An organisation that stands still is one doomed to fail. For organisations to continue operating effectively, they’re going to have to change and adapt over time. This is in response to the constant evolving environment, which we all operate in. Since all organisations at some point will have to embrace change, it’s worth considering how best this change is managed. That’s where change management comes in.
You may be very familiar with it, or it may be completely new to you. Whatever the case may be, when your organisation is undergoing change, having an understanding of change management is going to make you much more likely to succeed.
Change management refers to the approaches and activities that an organisation pursues when embarking on change. It can refer to technological, process, competitive/demand-driven changes, or changes in response to a merger/acquisition or restructuring. Change in organisations usually will occur through a series of sub-projects, what we’ll refer to as ‘change projects’.
It’s a subject that has been highly researched over the years. As a result, a body of knowledge has come into existence, with widely accepted rules and practices for how best to go about it. So without further ado, let’s get into what makes successful change management.
Considering the needs of stakeholders is foundational to any successful change management project. Without this, we have no way of understanding whether the aims are being achieved. The aims should stem from the needs of different stakeholders, in and around the organisation.
The first step is to map the different stakeholders involved. This should include their relevance, influence and importance to the change project. For each stakeholder group, an adequate communication plan should also be drawn up. This makes sure they are kept in the loop, receiving the information that is most relevant to them. By continually engaging stakeholders, we’re minimising the risks of any being unsatisfied with the development of change projects. They are always kept fully aware, and have the chance to contribute whenever necessary.
Defining clear roles in change management is critical. Without this, all the elements that make a successful project may not be covered. Fortunately, change management allocates specific roles, starting with the sponsor.
The sponsor refers to the individual or group of individuals who take responsibility for the success of the change projects. The sponsor can be thought of as the leader of the change project. They however may not be the person who implements those changes, this person(s) is referred to as the ‘change agent’.
In order for roles to work effectively, everyone needs to be fully aware of what their expectations are within the project. Brief everyone of this before the project begins. If anyone is unsure of their roles or responsibilities, they should speak up at this point. This is so it is dealt with early on, avoiding problems arising further down the line.
Winning over employees is key to a successful change management process. You should consider workplace culture within your change management strategy. It may be the case that your projects have to ‘work-around’ the culture that exists in your organisation. On the other hand, there may need to be a cultural change in your organisation before any meaningful change is realised.
Bear in mind that any change to peoples day-to-day lives is likely to be faced with some kind of resistance. It’s therefore important to put the necessary steps in place to make sure culture is considered in your change management strategy.
When first embarking on a change strategy, it’s important that everyone is in agreement on what that change is, and what it will look like. This way, when you do start implementing a change project, you have a specific goal that you’re aiming for. Once this is achieved and projects are underway, continued monitoring of them is as important. The aim here is to quantify how much your change projects are bringing your organisation closer to their goals. By knowing which projects are leading to positive change, you can better prioritise your resources. You can push those projects with the most impact, and avoiding wasting resources on those with little impact.
The PDCA cycle or Deming circle is an iterative work management method. It can be found in many aspects of business, including innovation and continuous improvement. PDCA stands for Plan, Do, Act, Check, Act. The PDCA cycle has been shown to be an effective approach to change management. It can be considered as the basis for your organisation’s change management strategy.
Planning is where the team identifies the problem, or area for improvement. It’s useful here to take a baseline measurement, so that the problem can be quantitatively measured. Potential solutions are then derived through creative workshops, such as mind mapping.
Do is the second stage. Here, we implement the change, usually on a small scale test subject. We then record the changes from our initial baseline measurement at interim time periods, until we have a general trend. This indicates the impact of the change made.
Check is the third stage. We are essentially looking at the data gathered during the ‘Do’ stage, and assessing the viability of the change project based on this. It’s important here to consider the key measurement mentioned prior, along with other factors. These include: cost, employee resource expenditure and external factors. They should are to be considered when making a decision on whether to bring the change forward.
Act is the final stage. This involves implementing the change around the organisation (if it was validated during the ‘check’ stage). Instead, you can choose to archive the project for future reference. We recommend continuing to monitor the change project. Very often implementing something on a large scale can have different challenges and results on a small scale. It’s also important to consider the other tips mentioned. This is to maximise your chances of successfully implementing a change project.