6 steps to develop an effective change management plan
Published on April 6, 2023
All businesses must undergo a change at one point or another. Whether it's a change in leadership, organizational structure, or technology, companies have to adapt to remain competitive.
But change can be disruptive and stressful for employees—and without a well-planned change management strategy, organizations may fail to achieve their desired outcomes.
Case in point: 70% of change initiatives fail due to employee resistance or unproductive management behavior. Luckily, you can mitigate this risk by creating an effective change management plan and ensure a smooth change transition.
This article will explore the steps to develop a change management plan, including the skills needed to lead a successful change effort, common reasons why change management plans fail, and how to avoid these pitfalls.
Why you need a change management plan
As an organization undergoing change, you must prepare your employees for what lies ahead. Change can be difficult for everyone involved. But if you have a process they can follow, it makes the transition easier and ensures everyone is on board.
A change management plan allows you to communicate the change early and often, provide training and support, and be available to answer possible questions. It also reduces change resistance, boosts employee morale, and helps to create a more positive work environment.
In addition, a change management plan helps control the effect of change during the execution and control stage, thereby avoiding overruns in cost and schedule, incoherent scope, or poor quality change management.
Skills needed to lead a change management plan
Leading change is not a simple operation. It's a very human process, requiring human skills. Soft skills like empathy, communication, and emotional intelligence are essential. A change leader must also have strong resilience and be good at motivating others.
Some other skills that are critical for analyzing change, creating a plan, and implementing the plan effectively include:
Leadership: Good leadership is essential for taking employees through organizational change and delegating roles to the right people. Good leadership styles include qualities like honesty and transparency. A change leader should be transparent about why the change is taking place. They should also have a clear vision of what the company aims to accomplish through the change.
Strategic thinking: Strategic thinking is a critical skill that helps you create change management plans. When you understand your company's needs, you can develop a strong plan that includes the timeline for the change, the deadline, specific tasks necessary to make the change, and key responsibilities for each employee.
Organization: Organization is another skill that can improve change management. Establishing a clear change management plan requires organizing lots of information, including employee roles, project goals, deadlines, and other key information.
Research skills: Developing research skills can enable you to assist your organization in planning for change. You can research other companies' change management tactics and methodologies to generate ideas for your company's change process.
Analytical skills: Change management plans also require analytical and critical thinking skills to analyze company data, understand the research, and make the best decisions for your organization.
Here are a few tips to help you develop and improve the skills you need to lead a change management plan:
Read articles and blogs about other companies' change management experiences to gain more insight and knowledge
Find a mentor to give you specific guidance and help you make good decisions
Hire a change management consultant to guide your company through the change and learning from their expertise
Take and complete an online management course
How to create a change management plan
You shouldn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to creating a change management plan.
It requires careful consideration of the unique challenges and opportunities that come with the specific change. But, generally speaking, you'll find one to include the following:
A clear definition of the change
A timeline for implementation
A communication strategy
A training plan
A risk management strategy
Below are the steps to develop a successful change management plan.
Step 1: Define your change management goals
Start your change management plan by establishing the plan goals. This involves identifying the problem or opportunity the change will address and articulating the desired and expected outcomes.
Use these tips to define your goals clearly:
Understand the changes: Familiarize yourself with the changes that need to be made and their implications, as well as the methodologies you'll use to prioritize change requests. For instance, if you plan to introduce new software to your employees, it's not enough to simply know how the software works. You also need to understand how it'll affect existing workflows.
Have awareness goals: Employee awareness and adoption of the changes should be part of your plan, so ensure you incorporate that.
Define KPIs: Define quantifiable KPIs to define your plan's success. How will you measure your success? What metrics do you need to move? What is the baseline for how things currently stand? Apply the metrics that make sense given the context of the changes.
Step 2: Build your change team
In order to effectively implement change management, it's important to prioritize building a strong change management team with the necessary resources.
This team should consist of individuals in leadership positions from various departments, including:
Building alliances with various departments makes it easy to educate the rest of the team on the changes and provide support throughout the change process.
Additionally, it's important to build a finance team to manage change incentives and resources. This will help develop strategies for effective finance change management and avoid delays. You also need support from stakeholders, including the CEO and other members of the executive team, to increase the chances of success.
Step 3: Develop your change management plan
With your team assembled, it's time to develop your change management plan.
Create a task list: This is a checklist of actionable tasks you must complete to achieve your goals. It keeps your team on track and is easy to reference when determining the next steps.
Put together a timeline: Assign specific due dates to each task on your list and make sure that those deadlines are met. Your plan should revolve around the project's overall due date. If any tasks cannot be completed before the rollout of changes, consider adjusting their due dates or prioritize them according to their importance and feasibility. You may also complete some tasks after the rollout if necessary.
Change management can be complex, so using a project management tool like Asana or Trello to organize your plans and keep everything in one place can be of great help.
Step 4: Create a communication strategy
Developing a clear and concise communication strategy ensures everyone is onboard and understands what's happening throughout the change management process.
Keep the following pointers in mind when developing your communication plan:
Ensure all stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, and external partners are aware of the project timeline and objectives.
Create a timeline for how often you'll communicate updates.
Have clear channels of communication. Examples include email, phone, or in-person meetings.
Ensure that everyone understands the company's change management process and procedures clearly.
Step 5: Execute your change management plan
Executing a change management plan involves several steps, including executing the communication plan, providing training, and monitoring progress.
During the implementation phase, change managers should identify and quickly address any roadblocks that arise. This can be accomplished by encouraging employee participation in the change, being transparent and communicative from the start, and addressing any resistance that may arise.
To help build momentum for the change, be sure to communicate all successes and provide incentives for embracing the change. Employees should also be encouraged to experiment and share their experiences to harness their emotional energy and overcome any natural resistance that may arise.
Step 6: Evaluate, review, and adapt
Evaluating the change management plan is essential to determine its effectiveness. This involves assessing the success of the change and identifying areas for improvement in the change management process.
A few ways you can do this include:
Use a change management tracking system to track all changes that are made in the organization. This allows you to identify and mitigate any areas of concern before they become major issues.
Use performance indicators to help you measure the success of the plan. With a collaborative KPI dashboard, you can see if the plan is being implemented correctly or whether there are unexpected side effects resulting from the changes.
Regularly review team progress to ensure that the employees adopt the changes and that all successful change initiatives are incorporated into future change management plans.
When do change management plans fail?
Not all change management plans are successful. They can fail for a variety of reasons. The following are some common reasons for change management plan failures and ways to avoid them:
People often resist change, especially if it threatens their job security or current way of doing things. This can result in a lack of cooperation and engagement, which can undermine the success of the change management plan.
It's crucial to communicate the why behind the change and how it will benefit the organization, involve stakeholders in the planning process, and provide training and support to help them adapt to the changes.
Clear communication is essential for the success of any change management plan. If stakeholders are not informed about the changes or the reasons, they may become confused or disengaged. Anxiety and resistance are higher when people do not understand why there's a change.
An excellent way to avoid this failure is to ensure everyone impacted by the change is well-informed. Include the reasons behind it, the expected outcomes, and how it will affect them. Communication should be ongoing and two-way, with opportunities for feedback and questions.
Change management plans require thorough planning to be successful. If the planning is inadequate, the plan may not address all the necessary areas, or it may not be implemented effectively.
It's critical to ensure the planning process is thorough, considering all change aspects. Clearly understand the goals, timelines, and resources required to implement the change effectively.
Lack of leadership support
Without support from leaders, change management plans are unlikely to succeed. Leaders are critical in driving change, communicating the vision, and providing the resources and support needed to make the change happen.
Engage leaders early in the planning process and get their commitment. They should be involved in communication efforts and be visible and accessible throughout the change process.
Change management plans need resources such as finances, time, and technology to be successful. If these resources are inadequate, the change may not be implemented effectively.
The solution is to thoroughly assess the resources required to implement the change and ensure that they are available. Build finance teams that will be involved in reallocating resources or securing additional funding to finance change management.
Change is inevitable, especially in the business world.
In light of market fluctuations, digital innovations, and constant growth surrounding the marketplace, following an articulated change management plan can help guide your organization through any changes they need to adopt or decisions you need to make today for the opportunities you'll find tomorrow.
But to ensure all the information in your change management plan is well documented and easily accessible to employees or to make any needed changes, use a change management tool or software like Spendesk.
The main aim of a change management plan is to stay on top of a growing business, manage change, and make the change process easier. A documentation tool can easily create a collaborative, robust, and interactive change management plan for your company.