Facing an economic crisis, transitioning between remote and hybrid models, adopting a new technology… regardless of the situation, one thing is certain: Change is an intimidating prospect for most people. So much so that there’s an entire professional field to help teams of all sizes navigate change.
Change management is an umbrella term that encompasses the frameworks and processes a leader can implement to guide their team through an organizational change. Unlike project management or productivity tools, change management focuses on the human side of organizations, lasting from before a project is ideated all the way to its successful completion.
Effective change management empowers your team and brings your organization closer to realizing its fullest potential. And all you need are five simple steps, outlined below.
The Change Management Process
The first stage of project management is initiation. It revolves around preparing the scope, budget, and time for a project to take place. Similarly, the first stage in the change management process is preparing your team for the project and gaining buy-in from everyone involved or affected by the upcoming change.
Many leaders try to force or impose change instead of gaining buy-in, but as the saying goes, “you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” In these early stages, it’s worth focusing your efforts on communicating the challenges you’re currently facing and how the proposed project can address them. Gain buy-in by placing an emphasis on the benefits of the new solution, educating employees about how it will work and how they can use it, and providing support.
This stage of change management aligns with the planning phase of project management in that it is time to delineate strategic goals, metrics, stakeholders, team, and scope for the project.
This stage is crucial as this is the time for everyone to start the collaborative process. At this stage, you will want to listen to skeptics and address their objections. For example, if you’re transitioning from in-person to online training and one of the objections is the cost of this shift, present a detailed budget that breaks down the costs compared to the traditional program. It could also be a good time to present a prototype or demonstration, if possible, to get the team excited and appease their doubts.
Implementation in project management focuses on completing the work on time and up to the project’s success standards. And the same phase in change management emphasizes the human side of the process, empowering your team to stay engaged in the project and accomplish the tasks required to complete the project.
Throughout the implementation phase, you’ll want to monitor performance, ensure that milestones are being met, and celebrate the wins to keep morale high.
It may seem like implementing a project is the final step in the change management process. But in reality, the work is only beginning at this stage. After your project is completed, it’s time to launch, or deliver, the project.
Adoption is essential for project success. And it is where many teams fail. You may have experienced it firsthand at your organization: The marketing or sales team proposes adopting a new project management platform, creates the company account, invites the staff, and migrates projects to the new platform. But only a handful of people start using it, and soon, it is abandoned in favor of old habits.
People tend to revert to old patterns, so adoption is an ongoing effort to ensure that the change is lasting and brings the intended benefits to the company.
To increase your chances of successful adoption, provide resources, training and guidance so that the staff gains confidence in the process. And encourage them to participate in the change and raise questions or concerns; this will help them feel like part of the solution.
A project is considered successful when the original objectives are met. After delivering the project, you’ll need to revisit the objectives you set at the beginning of the project and evaluate the results.
Beyond tangible metrics like revenue, productivity, or customer churn, you’ll want to measure satisfaction, adoption, and whether or not the implemented project brought you closer to organizational goals. From there, you’ll have new insights that will serve to improve future projects.
The Biggest Obstacle To Change Management
The biggest obstacle to organizational change is resistance. Whatever change you’re promoting, you’ll likely face critics and skeptics who have valid reasons to oppose your proposition. People are naturally scared or hesitant to adopt new things, whether it is technology, a working model, or a new process. And it is up to you to address their concerns.
Gaining support from skeptics begins by recognizing their concerns empathetically and understanding where they’re coming from. They may have valid points you haven’t considered yet, so listen to their objections carefully and study the possibilities.
Similarly, you may have doubts yourself despite leading the change, and it is ok to share them candidly. However, you’ll want to highlight the benefits and ensure that the process is perceived as an overall improvement, despite the challenges it may represent. Seeing your openness will help resolve some of the defensiveness detractors may feel and encourage them to share their perspectives.
Is your organization going through or planning to experience a significant transition? Book a discovery call with me to learn more about my change management and technology strategy services.