Change management is an approach to systemically shift individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state while mitigating productivity loss during the transition, creating the environment for sustained change and realizing the benefits of change more quickly. 

The implementation of a new system will move many people away from the status quo and outside their comfort zone. Most strategic software implementations meet many cautious or resistant users and a smaller number of users who are adamantly opposed to change. 

This later group may be initially difficult to recognise as they generally cast doubt in private forums outside of management visibility. If uncontrolled, the hidden agendas and failure to embrace the needed change will significantly challenge the project, and likely result in time and budget overruns. 

To proactively head this off a dedicated change management framework needs to operate in parallel to application implementation. The framework should analyse changes caused by the new solution, forecast the operational impacts, understand the cascading effects to users, prepare staff for change, and implement methods to minimize resistance to change. 

Change Management Framework 

Examine the organizational culture – Solicit and gather user feedback, design the change management strategy and plan, develop the case for change, provide methods and tools, and manage transformation activities and progress. 

Change management consultants can bring guidance and best practices, but organizational management must also orchestrate a change governance hierarchy – the change effort must be led from inside the organization.

Articulate a clear vision – Introducing more change without clear direction contributes to staff anxiety. Senior Leadership and management at all levels must articulate how the vision directly aligns with the organization’s most important business priorities. 

The vision should be tailored for each stakeholder group, including the customer, the employee and the company. It’s also helpful to forecast milestones along the journey so staff can witness progress and see a finish line. The more interim successes the better. 

Assess change readiness – The reasons for change will be questioned many times during the project so the case for change must clearly identify the pressures for change, the benefits of change and the definitive reasons why not changing is not an option. Surveys can determine whether the case for change is understood throughout the organization. 

Surveys are a good start, but the changes must be viewed from the employees’ perspective. Walk a mile in the user’s shoes – empathy can provide meaningful insight. 

Be on the lookout for sacred cows. Change agents normally uncovers institutionalised obstacles such as cultural norms, established processes, influential people or political fiefdoms so entrenched or insulated that they appear sacrilege to question and untouchable.  

Design the Communication Plan – Acceptance begins with understanding the need for change and becoming involved in the change effort. The communication plan defines what will be communicated, to whom, when, with what frequency, for what purpose, and how and by whom it will be delivered.  

It should articulate messaging by project phase and group – general communications delivered to all recipients supplemented with tailored communications designed for various stakeholder groups. 

Additional change management best practices include the following: 

  • Articulate a consistent narrative regarding the need for change, the process for change and the benefits of change. It’s helpful if management can also provide the context for change by linking the change effort to external factors such as customers, competitors and markets. 
  • The Communication Plan must deliver the right message to the right audience at right time. Good communications plans start small, build momentum and finish with a crescendo effect. Aim for a progressive messaging plan that moves recipients along a continuum from Awareness, to Interest, to Understanding, to Engagement. 
  • People respond to different channels differently. It’s helpful to engage stakeholders using multiple channels and media (email, newsletters, Intranet notices, enterprise social networks, face to face meetings, Vlogs). 
  • It’s critical not to over-promise when setting expectations. It’s helpful to acknowledge there will be some rough spots, benefits may be realised in small increments and not every user will benefit from the project after go-live or possibly ever. 
  • Make the messaging interactive. Always solicit and act on feedback. Use a channel such as an internal social network group or tool to capture feedback. 

Make sure your communication with users is a dialogue and not a monologue and remember that all feedback is a gift. You may increase input by creating a reward system for feedback and new ideas. 

In part two of the article, we will continue to explore the change management framework. Sign up to recieve our newsletter to ensure you don’t miss part two.