Surviving and Thriving in Change: Mastering the Change Management Process
— February 13th, 2023
Leaders and communicators are often judged by their ability to inspire and unite their people during times of change. The very idea of the pinnacle of leadership has long been associated with the notion of guiding a team effectively through a period of transition; agility and adaptability are frequently listed as must-haves in the leadership toolbox.
But change, by its nature, is extremely challenging. The average company has undergone five different changes in the past three years. Yet, McKinsey estimates that as many as 70% of change initiatives fail to achieve their goals. Why is this?
According to the Gallagher Internal Communication and Employee Experience State of the Sector 2023 report, more than half of communicators fail to articulate a clear change narrative or design a consistent calendar of activities. “With nearly 90% of organizations reporting planned change programs in 2023, it’s safe to say that change communication is a fairly basic requirement for organizations of all sizes, not to mention a must-have skill for internal communicators—yet it remains a huge weakness across the board.”
The Ultimate Guide to Change Management Communication
For a business to reach its full potential, organizational change must be embraced. Whether you’re planning a strategic, operational, technological, or mission change within your organization—effective change management is vital in ensuring any changes are implemented without issues.
What are the “3 Cs” of Change Management?
It’s clear that change communication can be a pitfall. So how can we turn the challenge of change into an opportunity?
To make change management a success, always examine the 3 Cs:
Communication, collaboration, and commitment.
Communication is the single most crucial element in any successful change management process.
How changes within your organization are communicated to employees will determine how they react. With employees happily on board, your chance of reaching the objective of your change initiative increases significantly.
Adverse reactions can lead to all the “misses”! Misunderstandings, misgivings, missed opportunities, misinformation, and mistrust!
To guide employees toward embracing change, take the time to communicate the reasons behind the change, how exactly it will be implemented, and how it will benefit and impact employees. Encourage open and honest conversation—don’t shy away from the hard questions.
Investing in effective two-way communication channels is an excellent way to help employees feel supported and updated throughout the transition.
Conduct face-to-face meetings and announcements where possible; if not, video comms are the next best thing.
Narratives and stories are excellent tools when used to unpack the meaning of the change that lies ahead. This kind of content may resonate more with some employees when it comes to fully understanding how they will be affected.
Bringing the people in your organization together to help plan and execute change is an excellent way to engage them in the process and encourage acceptance.
Suppose people know their opinions matter, that they are being listened to, and that they are actually a part of the change. In that case, it is far more likely that they will assume responsibility
and adopt the new behavior. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you should seek "approval" for everything you do, but it is important to involve your employees in decision-making from the very start.
Collaborating with your employees may also result in predicting and overcoming potential obstacles, identifying growth opportunities, and blending creative contributions from right across your organization. Ideally, this will culminate in a well-rounded plan that gives a voice to all your employees and their departments—not just the leadership team.
To achieve long-lasting change within your organization, commitment is key.
As we know, change doesn’t happen overnight. Hard work and dedication are essential to see it through to completion. As a leader, it’s vital that you set an excellent example for your employees by showing them your own commitment to change. Stick to your promises. Follow through on your plans and timelines. Celebrate each phase, each small win. Doing this encourages your employees to stay motivated and to work hard to make the process successful.
Communication, collaboration, and commitment are all skills that should be practiced in the workplace, regardless of whether a change management initiative is needed. Successful application of the “three C’s” leads to increased productivity, higher engagement levels, and better decision-making. In other words, it pays for organizations to invest in and support practices that facilitate these skills.
For further reading on this topic, and more valuable ideas and tips, check out this recent article we published on change management in project management.
Crafting a Strategic Change Management Plan
A change management plan is a vital part of any change management process and can make or break its success. Your plan serves as a roadmap with clear steps to follow as you implement the change management process.
The idea is to carefully guide your employees through the change journey and promote a smooth transition to the new way of doing things.
The key elements of a change management plan include:
- Assessment of change: This involves identifying the reasons for change, evaluating the impact it will have on different stakeholders, and determining the resources required to make the change.
- Communication plan: This outlines how the change will be communicated to stakeholders, including employees, customers, partners, and others. It also includes a timeline for communication and the channels that will be used.
- Training and development: Next, detail how employees will be trained to effectively transition to the new state, including developing new skills, knowledge, and behaviors.
- Organizational design: This involves the creation of a new organizational structure that is aligned with the change, as well as the development of new processes, systems, and technologies.
- Measurement and evaluation: Don’t neglect the last and extremely important step—the establishment of metrics to track progress and measure the success of the change effort. Factor in regular evaluations to ensure the change is on track and meeting expectations.
By developing a comprehensive change management plan, organizations can increase the likelihood of success and minimize the disruption caused by change. It also helps to ensure that everyone involved understands their role in the change effort and is prepared to support the transition.
Kicking off the Change Management Process
Once your plan is complete, it’s time to start the change management process; this is a systematic approach to managing and implementing the change. You’ll go through several steps and activities, including preparing for kick-off, scoping out resources and costs, requesting feedback, monitoring changes, and so on.
While going through each stage and ticking each box, the trick is not to lose sight of that initial promise made to your employees. Keep checking in with your people. Keep tending to that culture of change you worked hard to build up. Keep the lines of communication open.
What Are the Benefits of Effective Change Management?
Some of the biggest benefits of change management include the following:
● Improving communication, collaboration, and commitment
● Preparing your organization for the future
● Increasing openness to change
● Reducing the stress and anxiety associated with change
● Improving decision making
● Improving company culture
● Providing a better understanding of the impact of change
● Increasing innovation
● Modernizing business models
● Responding to challenges more efficiently
The Ultimate Guide to Change Management Communication
Change need not always be feared and resisted. In fact, it’s the constant in your organization, an inevitable part of life. So, let’s approach it in a positive, proactive way. Embrace change and tackle it head-on.
Remember, big challenges often lead to big rewards.
Organizations that build strong relationships across all levels of the business, and with their communities, will thrive during times of change. So, let’s shift our mindsets from reacting to change, to using it as an opportunity to improve ourselves and our skillsets.