9 Steps to a Successful Change Management Process

In any line of business, change is inevitable. If we fail to move with the times, if we don’t continuously strive for improvement and growth, our businesses will stagnate – and they may even die. But resistance to change is almost as inevitable as change, and teething troubles while people get used to new ways of doing things can wreak havoc. The change management process is the make-or-break challenge that will determine whether we implement change successfully or not.

Luckily, you won’t be the first entrepreneur to embark on a change process. It’s a topic that has been discussed and written about from the time when the first management thinkers began to put their thoughts on paper. Understanding the challenges you’ll face, preparing properly for the change and carrying the crucial implementation phase through to a successful conclusion are your goals. To help you successfully go through the change management process, we explain some basic concepts about change management and take you through the essential steps for doing it right.

So, What’s Change Management?

When you and your management team identify a need for change, it may be tempting to tackle change willy-nilly. But for successful change, you need to manage the transition. First, you must prepare your team for the change. Why is it necessary, and what will it involve?

Next, you must be ready to support employees through the change process. This could involve providing extra training or resources, but primarily, it will mean ensuring that the change doesn’t affect productivity or morale unduly and that business processes continue to run smoothly.

Change management is difficult. Your employees have been doing things in a certain way, and that has always been the “right” way to do it. Now, you come along and tell them that they need to adopt new ways. Resistance to change is almost inevitable.

Research from McKinsey & Company found that 70 percent of change initiatives never reach their stated goals. That doesn’t mean that you should give up on the change before you ever begin the process, but it does mean that you need to manage the process very, very carefully in order to succeed. Getting the full support of every manager and employee is a vital first step. Without that, your attempts at change will be doomed from the start.

3 Change Management Models

Change is hard as-is. There’s no need to go in blind when you can follow the change management models that have been developed and proven by experts.

The ADKAR Model

“ADKAR” is an acronym that represents a successful change management process in terms of the phases your employees will go through along the way: It stands for:

  • Awareness of the need for change.
  • Desire to implement change.
  • Knowledge of what must be done to achieve successful change.
  • Ability to implement the new way of working.
  • Reinforcement of the new methods by continuing to implement them in the longer term.

For a successful change management process, you’ll have to lead your employees through each step.

Lewin’s Change Management Model

According to Lewin, we can sum up change management by seeing it as a process consisting of three phases:

Unfreeze: A block of ice has a fixed shape. Just as you would melt ice if you wanted to form it into a new shape, so you need to “unfreeze” people’s mindsets out of the old way of doing things. Again, it comes down to recognizing the need and being willing to try something new.

Change: Now that people are ready to change, you can begin with implementation. But there will be pressures and unforeseen difficulties. Now is the time when your people need lots of support to help them get the change right.

Freeze: The hectic implementation phase is over. You have made any necessary adjustments to your plans, and you are ready to finalize the new “shape” of your business. The “new” way of doing things is now the way they will always be done.

The Kubler-Ross Five-Stage Model or Change Curve

This model differs from the others and deals primarily with the feelings of your employees as they go through a change process. Understanding this model will help you to be ready for their reactions as you embark on and finally complete your change process.

  1. Denial: “No! We don’t need to change!”
  2. Anger: “After all these years, I hear I have to change! It makes me angry!”
  3. Depression: “I see that change is inevitable. I am sad that everything will be different now and I feel insecure and a little frightened.”
  4. Bargaining: “Can’t we keep just this or that thing the same as it was before?”
  5. Acceptance: “I will try this change, and I will do my best to make it work.”

9 Critical Steps in any Change Management Process

Every change management process will be unique. The goals your business has, the environment in which you operate, and the culture you’ve created within your company are all among the things that make your change process one-of-a-kind. But although the steps that contribute to the change, the technical details, and the people you work with will differ from those of any other company, the broad principles remain the same. These critical steps will give you a basic roadmap towards successful change. All you need to do is fill in the details.

Step #1: Begin with the Objective

Before you set out on a journey, you will have a destination in mind. When preparing for change, you will know where you are now and where you want to be. Make sure to define this as specifically as you can – you’ll need to have the rest of the company buy-in on your vision.

You should also be sure that the change you’re hoping to implement is aligned with the company’s present mission and future vision. Of course, your company’s reason for being, and therefore its mission, can also evolve, so when you’re contemplating radical change, you should revisit your vision and mission statements first.

Small changes may not have as much of an impact, but even they should be aligned with business objectives that ultimately serve as your strategic focus.

Step #2: “Sell” the Need for Change to Your Management Team

Although you might already have a good idea of what you want to change and why you want to change it, you need your team to want that change as much as you do. Getting them on board isn’t going to happen through a pep talk. What you need is two-way communication.

Identify the perceived threat that you want to address or the opportunity that you want to explore and ask for input. Getting different perspectives on the need for change, and different suggestions on what it should consist of can be an eye-opener.

During these discussions, you will begin formulating a mutual conclusion, and because everyone has contributed to it, you already have considerable investment from your key employees.

Step #3: Identify Change Champions

Not all the people who will facilitate the change process will be managers. Identify influential staff members at every organizational level. These people must become your change champions, and once again, talking, listening, and asking for commitment are the best ways to get them on your side. Be honest about your need for their support, and make them part of your change management leadership team.

Step #4: Create and Communicate the Vision

In the initial steps of the process, you formulated a vision of what you want to achieve. The bigger the changes you want to make, the more compelling this vision must be. As we have seen, a significant change might even result in changes to the overall vision and mission of the company. But keeping it to yourself and a select team won’t inspire the whole organization. You also need to communicate the vision successfully.

The more people you can persuade to be passionate about your vision, the less opposition you will face. Remember that resistance to change is very much a part of human nature. As far as possible, you need to overcome it. The more people who will wholeheartedly commit to change, the better. Even those who are lukewarm about change will toe the line and give it a chance if managers and colleagues they respect believe in it.

When people express concerns, you should listen carefully. They may have a genuine point that you should take into consideration. Be open, be honest, and keep the communication channels open. Change is a team effort.

Step #5: Look For Stumbling Blocks and Remove Them

Preparing your people to adopt change is vital to a successful change management process, but you also need to look for stumbling blocks that could hinder the most committed of your change champions. These could include:

  • A need for additional training or new skills
  • An organizational structure that hinders implementation
  • A need for new systems and tools to accommodate new methods
  • A need to restructure job descriptions and update performance review criteria so that they serve your new set of goals.

Step #6: Set Achievable Milestones

Change always serves a goal – and that goal can seem far away and even unreachable at the beginning of your change journey. Milestones not only help you to track progress to see whether the change is moving you towards those goals, but they also give you and your team something to celebrate along the way.

You don’t have to be responsible for achieving all of them yourself. After all, that’s why you have a team of change champions. Communicate the goals, discuss them, and allocate accountability as well as the support that’s available to each strategic objective’s champion.

Step #7: Shoot For Quick Wins Early On

Nothing is more motivating than success. But when we fail, especially if we do so early on in a change process, it’s easy to become discouraged. You also want to show those who remain opposed to change that your plan is working and that they should support it.

Initial targets should be easily achievable, giving you and your team reason to celebrate quite soon after implementation.

Step #8: Keep Tabs on Implementation

Like other forms of management, we can consider change management as a process that consists of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling (or monitoring) that feeds back to planning. Reaching the implementation phase is already something to celebrate, but your journey is not yet over.

The first few months will require extra vigilance. Is change progressing as you anticipated? Did unforeseen problems hinder the implementation of change? Are there any unexpected negative impacts?

You also need to keep the momentum up. It’s easy to set goals for radical change and then wander off and carry on doing things as you did before. Set regular meetings in which your change champions can freely discuss their progress and any obstacles they face. Track progress towards milestones and adjust and improve your plans as needed.

Step #9: Incorporate the Changes In Organizational Culture

When the change you embarked on becomes part of your organizational culture, you are nine-tenths of the way there – even if there is still much to achieve. But it isn’t time to rest on your laurels. There is always room for improvement, and living up to the principle of continuous improvement will involve further changes along the way.

Some of them may be small and easy to implement, others will be more sweeping and will have a greater impact on the organization. Regardless of the scope of change, the basic principles apply.

Making Your Changes Stick

Even if you managed to go through all 9 steps without any problems on the way, you’ll still be faced with the final challenge: making your changes stick.

Let’s say, for example, you created a new process for your employees to follow that makes manufacturing significantly cheaper. Your employees are keen on following the new way at first, but at some point, they end up falling back into the old routine.

To ensure that your changes stick & the new processes are there for the long-haul, you’d want to adopt workflow management software. Then, all you have to do is digitize your process and allow the system to enforce it for you. Want to give it a go? Schedule a free demonstration!

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