“The only person who likes change is a wet baby.” So said the indomitable Mark Twain.
And he might’ve had a point. So many of us find change difficult. And yet, in today’s ever-changing world, we need to find a way to adapt and overcome, or risk getting left behind.
So, why do we find change so uncomfortable, and — if you’re leading change — what can you do to reduce resistance to it and help people manage their anxiety?
In this article, we’re going to share all things change management. That includes what it is, why it’s important, how you go about doing it right, and some real-life examples of where businesses have made changes for the better.
You know, to prove it’s possible.
Let’s get started.
What is change management?
The Association for Project Management (APM) defines change management as, “the overarching approach taken in an organization to move from the current to a future desirable state, using a coordinated and structured approach in collaboration with stakeholders.”
That’s all well and good, but — given how tricky good change management can be — I’m sure most of us are looking for something a little more concrete.
What might a “coordinated and structured” approach look like?
Well, the Project Management Institute (PMI) gets us started by outlining 5 key steps within its change lifecycle framework:
- Formulate change: in line with the future goals of the business, identify the change required and if the business is ready to make it.
- Plan change: decide how the proposed change is going to be delivered and how to bring stakeholders along on the journey.
- Implement change: ensure the business is ready for change and set the wheels in motion.
- Manage transition: embed the outcomes of the change project into a steady business state.
- Sustain change: continue to assess the outcomes of the change over time, measuring the actual benefits against what was expected.
Why is managing change important?
OK, so now we’re a bit clearer on the main steps to successfully manage change. But why is that even important?
An effective change management process helps deal with these 6 key issues:
1. Poor leadership and lack of alignment on the new vision
If you want your teams to feel confident about change, it’s critical that leadership is aligned and engaged with it. In fact, executive sponsorship is the top way to engage employees in change.
Leadership teams need to be able to paint a clear and compelling vision for their employees as to what opportunities the change creates, or what current problems making the change will solve.
Leaders who are unclear about the vision, contradict one another, or seem uncertain themselves, have no hope of successfully leading others through a period of major change.
2. Lack of clarity about how the change effort matches the organizational strategy
The American novelist Ellen Glasgow said that, “All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.”
Without effectively planning and managing a change, it’s easy to be reactive to the business environment without really considering why the change is happening and how it moves the business closer to its goals.
Perhaps you’re planning to introduce a new technology solution that will help you manage your HR processes better.
While that seems sensible, if your long-term goal is to outsource your HR function, you could be investing in resources that aren’t going to create benefits.
3. Lack of resources needed to implement the change
Speaking of resources, effective change management helps ensure you’ve got the right resources to get the job done.
Whether that’s having enough people with the skills and capacity to make the change — or the right capability to sustain the change — planning the resources required is key to successfully making a change.
This might include identifying your “change champions”. These are people ready for and enthusiastic about the change, who also have the influence to bring others on board with it.
Attributes that are important in great change champions are — among others — resourcefulness, confidence, optimism, and resilience.
4. Insufficient planning to make the change happen effectively
And it’s not just resource planning that needs to happen. Change management done well includes a robust operational change readiness assessment. This helps identify all the things that need to be done to effectively land the change.
This could include understanding system and technology requirements, identifying required process improvements, or training and development opportunities for staff.
5. Resistance to change
There are many reasons why people are resistant to change, including:
- Worries about their own competence
- Previous experience of poorly-managed change
- Anxiety about losing control of the status-quo
- Anger about loss of face if they helped create the current state
- Genuine concerns about job loss, increased workload, etc.
Resistance to change can be frustrating for those trying to move forward, but these are real fears.
Addressing the fact that change can be uncomfortable, listening to key concerns, and making time to try to address them is fundamental to successful change management.
6. Poor communication strategiesA common feature of ill-planned change management is the chaotic — or indeed absent — approach to managing communications. Effective communication is key to engaging people in change.
This should include strategies for information sharing, receiving input from practitioners or those closest to the change, and feedback on the change process itself.
The 6 key steps in a top-notch change management plan
OK, so we’ve looked at the top 6 issues that occur when change management is done poorly. But, fear not. These will not apply to you. You’re going to be a change management superstar.
To balance it out, let’s look at the 6 key steps to doing change management like a boss.
1. Identify and engage your stakeholders
The hardest thing about managing change is helping people through it.
A critical first step is to identify your key stakeholders. After all, you can’t engage people if you haven’t identified them first. And you definitely don’t want them popping up, sabotaging your efforts further down the line.
Stakeholders might include organizational leadership and functional managers from key departments who need to support the change, like HR and IT.
Last — but by no means least — there are those people on the frontline who the change affects most.
Those people are key to helping you move forward. They can offer on-the-ground insight as to how to make things better and also act as champions of the change you need to drive.
A stakeholder analysis template is a simple way to record and analyze your stakeholders.
Once you’ve identified your stakeholders, it’s important to understand the best way to engage them. Find out their current pain points and share how these will be addressed by the change. Or get them excited by the new opportunities that will be created.
Make sure that your leadership team works together to create a compelling vision of what life will look like after the change.
Create space for leaders to express their concerns or worries about the future, but make sure that — when they’re talking with their teams — their messaging is aligned and positive.
2. Assess the impact of the change
Before you dive in and make any change, take a minute to really understand its impact. How does making this change improve business outcomes? Does it align with the organization’s future strategy?
Asking these questions helps the business check that it’s making the right change.
You’ll also want to consider the benefit of making the change vs. the challenges of implementing it. Understanding the challenges associated with making the change is critical for the organization to make a rational and informed decision.
Measuring the level of disruption caused by the change is done by conducting a change impact assessment.
The change impact is usually considered in 3 ways:
- Process change: what changes will be required to the ways people work as a result of this change?
- Systems change: what changes to our technology infrastructure will be required in order to support this change?
- Organizational change: how do we build an organizational culture that allows this change to be sustained?
3. Help the business get ‘change ready’
Now that you know the level of impact the change will have across the organization, you can begin to make plans to ensure the business is ready to cope with it.
What exactly is required will depend on what’s identified, but may include:
- New branding to signal the change
- Training and development opportunities to build future capability
- Process mapping and optimization activities
- Changes to systems
- Activities that start to shift the organizational culture to a place where it sustains the change
4. Effectively communicate the change
At this stage, those leading the change should have a compelling vision of why they’re making the change and how it will make things better.
There should also be a clear roadmap showing how the change will be achieved, and what needs to be done to prepare the organization.
Now, the vision and plans must be shared and tested. Transparent communication will be required, acknowledging the challenges ahead, while also explaining how they will be managed.
A clear communication plan will need to be created and implemented to track what, and how information has been shared. A feedback tracker should be developed to store feedback so you can measure responses.
5. Make the change
After all the pondering, planning, and preparing, now is the time to actually make the change.
Celebrate taking the first steps towards improving the future of the business. Consider a fun and engaging launch event to build excitement around the change.
Ensure any “quick wins” or early benefits are communicated throughout the business as tangible evidence of the positive difference this change will make.
6. Assess and sustain the change
It’s important to assess the impact of a change over time. Have the expected benefits been realized? If not, why not, and how does that influence your decision-making about changes in the future?
And — difficult though making the change may be — sustaining the change can be harder.
It’s easy to revert to the status quo at the first bump in the road, or after the initial momentum and enthusiasm for the change has been exhausted.
Sustaining change requires continued communication about why the change was made, and maybe a little reminder that life wasn’t exactly a bed of roses beforehand.
Sharing the benefits — both quantitative and qualitative — can add evidence that the change was worthwhile, and keeps stakeholders invested in moving forward.
How about some real-life examples of effective change management?
So far, we’ve given you everything you need to know to effectively plan and implement a change program. But hey, we know — a theory’s just a theory.
Let’s look at how monday.com’s change management model can be adopted in real-life.
1. McChrystal Group
McChrystal initially approached monday.com to support them in building a project management software solution. They certainly weren’t looking for an external CRM solution, as they’d recently built one in-house, and many people were heavily invested in its success.
However, when Covid-19 hit, McChrystal’s sales pipeline collapsed, and they had to pivot to new approaches. One of these included abandoning their in-house CRM solution.
That was hard for the Group, but the ‘crisis’ offered the leadership team an effective tool to create a new vision of the benefits the monday.com CRM could bring.
monday.com was already being used in other departments, which meant there was a blueprint for its implementation. This reassured the leadership team that the company was change-ready.
Within a week, monday.com was set to go-live as a fully functioning CRM, with all the historical data from the in-house CRM transferred.
Early assessment of the transformation has been positive. Building a common operating picture has resulted in a 68% increase in efficiency. Plus, McChrystal is closing deals up to 50% faster.
Managing the sales pipeline is also much easier due to improved visibility and data-syncing happening in real-time across teams. Ultimately, this has allowed McChrystal to increase their revenue by 60% through the Covid-19 pandemic.
But they’re not resting on their laurels. McChrystal is working on sustaining the benefits of the change, leveraging monday.com to bring new services to the business, including webinar hosting.
Read more about McChrystal‘s success here.
The music streaming service Deezer struggled to get the visibility they needed to effectively manage their portfolio of projects. Complicated workflows relied on lots of communication between teams to get work done.
Yoav Banai, Vice President of Customer Engagement, could envision a better way. But company leadership wasn’t about to make wholesale changes.
In assessing the change, they realized the impact wasn’t just on their technology. Teams would have to reassess how they worked together. Processes would have to be changed as workflows were streamlined.
To test the benefits and improve organizational readiness, they decided to pilot the solution first.
Yoav was allowed to trial the monday.com Work OS as a solution for their project management challenges, and was blown away by the ease of use and intuitive interface.
When Yoav started to communicate the benefits of the change, other teams across the business were soon clamoring to be onboarded. Showcasing these quick wins — including improved transparency and boosted efficiency — lowered any resistance to the change.
Now, monday.com has been adopted as an organizational solution across multiple functional areas. The Deezer business development teams have been streamlined into a single, central pipeline, allowing work to be analyzed and prioritized on a global scale.
As a result of this initiative, Deezer’s time-to-market has improved. They’ve seen a 142% increase in campaigns delivered per week.
For more on how effective change management helped Deezer adopt the monday.com platform and increase customer engagement by 483%, read their success story.
Good change management decreases fear of the unknown
Effective change management is all about helping people connect with a vision of how the future state is better than the current one.
Supporting people to feel ready for the change — through good planning, updated processes, and appropriate training — reduces anxiety about not being prepared.
And a good communication strategy helps engage people and offers feedback opportunities to ensure they feel heard.
monday.com has all the tools you need to help your organization change for the better, including insights from other businesses that have been through it.
Why not get started planning your change today with our change management template?