The Change Management Process

Change Management or, more specifically, organizational change management became popular in the early ’90s as companies drastically increased their investment in systems development. That investment was justified largely through headcount efficiency: fewer people doing more things with better automation. The problem was the systems were going live, but the people weren’t necessarily changing in the way that they had planned. The issue was behavioral. Not necessarily outright resistance, but a kind of ‘lost in translation’ problem, where people didn’t understand what they were supposed to be doing. Whatever the reason, the return on investment wasn’t there. And in the long run, that doesn’t work. Change Management came into play as a way to mitigate that risk.

What Even is Change Management?

Change Management is the set of activities that supports organizations and individuals in the successful implementation of business change. Ultimately, the goal is to deliver the return on investment that the business has set as the goal in the financial business. 

At Red Clover, our management model groups these activities into two work streams: behavior change, focusing on benefits realization, and people transition, focusing on business continuity. Both are critical for any major change initiative.

Why is Change Management Necessary?

How many times have you seen your company try to implement a new system or adopt some sort of process change only to see individuals or entire teams avoid or outright block its implementation? It happens a lot – and sometimes for perfectly rational reasons. Regardless of why, how, or what is blocking the implementation, it costs money. Sometimes a lot of money – especially if the financial business case and return on investment are pinned on changing how people do their work. Entire companies have been driven into the ground because they couldn’t successfully implement change.

Given the current economic climate, effective change management has never been more important to organizational and business success. In fact, statistics have shown that over half of business initiatives fail because insufficient time and resources were dedicated to change management. It’s more important than ever that we address change management as part of whatever business change we are trying to make.

5 Crucial Steps in the Change Management Process

Like any good project management process, plan the work and work the plan. For successful change management projects, we work through 5 steps to prepare, implement and measure and iterate. The first step: how and why.

1. Define How and Why the Change Will Take Place

Every good project has a communications plan and with that plan is clear messaging that explains how the change will be implemented and why the organization is making the change in the first place. The ‘why’ portion of the communication is important, not only for the context it provides but also for the justification of what will only be perceived as bad news. Yes, it’s true. All change is bad. Or at least all change that we didn’t choose ourselves.

Our management model focuses on Lead and Launch at this stage and the key deliverables include:

Lead – Behavior ChangeLaunch – People Transition 
Change vision / Goals statement
Communication strategy 
Communication plan
Stakeholder management plan
Transition assessment
Human Resources data
Establishment of the project team

Your communication plan should address what, who, how, and when. “What” refers to the key messages or topics. “Who” is the audience or key stakeholder group. “When” can be articulated by date or frequency and “How” is the channel, recognizing that the same message may be sent through different channels to reach people in different ways. The following example shows how one message is communicated to three different groups in slightly different ways – though, in this example, they are all done through a meeting. Often this would be complemented with supporting written communication in the form of handouts, presentation materials, FAQs, email blasts, dedicated channels on the team messaging platform, etc.

WhatWhoHowWhen
Project overview and business rationale – why we have decided to do this now. Explain the case for change in order to build engagement and reduce friction.Senior LeadersRound table lunch with all senior leaders, CEO presenting. Supporting documentation as a takeaway – ‘by the numbers’ follow up FAQs for leaders to take back to their teams6/15
Managers and staffTeam meetings by group, Senior Leaders presenting, using excerpts from the 6/15 meeting with high level financials only. Leverages FAQ document to support consistent messaging in response to questions.6/20 – 6/25
All employeesTownhall for all employees where CEO and CFO present the project, timing, and high level goals. No handouts, however, the presentation will be posted internally after the meeting. Follow up email to all employees with key messages.6/29

In this stage of the project, you are also launching your people transition, focusing on gathering important information on the current status of the organization, job roles, and impacted individuals, forming your project team, and creating a project work plan that addresses the key activities for design and implementation as well as business continuity requirements. 

If you’re in the process of planning a business change, work with the core implementation team to understand the overall work plan and key roles inside of that team. Also, who has a critical role outside of the project? What is the continuity plan there? Is there a budget to pay for it? There are a dozen or so project management questions that need to be answered at the start of any change management planning process. Once these questions are answered, use the information to inform the content and messaging for the communications plan.

Once the communication framework and project plan and team are established, we’re ready to move on to preparing your company for the change.

2. Prepare Your Company for the Change

Preparation, both in terms of behavior change and people transition, comes down to fit-gap analysis. In the Design phase of change management, we’re looking at everything from organization and job design to behavioral competencies that are needed to support new ways of working. In terms of people transition, in the Define phase, we identify key resources and skills that must be retained, training and development plans to support new roles, costs related to layoffs if applicable, and overall headcount tracking mechanisms that allow us to manage attrition during implementation. This is by far the most intense phase of the overall project, where the change management team works to develop solutions to support the project implementation team while the future state of the organization (and in some cases the business), is not yet fully known and understood.

Key deliverables at this stage include:

Design – Behavior ChangeDefine – People Transition 
Organization and job design
Skills assessments
Change impact assessment 
Change readiness assessment
Team engagement survey
Learning and development planning
Knowledge transfer planning
Transition management plan
Success metrics
Restructuring costs
Redeployment planning

Once these activities are complete or close to being completed, we can move on to the implementation of the business change – or in terms of our change management model, Develop and Retain.

3. Begin Implementing the Change

Implementation can take weeks, months, or even years, depending on the scale of the project. Generally speaking, the longer the project, the more complex the financial business case, and the related change management work is more significant. At this stage in the project, the change management activities are focused on Develop, where we implement new standards for performance development, metrics and KPIs used to measure individual and organizational contribution to business goals. On the people transition side, we move into implementation, namely, how to Retain the resources needed for the new organization. 

In addition to reviewing the deliverables from the last phase and making adjustments, key deliverables at this stage include:

Develop – Behavior ChangeRetain – People Transition 
Performance development
Roles and responsibilities
Terms and conditions
Compensation costs

4. Collect Data and Analyze Results of the Change

As the project moves into implementation, data collection and analysis come into focus. Firstly, we are looking at the estimating assumptions from earlier phases, testing and adjusting them as needed. We also revisit the communications plan to meet changing needs of the project. Key deliverables in this phase include a change action plan where we track behaviors and actions that need to change to support a successful implementation. Finally, as we move through implementation, we look at ongoing tracking of the project return on investment (ROI) to ensure that we are meeting the stated goals for the project.

Align – Behavior ChangeSustain – People Transition 
Change action planProject ROI tracking

5. Make Improvements to the Process Based on Results

In this last step, we shift our focus from the project related deliverables and tracking and move to iterative or ongoing opportunities and benefits. Oftentimes, this is done in parallel with the close of the project or overall program. The overarching goal of all change management is to achieve the financial and operational results that the project has set as its goal. At this point, we are measuring the overall ROI for the project and identifying further opportunities for cost savings or operational efficiencies that drive additional benefits to the business.

Work With an HR Consultant to Ensure the Change Process Goes Smoothly

Change projects can be hard. Hard for the project team, hard for the organizations that are impacted by the change, hard for leaders to communicate consistently and effectively, and hard for people to keep listening and remain engaged. One solution is to work with an external partner that specializes in managing change. Outside support provides a different perspective and consultants can provide feedback and guidance that’s harder to give from inside the organization. Red Clover has been working with clients for years to implement complex, people driven change projects.  We specialize in working with small and mid-sized businesses. If you are considering a business process change or transformation project, we are more than happy to set up a time to talk. Contact us.

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