Change is inevitable. Sooner or later, companies have to face organizational change management and embrace change if they wish to stay relevant and competitive.
While such statements are often heard, are they truly understood?
Even when companies understand the importance of change and strategic change that leads to increased efficiency, companies still often fail to put their theories to test and implement change. After all, one can know when change is due, but it is an entirely different phenomenon to determine what change is required.
Resisting change is a pitfall that leads to irrelevance and organizational ruin. At the same time, failure to devise a coherent change management plan headed by an incompetent team is likely to have the same devastating effect.
With limited resources and time, the margins for errors are non-existent. Companies need to embrace change and ensure its effective implementation through change management plans to hone an organization’s performance.
However, to say what needs to be done is different from saying how to do it.
To help companies cope with change and introduce pragmatic plans, we have devised a blog that can be dubbed the “master plan” to help draw and implement a change management plan.
Change is simply an addition, removal, or improvements to a system that changes the course of action or a process. While small changes over a long period of time are easier to implement given that there is a conscious effort to bring about such a gradual change.
For larger, and relatively quicker changes, a coherent and well-structured change management process is required that culminates into organizational change for good.
What’s a Change Management Plan
A change management plan is a process – a change management process. Based upon a plan, the change management process is the way or sequence in which targeted changes are applied systematically to bring about an organizational change.
DETERMINING THE RIGHT TIME
One must be aware of the most ideal time to attempt to implement change. It is not enough to embrace change when employees and other internal stakeholders are not open to change control. Bad timing can increase the instances of employees resisting change.
To assess the right time, a number of variables and tools can be utilized.
Employee assessments, such as annual surveys, confidential feedback reports, appraisals, and more, can be employed to evaluate how motivated employees feel and if it is the right time to announce a strategic change that will lead to change management activities and change management processes.
CULTURE AND HISTORY ASSESSMENTS
These allow understanding of the company’s culture, attitudes, and general perception and reception towards new policies. Looking at the culture of the company and a history of past receptions to new policies can be a significant indicator of how the company is likely to respond to a change control process.
Similar to employee assessments, there exists an organizational assessment. While each employee acts a certain way and his or her performance is affected in different ways, there exists a commonality between each employee in a way that they function as a unit.
Thus, to evaluate organizational change management, assessing the readiness of the whole organization is crucial
Beyond these primary assessments, teams that are bringing about the organizational change management, must also consult sponsor assessments and change assessments. All these tools and records help understand the challenges and opportunities well before time. Briefly, these tools can be considered a mirror “into the future” to anticipate the effects of initiating change.
Assessing The Scope of Change
Not every change is of the same magnitude nor does it require a team with a plan to be implemented.
There are questions to assess before taking on organizational change management. Is the change small, which would mean entire organizational efforts are not required. Or is the change big enough, which would necessitate an all hands on-board approach. Some important questions to answer before finalizing a change management plan are:
How many employees will be affected by the change?
Will the revamped change control process lead to observable change for all the internal and external stakeholders?
Are the costs of communication to convey the change management strategies greater than the actual plan itself?
How much change is already in the work or how many change management activities have begun
What resistance or a lack of commitment towards new change management strategies could be expected?
Moreover, it is not enough to identify resistance in advance. Having identified possible obstacles towards initiating change management activities, the company or the project lead must actively seek to address them.
Communication is often mistaken as formal announcements on behalf of the company. The truth about effective communication could not be far away from this false notion. An effective communication plan also needs an effective communication strategy.
Frequency of Communication
Communication is a two-way street where the employer must communicate and then listen to the employers too. It is a corporate rule of thumb that one needs to create excitement before the announcement and then make the announcement with a certain flair and repeat the news multiple times until it is cemented in employees’ minds and allows them to channel their focus and energy towards the new and prioritized tasks.
The Tri-Method Approach
To effectively communicate the need to implement a change management process, which will be accompanied by a change control process.
In the tri-method approach, the change control process takes three components of a change management plan into consideration.
The message that is communicated
The timing of the message
In the first step, the audience has to be given due consideration. The most important audience includes employees. As change implementors, managers or their teams have to share why a change is ardently required.
By communicating the whys, the employees will feel included and are likely to be open towards the change and change control as they will understand the need to adapt to new processes instead of thinking change is being forced upon them. Philip Kotler describes this strategy as “an ability to create desire” towards new policies.
The message has to be crisp and precise. It should focus on what the end-goal looks like and how that end goal will benefit all the stakeholders.
Managers must refrain from sharing unnecessary details. Excessive details can cause demotivation as well as emotional fatigue even before the plan is rolled out!
Choose your words wisely, speak them sincerely, and end on a positive note. A proven method to end on a positive note is to share examples of change management plans that worked.
Within the message, the content must be complete. Hiding information from the stakeholders can have unwelcoming consequences. Hence, it is essential to share complete information about who are major stakeholders and the necessary information with other minor stakeholders.
Choosing The Timing
The idea of embracing change requires both mental and physical effort. How one reacts to being asked to adapt to new changes and change controls depends upon how one is feeling that day.
Keeping this psychological understanding in mind, the message must be communicated after a major milestone has been achieved. When an organization has had recent successes, it creates a “snowball effect” where the positivity of a successful project translates to acceptance of a new challenge.
Sponsoring Activities and Sponsor Roadmaps
When times are changing, experience and leadership could be the decisive factors that make or break the deal for an organization. Such excellence and experience can be found in business leaders and senior executives.
From conceiving the idea of a change to receiving a change management certification, such market veterans have seen it all. Research shows one of the leading factors that increase the chances of success for a change management process is sponsorship.
It becomes crucial to engage sponsors by organizing plans for sponsor activities.
Building A Network
Sponsorships are crucial; however, it is not an end in itself. Rather, it is the means of building a network that can provide support, resources, necessary guidance, and often help convince other leaders to sponsor the organizational change management process.
Getting Managers On-Board
A lot has been said and written about motivating the employees to become a part of the change management process. What has not been addressed is the phase of informing the supervisors and managers who are the point of contact between the top hierarchy and the frontline employees in an organization.
Managers and supervisors are the change-makers and catalysts that get the change management processes rolling. Ideally, executive sponsors and change management teams should collaborate with the managers and supervisors and allow them to hold the reigns since managers are more aware of the frontline process of the organization and the employees.
Training & Development
It is highly important to first fill in the managers and supervisors with their coaching tasks as they will be the wheels driving the change management process.
Managers and supervisors must be provided with a broad and general guideline to what needs to happen and what is expected of the employees. With the freedom to devise their own plan of action, the managers and supervisors can then develop a blueprint to training the frontline employees and ensuring no one is excluded from the next step forward.
How To Deploy Training & Development
Training and development is a polarizing topic. On one hand, employees feel the excitement to learn new skills. On the other end, certain employees, feel a sense of fear. The fear is natural as employees tend to believe their skills will become obsolete once new change management is in place.
It is thus important to first effectively communicate the need to change and after the communication plan, employees are provided pragmatic training and development in a modern and humane method.
Change incites fear; fear is the fuel for conflict that can be both interpersonal and intrapersonal. Conflicts arise when different parties or stakeholders have misunderstandings that stem from lack of communication, lack of access to full information, or uncertainty.
Every conflict or resistance is a symptom of an underlying problem that must be addressed, diagnosed, and treated accordingly.
In the change management plan, it is, therefore, necessary to draw a resistance management plan and a contingency plan before eyeing the prized change management certification.
Concurrent Feedback & Corrective Action
Not everything goes according to the devised plan. Often employees attempt to give their most efficient work; however, they often fail to achieve that. In other situations, demotivation, lack of information, stress, and fears associated with change management reduce productivity.
This necessitates a need to have concurrent feedback even while the new change management plan is being implemented. After monitoring the feedbacks, corrective actions must be taken at every point of the plan to bring the objectives back on track.
Positive Reinforcement & Incentives
Change management plans stem from a desire to become a market leader by increasing the efficiency of the previous processes. Those who adopt early are sure to bag some short-term and long-term gains.
These gains must be announced, shared with other employees in form of bonuses, and employees and their teams must be acknowledged for showing dedication.
Positive reinforcements increase motivation, continue the momentum to revolutionize the organization through a coherent change management policy, and help reach the targets sooner.
The Final Look
Having reached the finalization of the project, one must take the perspective of an external audience or external stakeholder’s view.
A broader bird’s eye view helps to detect any flaws. The after-action review must not be thought of as a mere observatory practice. The after-action review requires an active evaluation to pinpoint the weaknesses and strengths of the change management project.
The after-action review of a project leads to the first step of the change management plan for the next project. Hence, the success of current and future projects hinges on the effectiveness of a thorough after-action review.
Every organization, regardless of its size, goes through changes. Whether the changes are gradual or sudden, they all require systematic steps that are imbibed with incoherent change management plans.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the ultimate art of drawing up a change management plan lies in an active effort to embrace change for a better future.
Ben Stroup is Chief Growth Architect and President at Velocity Strategy Solutions where he helps leaders design, develop, and deploy smarter business growth strategies. Ben is a futurist, disruptor, and data champion. He leads a team that takes a structured learning approach to business challenges, which allows them to assist leaders in bridging the gap between ideas, innovation, and revenue—taking ideas from mind to market.
Velocity Strategy Solutions is an on-demand, next-generation business strategy and management consulting firm which provides clients with a relentless focus on data, execution, and results that positively impact the bottom line. Velocity delivers integrated people and revenue strategies combined with a disciplined approach to growth architecture that elevates the capacity of leaders, teams, and organizations to succeed and win more.