The most dangerous phrase in the English language is “we’ve always done it this way.” Change tends to get a bad reputation in our society, even though we know it’s inevitable and needed in order to evolve. In the business world, change can vary in scale and significance—from the minor project deadline or added team member, all the way up to a complete company rebrand or a cross-country relocation—but without a formal approach to change management, the end result depends entirely on luck.
A 2015 Gallup study found that 70 percent of change initiatives fail. Why? Because changing human behavior is hard. In fact a recent Forbes Insights survey found that company leadership believes that more than 38 percent of employees view change as a significant threat. That fear of change is a barrier to success that must be properly addressed. Regardless of the model a company uses, the core of any strong change management program is understanding how people process change and planning ahead for any secondary change or ripple effects created by the initial change.
The term “change management” encompasses both the tools and processes used to affect change as well as the steps required to ensure change is enacted and retained. Change management works hand-in-hand with project management to address both the process-driven and human aspects of management. While project management handles the technical pieces of the processes involved, change management focuses on people’s reactions to change and how to make the changes more “digestible”.
Some of the key areas change management addresses are:
- Company structure
- Job roles
Some of the key challenges in the process are:
- Communicating about the upcoming changes
- Implementing and scaling change
- Navigating consistently through multiple changes
Another important aspect of change management is the perceptions of all people involved. How will they react to the change you are planning to make? How will you prove it’s necessary and secure support?
The good news is there are tons of change management methodologies that you can adopt and adapt to your business, and a few basic steps you can implement to assist your team with accepting and embracing change.
Here are some key planning principles to consider as you begin any change process. The answer to each question informs a well-structured process.
- WHY? Define the reason for the change
The first step is to be able to explain the change and why it is happening. Start by writing it down to yourself, make sure you define not only the change but also why you’re making it and how you’ll measure its success.
- WHO? Determine the people and processes that will be affected by the change
Your change management plan should include what and who is affected. For example, will deadlines shift? Will you need to hire an outside expert? You’ll also want to consider how a change could impact workload and timelines.
- HOW? Communicate your change plan
The way you choose to communicate change can be crucial. You need to figure out the best way to let everyone know about the change, whether it’s a sit-down meeting or a written plan. Make sure you include anyone who is directly affected as well as anyone whose buy-in you need to ensure success for the change.
- WHAT? Determine resources required to implement the change
Take a moment to check what your team needs in order to execute the change. What skills are required from them? Could they benefit from training or online learning? Perhaps management tools or a specific software can come in handy.
- Analyze and measure
After the changes have been rolled out, it’s time to evaluate how effective they are. By measuring how well your team is reacting to these changes and if your objectives are being met, you’ll know if there are further tweaks that need to be made.
Once the change is completed, make sure to review the process and learn from what worked and what didn’t. Ask questions to determine if all your goals were met and if there are any ways you can optimize future projects. And remember “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” Don’t be afraid to take a step back and re-evaluate your approach to change as an organization and as an individual on the team to ensure the changes implemented lead to actual growth.