and communication procedures as problem areas that need to change.
Notice how the reason for the change, who requested it, and its potential impact are highlighted.
But the devil is in the details.
That’s why in monday.com’s change management template we include the following:
- Reason: why should you make this change?
- Impact: what will happen if you just leave it?
- Costs impact: how much would it cost to leave things as they are? It’s often cheaper to change a small issue early, like a leaky pipe, than the result, water damaged floors.
- Requestor: who submitted the change request?
- Approver: who accepted the change request?
- Status: will the request go through to action?
- Timeline: how long will it take to implement the change?
- Request ID: a unique string used to track every change request.
- Approval date: when the change request was accepted.
This information is necessary for tracking what changed and why throughout a project. But that’s only part of the change management process.
You also need to define roles and responsibilities for making a successful transition when you’re dealing with big changes or a lot of changes.
- A change manager or change leader is someone who owns the overall process, manages stakeholders, deliverables, and gets the final say on change requests.
- Change agents, practitioners, or evangelists are people who lead by example and help other staff make the transition.
You can’t have a successful change effort without buy-in from the entire project team. Giving an order to change and hoping people will listen is not a strategy— at least not one that works.
Why is a change management plan essential?
In the latest research from PMI, project managers of failed projects highlight poor change management as one of the most common reasons for the project failure:
- 37% cite changes in the organization’s priorities.
- 33% cite changes in project objectives.
- 23% cite poor change management.
So it’s no surprise when other research shows that projects with excellent change management are 6 times more likely to meet objectives.
How you handle change management is a good predictor of project management success, so take it seriously.
Lay the foundation for tackling the right changes
Before you can start implementing changes, you need to make sure your organization is prepared.
Key business relationships are at stake if you handle change management the wrong way.
If you refuse to make changes you can end up with an obsolete product, an unhappy customer, and a failed project. But, if you accept change requests without evaluating the impacts you will face scope creep, budget erosion, schedule delays, and unexpected consequences.
So the 1st step toward effective change is getting the right people involved in assessing potential impacts.
Identify and engage key stakeholders
If you haven’t done it, start by running a stakeholder analysis to find out who should have a say in making changes.
That includes external stakeholders, not just internal users and executives with a say over the project.External stakeholders are more sensitive to other pressures and market changes than your company, so they can help you spot needed changes you have no way of noticing.
That’s why external engagement is becoming a top priority for more organizations.
If you’re looking to overhaul a manufacturing process, customers and suppliers could deliver crucial insights.
Recruiting a 2nd pair of eyes has never hurt anyone.
But don’t overlook your technical team and internal experts. The client may ask you to add a feature without ever realizing it’ll drastically change the functionality of another incorporated product feature.
Your specialists are the ones who can point out down-the-line impacts others will miss until it’s too late.
Set up a rigorous process for reviewing change requests
Of course, involving everyone under the sun can quickly bog down the entire project.
You need to have a clear process for making sure only the right changes make it through, and everyone should be in agreement on who makes that decision.
Some things you should outline are:
- Who is responsible for assessing the potential impacts of change?
- Who approves change requests? Is it a change manager, a change control board, the project manager, or someone else?
- What are the priorities for changes? Can they be classified as necessary vs. nice-to-have?
- How long should the change process take? How long do people have to do assessments? How often will requests be reviewed and approved?
Of course, none of this even matters if the change requests just get lost in someone’s email folder.
To avoid inbox chaos getting in the way of good business decisions, you may want to upgrade to a cutting-edge digital workspace like monday.com to manage everything in the same place.
How to create a next-level change management plan with monday.com
Stakeholder relationships, industry changes, internal problems and incidents, it’s a lot to keep track of. But you can’t implement successful change management without the full picture.
Thankfully, you no longer have to rely on a jumbled mess of emails and spreadsheets to stay informed.
There’s a better alternative.
With monday.com, you can handle all aspects of change management from a digital dashboard you can access from anywhere, on any device.
Control all stakeholder relationships in a dedicated register
Stay on top of all your most important stakeholders with a dedicated register. Our template makes it easy to sort by importance and categorize the current state of the relationship.
It includes the role, level of interest and influence, current status, contact information, and more.
No team member will leave out a crucial stakeholder when delivering updates or planning meetings ever again.
Track incidents, bug reports, and other problems
It’s not just changing markets or business objectives that introduce the need for change.
Sometimes, a new project brings along some unwanted baggage in the form of unforeseen bugs or workflow problems.
Actively tracking bugs and incidents is a must. Luckily, monday.com offers a tailor-made template for both use-cases.
The bug tracking template highlights the customer impact, source, status, and more.
But that’s not all. With our extensive integrations, you can also automatically create new items based on data from other platforms.
For example, let’s say you have a bug report or customer incident record from a helpdesk solution. You’ll be able to use the template to track changes in the volume of bugs and incidents so that you can identify underlying problems or predict customer needs.
Collect and review change requests
Don’t rely on a multi-step process that includes multiple apps and someone checking their email.
No one has time for all that!
With monday.com, you can generate a change request form that inputs directly into a change request table.
You can easily share the form or grant direct access to the change request board for your stakeholders.
Sync accepted items to a change management plan tracker using automations
You can set up automations that sync new requests to the main plan when you accept or decide to review a new change request.
Again, avoiding unnecessary manual steps reduces the chances of something getting lost or forgotten.
Create a step-by-step change implementation plan
Once you have access to all this information at your fingertips, you can use it to create an implementation plan.
With Kanban boards, Gantt charts, and our smart workflow templates, your team will have everything they need to put it all together.
Change is an inevitable part of any long-term project, but adapting to that change is a never-ending challenge.
A change management plan helps you control the outputs, outcomes, and people, to ensure your project adapts to changing demands and objectives.
Use our change management plan template on monday.com to get a head start on your latest project.