The 10 Commandments of Change Management
There is no divine prophecy when it comes to change management. Every organization has unique goals, human capital needs, and external market forces it must account for.
But then again, it helps to have some guiding principles to follow when leading change.
After all, there is no time for wandering, unsure of how to reach your destination. In the context of digital transformation, the need for clearly defined goals, a solid strategy, and the tools to help you get there are fundamental to success.
As a change leader, you are responsible for shepherding your organization through the transformation.
If you follow these 10 Commandments of Change Management, you will realize the benefits of successful change, minimized employee resistance, and higher engagement.
10 commandments for change management leaders
1. You shall clarify the need for change.
In the era of digital transformation, change feels like a near-constant occurrence. New software, new analytics, a renewed website, new employees, new management structures… the list continues.
Some call this progress or evolution, but for employees, facing numerous change initiatives simultaneously is exhausting. The effects of organizational change fatigue can be damaging enough to derail your entire transformation effort if you’re not careful.
One of the most effective ways to prevent this is to make the need for this specific change clear to all relevant stakeholders. Everyone affected by the proposed change should know exactly why it’s necessary, what’s involved to bring it to fruition, what their role in the change is, and how their daily work will be different.
2. You shall foster a sense of ownership and commitment.
The most significant factor of successful change is the degree of ownership and commitment displayed by organizational leaders, according to a survey from McKinsey. Organizations with leaders who raise the bar high, set bold goals, and instill accountability will be positioned to thrive.
But leaders cannot shoulder change — especially one that affects the whole organization — alone. While those at the top set the vision and strategy, it is those on the frontlines who will determine its success.
Effective change leaders look for ways to instill feelings of ownership and commitment among staff. Through personalization, new opportunities, tailored training, and other approaches, you can develop authentic support and commitment to the change.
3. You shall prioritize change efforts in a realistic way.
Most big changes come with several other changes tucked inside. For instance, suppose the decision to upgrade your CRM also demands a new software onboarding model, the addition of BI specialist, and expanded IT capacity.
Maybe that’s just one set of changes out of a few others — a new CEO is transitioning in, the company just established a joint venture…
There’s a lot going on at all times, and that’s why it’s critical to address each change according to priority. Attempting to do everything at once is a fast track to change fatigue, not to mention spreading your attention (and resources) too thin.
Some changes are urgent, while others can wait. Some changes depend on completing another first. Map these out and plan a realistic route before you start to drive.
4. You shall provide sufficient resources and support tools to staff.
Employees are often the ones bearing the brunt of change, so it’s important to make it as easy and painless as possible. Providing effective support tools to staff is one of the most effective ways to do so.
Say you’re implementing a new CRM, like in the example above. The interface is complex and not as intuitive as you’d like, and there seems to be an endless array of features. While no one doubts the tool’s capabilities, they certainly doubt their personal ability to use them.
This is where most businesses run into trouble — they lack a solution to achieve digital adoption. But unless their employees can maximize the full range of the software’s features, they will never realize their full potential.
Support solutions that guide users through processes, irrespective of their current level of proficiency, instantly alleviate the stress and frustration that goes along with using new software. Not only that, these tools give employees the ability to take advantage of high-level features, not just the basics.
5. You shall alleviate the training burden as much as possible.
Change usually demands some level of training. Relying on outdated methods (classroom learning sessions, webinars, or printed manuals) is risky. When it comes to software training, these approaches usually lead to low knowledge retention and a lot of wasted time.
Digital training solutions that enable contextual learning are the most effective methods. These tools provide in-app guidance based on a user’s individual factors, including everything from their position in the company, department goals, prior user behavior, to the time of day.
Through a series of navigational cues and prompts, contextual learning solutions walk a user through any process step-by-step, so learning and doing happen at the same time.
6. You shall not overlook the importance of empathy during transformation.
Change is hard. Change is scary. Change is not the most fun thing (unless you’re a change leader, of course). While you might be busy creating strategy, finding the right support tools and training solutions for employees, don’t forget to have empathy.
It’s important to understand where employee resistance comes from. Most often, it’s not due to laziness or a secret agenda to derail the strategy. Employee resistance comes from feelings of uncertainty and anxiety about how a given change will change the employee’s life for the worse.
By understanding their concerns and taking practical steps to address them, you can minimize resistance and alleviate negative emotions in your staff.
7. You shall seek opportunities for continuous improvement.
When leading change, you must never become complacent with the status quo. Yes, it might have been a long journey to get there, but every destination is really a moving target. It’s important to always look for new ways to improve.
Talk to your employees for ideas — it’s those “in the trenches” of work who often have the most valuable input. See what your competitors are doing, and what analysts predict. The point is you can’t stand still. Never stop optimizing!
8. You shall establish a culture of open communication.
Communication is critical for just about every aspect of change. It will be impossible to achieve alignment without it. Leaders will never gain employee trust without it. Optimization will be a distant dream without it.
That’s why you should encourage open and honest communication from the outset. Encourage employees to share concerns and ideas for improvement throughout the change process, routine check-ins between employees and managers, and transparency from the C-suite.
9. You shall define qualitative and quantitive metrics for evaluating your change effort.
As part of your change strategy, include metrics for assessing the success of your initiative. But don’t wait until the “end” to evaluate it. Determining milestones for assessing progress is an important part of this process. Doing so also allows you to make corrections if you find you’re off course.
Some digital solutions make this an easy endeavor. Say that after implementing that CRM, you want to evaluate how effectively your employees are working with it. With a Digital Adoption Platform (DAP), you can gain insights into how many employees are using the software, which processes are the most challenging, and when they “drop off.”
Qualitative metrics like the degree of employee frustration are also critical to monitor. For these, the best approaches are holding check-ins with employees or administering surveys.
10. You shall enforce measures of accountability.
Nothing will move forward unless employees feel accountable for the change. There are a few ways to achieve this. One, related to the ninth commandment, is tying employee interest to certain metrics, or key performance indicators (KPIs).
Another is by redefining certain aspects of employees’ responsibilities so that it becomes their job to see a change through.
But the most effective way is to generate authentic support and engagement in the change effort. By presenting a compelling, fact-based case for the change, employees will be more likely to believe in the need for it. Then they will be more self-driven when it comes to supporting the change efforts.