Everything You Need to Know About the Change Management Process 

As teams, we design business and strategic plans to take us forward and improve our current situation. By definition, any plan is a call for change. One successful change management process will lead to another and so on, far into the future.

These steps will help you overcome obstacles and understand how to realistically achieve various goals. You will develop support from your teams and stakeholders, who will be the foundation for your success.

What Is a Change Management Process?

What Is a Change Management Process?

At a general level, change management is the idea that organizations are trying to find a way to manage their plans for various adjustments across their company. A company leader sets their sights on some new way they want to function and finds a way to transition the individuals, teams and organizations to get there.

Ultimately, organizations that are willing to put in the work required to embrace change management will use growing pains to their advantage and be more successful because of them. Many leaders appreciate the importance of consistently adapting and improving, so you will be hard-pressed to find a thriving organization that does not implement this process to some extent. Stakeholders must understand the business and feel involved in the process so they know what they need to facilitate future change.

Even when organizational leaders agree on the value of this process, no two are identical because every organization is unique. Companies work through their strategy execution by addressing various management needs and initiatives that are unique to them. These could include a change of direction, a new way to track success, a new system for accountability, overall project alignment or better communication and collaboration. Whatever the goal, they are exploring change to drive results.

Individual Change

While other projects and initiatives might impact entire teams, departments or organizations, individual changes will only seek to improve or expand the role of one unit in your organization. For example, individuals might implement new strategies to improve their workflow. This system allows individuals to customize improvement efforts to their needs without requiring widespread changes.

Adaptive or Gradual Change

This type of change is a long-haul strategy that involves implementing small, gradual tweaks over a long period. Targeted areas include products, processes, workflows and strategies. Adaptive or gradual change allows teams and individuals to adjust to new initiatives and policies while focusing on continual growth and improvement. Specific steps are often smaller in scale while contributing to a big-picture goal.

Organizational or Transformational Change

These changes are more dramatic and sudden than adaptive changes. Maybe your organization launches a new product or decides to expand. Any large-scale difference from the status quo is a transformational change.

4 Types of Change Management

4 Types of Change Management

Organizational change plans can come in various forms, depending on your goals and needs. Understanding the different types can help your leaders and teams implement the appropriate strategies to support your change management process.

1. Exceptional Change

Not every situation requires continual efforts or responses. Exceptional changes are instances when necessary improvements are isolated instances. They only impact those involved, though the scale will depend on the extent of the change. For example, a one-off change like a rebranding can affect many teams, while an employee switching teams will only impact two departments.

2. Incremental Change

Incremental changes are those implemented over time to avoid sudden shifts. One typical example of this change management plan type is updating existing technology with more recent models. Rather than waiting for obsolescence, regular updates can optimize learning and training for employees by integrating tools they are already familiar with.

3. Pendulum Change

A pendulum change occurs when your organization dramatically shifts from one state to its opposite, like a clock pendulum swinging. Many organizations experienced this in the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when they had to move from in-person, on-site work to fully online and virtual. This change management example involves handling and navigating that change in direction and goals.

4. Paradigm Change

When your organization implements and integrates new beliefs, the resulting changes will fall under this category. These initiatives will match processes and policies with these new core values across various levels of your organization. Some might be widespread, while others might be unique to teams. Along with adding new processes and policies, paradigm changes often come with resources and language updates that support these initiatives.

For example, many teams value efficiency, which can impact the processes these groups use. On an organizational level, companies might decide to emphasize wellness, introducing mental health days for employees and associated resources across levels.

12 Steps in the Change Management Process

A successful change management process begins with a firm understanding of change management principles. The elements of an effective process can ebb and flow depending on your organization’s specific goals.

The 12 steps in the change management process will optimize your efforts to help you reach your ultimate target — better business results.

1. Identify the Need for Change

Recognizing the need for change is an essential first step in the change management process. You should look for opportunities for or threats to your company and evaluate how worthy they are for adjusting. Are they critical enough to your operations that the changes are worth the time and effort? Will you see a return on investment, productivity boosts or other benefits? If you envision those results happening for your company, it’s time to build a plan to get there.

You could focus your goals on several different organizational aspects.

  • Culture: Do you want to improve your culture, maybe to one that is more positive or community-oriented?
  • Specific problems: Maybe you don’t even need an in-depth analysis to know what problems you need to address.
  • Communication: Communication is a significant component of implementing the goals you set, but there is almost always room for improvement in this area.
  • Training: Perhaps you want to improve the training your teams receive at different levels of your organization.

Knowing what your organization aims to solve can determine the processes, tools and resources you need to achieve it. Defining and specifying this initial change management step can streamline later planning and implementation stages.

2. Outline How Change Will Affect the Organization

A successful organization will work with its employees, not against them. You should always strive for better communication and unifying your group toward common goals at every level.

Communicate with your employees through every step of the change management process to get their insight and ensure they are on the same page as the senior leaders. Explain why the change is necessary and what you expect to come of it.

3. Prepare for Change

The people in your business should be on board with your change. After all, human resources are the most valuable part of your organization, and they are the ones who will implement the changes you hope to see.

It’s essential to introduce the changes to your teams, including them in your process so they feel involved, never blindsided. You must get them excited to change, especially those who are comfortable with how they’ve always done things and don’t necessarily see the need.

It is vital for leaders throughout your organization to unambiguously understand your vision for change, so they can communicate that well to their teams and ensure every member of your organization is on the same page. Doing so will increase your morale and help your employees feel like a valuable part of the process.

4. Create a Change Proposal

To implement improvements throughout your organization, you will need a change proposal. This document will describe the problem, outline your proposed solution and explain the tools and resources needed to implement it. You might need to create a budget to account for new investments, like technology or team members. A thorough, concise change proposal can help decision-makers understand the need for change and approve your approach to solving it.

5. Craft a Vision Statement

Once you have a clear picture of the changes needed in your organization, it’s time to craft a vision statement. This document gives your organization a picture of what the future could and should look like after the change process. A vision statement allows team leaders and employees at every level to understand the goal and feel inspired to come alongside you to achieve it.

6. Present the Proposed Changes to Stakeholders and Get Buy-In

As critical as it is to get your employees’ input throughout the change management process, you should be just as eager to get your stakeholders involved. If they do not back the goals you’re setting for your change initiatives, it will be more challenging for you without their financial and overall support.

Present the proposed changes to your stakeholders after researching their interests. Then, tailor the specific goals and presentation to their concerns as much as you can while maintaining the changes you want to make. You should also implement a mandatory stakeholder signoff in all your steps.

7. Elect Change Leaders

Find the people in your organization who will take initiative and help drive the changes within your teams. Choose people you trust and don’t feel you have to monitor all the time. They should make the transition smoother and add to it, not detract from it.

Appoint the appropriate number of change agents based on your organization’s size and how many teams you have. Having too many proponents could lead to communication errors.

8. Locate and Remove Obstacles

When analyzing areas that warrant improvement, you should also identify obstacles that could prevent you from achieving your goals. At this point in the process, you should work to remove those obstacles so you can track your process unhindered. Delegate tasks to your change leaders to streamline the process.

9. Set Goals for the Change

The goals you set for your organization should be strategic. Ask yourself what changes you are working toward. Measure your progress with key performance indicators determined early in the process. Structured methodologies like SMART goals can be a helpful way to do this.

SMART goals help you manage and achieve your vision by creating easy-to-understand, universally applicable and measurable objectives. The acronym breaks down as follows.

  • Specific: A wishy-washy goal to “improve your business” doesn’t explain what you want to change or how you intend to get there.
  • Measurable: Think about what data you can use to measure progress.
  • Attainable/achievable: Strike a balance between an easy-to-reach milestone and one that will spur genuine improvements.
  • Relevant: Evaluate why you want to meet this goal and how it applies to your company’s operations.
  • Timely: Set a deadline for your goal.

SMART goals are just one example of ways to determine your needs for organizational change. Find an evaluative system that works best for your company and take a deep dive into every area to identify opportunities for improvement.

10. Implement the Change Plan

Once you’ve put in all the preliminary effort, it’s time to implement the change plan you’ve worked so hard to build. Focus on strategic imperatives such as execution and accountability. There are ways to simplify the process, such as breaking it down into actionable phases. Creating the simplest process helps you convey your ideas to your team and increases your chances for success.

If you are looking to implement a technology solution, this is the stage to do that. These solutions can help you gain new insights to help you through the change implementation process and measure your change’s success. The automation helps you quickly see what aspects of your project are on-track, off-track or even at risk, while providing accountability for the results.

11. Embed Changes in Training and Culture

Make your goals attainable by incorporating specific elements into your change management process.

  • Training: No matter what changes you make, you will need to train your employees, as the adjustments will probably affect their workflows.
  • Coaching: Coach the leaders you appointed, so they can pass that knowledge to the people under them.
  • Communication: Communication is vital in nearly every step of the change management process. Organize regular meetings and appoint yourself or another proponent as the primary point of contact for questions and concerns.
  • Sponsorships: If your changes require resources, get sponsorships to help provide the necessary funding. Do not overlook this essential step for successful change management.
  • Resistance management: It may take some time for all your team members to get on board with the changes you are trying to implement. Having management tools in place will allow you to overcome resistance, ease concerns and quickly get back to achieving your goals.

Integrating changes across your processes and policies can support teams and employees for long-term implementation. When your organization has the structural support it needs to sustain new developments, you can better benefit from the improvements and growth your changes bring.

12. Analyze Results and Report

Completing your change management process is only the first step. You must then look back on the process and analyze it to measure its success. Conducting a project “postmortem,” or analysis and review, can help your senior leaders understand what to focus on during the next change process.

Remember, change management is not a one-time task. It should continue throughout your organization’s life if you expect ongoing growth.

Top Reasons Change Management Initiatives Fail

Top Reasons Change Management Initiatives Fail

Even if you follow the elements of an effective change management process, there are possible failure factors to be aware of. Still, you should keep an open mind through the obstacles because you can still learn and benefit from failures.

Different groups of factors impact change management and could cause it to fail.

Low Level of Internal Buy-In

You need your decision-makers and impacted teams and employees to support your changes for successful management and implementation. Your leaders and stakeholders can provide structural support for your plans, from budgeting and resources to backing your decisions. When your teams and employees support your initiatives, they will be more willing to adopt essential changes.

Poor Communication

Clear communication is one of the primary change management principles responsible for success. When all organizational levels understand the campaign’s purpose, next steps and progress, they can better tailor their actions and stay motivated. Your communication efforts should be direct and highlight all essential information that can improve operations.

Lack of Measurement

To achieve success, you must first define what that looks like for each project and organization. Without measuring progress, you cannot determine whether your efforts are working or improving. SMART goals and KPIs can highlight if you need to shift directions and try new approaches.

Measurement can also help keep individuals motivated. When they see how their actions contribute to progress, they can continue to provide their support and enthusiasm for your change management steps.

Not People-Focused

Your change management processes should focus on managing people rather than processes and policies. Your resources and processes are malleable and meant to support your employees and teams. Instead, you should design your change management steps around what your team members need to achieve your desired results.

Inadequate Training and Onboarding

Employees and teams must learn how to use and implement new resources and processes. Whether you are changing a policy or adding tools and procedures to daily operations, training can help introduce employees to new functions and features they might encounter. You should also integrate changes into onboarding to streamline adjustments for new employees.

Lack of Momentum

When change occurs slowly, individuals and teams can lose motivation. They might revert to old processes and resources, preventing progress and adoption. Breaking down your goals into achievable objectives can promote continual improvements and boost motivation.

How to Manage Change Effectively

Managing change requires various strategies and techniques to ensure success. Since every organization is different, knowing some essential strategies can strengthen your change management processes.

Create a Sense of Urgency

Many people find renewed motivation when working under a deadline. You can create a sense of urgency by highlighting the industry or company elements that require more immediate action, inspiring your teams to react.

Roll out in Phases

Ambitious projects can appear unattainable. Instead, breaking down your goal into phases with various objectives and deadlines can provide employees with more direction and assurance that management can support their needs.

Address Resistance and Hesitance

Resistance and hesitation are natural. Your teams might be unsure why change is even necessary. When questions and pushback occur, you can demonstrate you have your employees’ best interest in mind by responding to concerns with relevant information that meets their needs.

Ask for Feedback

As the people carrying out your changes, your employees and teams are excellent sources of information. Whether you have reached an objective or completed your overall goal, your employees can provide feedback on the strategies and processes you used to implement changes. You can use this data to improve change management processes for future campaigns.

After an initial adjustment period, you can also ask employees for their feedback about the changes. They might feel new resources or processes are not accomplishing the desired outcome or are causing additional challenges. For example, employees might cite that new tools are inefficient, causing them to fall behind on projects.

How AchieveIt Helps With Change Management

AchieveIt is the platform large organizations use to get their most demanding, aggressive initiatives out of the boardroom and into reality. Often, excellent ideas never make it past the drawing board because too many ideas and logistics prevent everyone from homing in on an outstanding idea and throwing every resource at it to make it come alive. What does it take to guide these initiatives through to completion?

  1. Get a real-time view: See what’s happening with every initiative, at every level, from the enterprise to the individual.
  2. Get everyone engaged: An easy-to-use platform connects your organization from the executive leadership to the project teams, keeping everyone accountable and on the same page.
  3. Get every possible advantage: Draw on our execution experts’ experience and best practices with our premier platform.

Everyone from global corporations to regional health care systems to federal agencies have turned to AchieveIt. We provide services that will allow you to create a change management plan that takes your organization to the success it’s capable of. Growth is essential for your company as your business continually transforms and changes to the market it finds itself in.

Successfully Implement Change in Your Organization With AchieveIt

Successfully Implement Change in Your Organization With AchieveIt

AchieveIt can help take your organization to new heights as you work to implement a change management plan that’s right for your business. We design plans to implement change and take your organization forward with uniformity, visibility and accountability.

Schedule a demo today to see what AchieveIt can do to implement the changes you’ve been dreaming of.

Do you have questions or want to request more information? Contact us here!


Meet the Author  Chelsea Damon

Chelsea Damon is the Content Strategist at AchieveIt. When she's not publishing content about strategy execution, you'll likely find her outside or baking bread.

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