Any businessperson who has tried to implement an effective change management strategy knows that even the most carefully planned actions can fail, if the execution is less than top-notch.
Turning plans into reality isn’t easy, but some companies do a better job than others. What’s the secret for successful implementation of your strategy, and what steps can you take to make sure you get it right?
#1: Appoint an appropriate sponsor.
Every change management project needs to have the right leadership, and appointing a suitable sponsor is the first step in achieving that. The 2018 edition of Best Practices in Change Management showed that “active and visible” sponsorship was listed as essential for successful change implementation, three times more often than the next factor.
The sponsor is usually a senior person (or persons) with overall accountability, who acts as the link between the various stakeholders and the team. An active, visible sponsor will:
- Ask what the project management team needs and provide the funds, people, and other resources necessary to achieve the project, both at the current time and in the future.
- Make sure the implementation plan aligns with the company’s overall culture and supports the business’s long-term
- Use their influence to break down roadblocks, inspire the teams to keep working and to continue moving the project towards its successful conclusion.
- Oversee the project communications and lend the credibility of their leadership so the messages are believable.
To find the right sponsor, your team needs to have a clear sense of the project’s business case and the responsibilities of the role. This will allow you to target your search at leaders with the right qualifications and connections to champion your project through the implementation process.
#2: Allocate dedicated resources.
Resource allocation means ensuring that the project team has the money, time and skills to carry out their tasks without unnecessary pressure. Every project has a limit on resources, and it’s important to use them optimally. Resources include things like labour hours, real estate, machinery and equipment, tools and software, natural, financial and human resources. As part of your change management strategy implementation, identify the resources you need at every step of the project and make sure they are available and dedicated for use by your project team members.
Your project management plan should take account of resource dependencies to reduce the risk of bottlenecks and shortages. You also need to have a contingency plan in place to provide for unexpected situations. Data shows a “positive and meaningful” correlation between having dedicated resources successful planning and implementation, compared with projects without dedicated resources.
#3: Involve your employees.
The days of workers doing things because “they were told to” are over. To get the most out of your employees, you need them to take ownership of the changes taking place in the business environment, and to support the change management process.
The following steps will get workers involved, highlight any anticipated resistance areas, and enable you to make adjustments to your management strategies as needed.
1. Articulate the changes.
Transparency is vital, if you want to avoid sowing confusion and concern. The more your workers know and understand about the changes taking place, the less likely they are to become defensive. Business leaders need to clearly articulate the organisational change management plans, explain why the changes are important, and state what the positive outcomes will be.
2. Communicate the process.
Get all your senior employees on the same page before you communicate the message to the rest of the company. This will equip them to answer questions and concerns as they arise. Communicating clearly, showing discipline and empathy, and being transparent will help you guide your staff through the inevitable obstacles. You’ll be able to lead from the top down, and to show staff the wins they can expect as a result of the changes.
3. Define distinctive roles.
Defining the roles and responsibilities of both decision-makers and employees is very important. Everyone who has a role in driving change needs to know who is accountable, responsible and informed. Specific team members should own certain aspects of the change process. Once you’ve assigned the various roles, schedule regular check-ins, program milestones, and develop a system of communication that keeps everyone informed.
4. Provide the necessary training.
Most change management strategy implementation requires training for the employees. Whether your strategy includes new methodologies, process improvement, advanced new software, or simply an overhaul of your customer service protocols, your workers need to be trained for the process to be effective. This requires you to carve out time and budget to provide the proper training, and overlooking this step leads to strategic planning projects failing much of the time.
The point of involving your employees is to build a worker base that shows willingness to take part in the change and to collaborate with the people implementing it. Share your vision and expectations at the outset, and keep them posted with updates, adjustments, and milestone celebrations to maintain morale during the process.
#4: Take a structured approach.
Regardless of the size of your organisation, successfully implementing a change management project requires an intentional, well-defined approach. You can employ formal change management methodologies in various ways, depending on your needs. These include using them for general guidance, as checklists to ensure you cover all critical activities, or to monitor your team’s progress.
A structure helps your project team to stay on track, spend time on meaningful activities, and create space to identify and address gaps that occur during the project’s lifecycle. It also makes processes “repeatable” so you can apply them consistently to other initiatives across the organisation.
#5: Celebrate your successes.
Some of your employees will take well to the introduction of change management models, and will proactively get involved in the design and implementation of the project. Others will be slower to adopt it.
Create a plan to celebrate and publicly reward those who make the effort to embrace the change with a good attitude. Plan and implement reinforcement and sustainment activities, too, so the improvements don’t end with the implementations process.
#6: Evaluate and collect data.
From the management best practices perspective, if you don’t learn from previous experiences it’s more difficult to improve your results in the future. If you aren’t clear on what’s going on today, you can’t adjust your approach in real time to make it more effective. Comments and social media are a good way to get a feel for what’s happened with your business in the past, but accurate, hard data gives you a much more solid baseline for making decisions.
Evaluate your company’s performance against the change objectives and gather the data you need to for use in future projects. It’s particularly important to take note of any potential resistance among employees, because this can provide you with valuable business intelligence about your company culture.
Discover how effectively managing change at a high level can help you to ensure your business remains competitive throughout your digital transformation.