No one likes change. However, it’s a reality that affects all organizations all the time. Knowing how to lead it is essential to success, especially in a rapidly evolving digital business landscape.
Businesses must adapt to their external environment, whether change forces new technology implementations, compliance initiatives, reorganization, or process updates.
Change brings various opportunities, so it’s important your organization is agile enough to recognize and embrace this potential. When implemented without structure, change can be disruptive, as outlined in John Kotter’s seminal research on the subject.
According to the study, only 30% of change programs succeed.
To successfully prepare your team, you’ll need a change management process to help you roll out a smooth and seamless change initiative.
Here are 7 components of a successful change management process:
Establish a Vision
Every good change management process starts with a vision.
Your vision is the foundation for future success. This is where you’ll clarify your intentions, and gain an understanding of what you’re seeking to improve.
Once you map out your vision, you’ll recognize the resources and people who will facilitate the process and lead you in a new direction. This will form the basis of your change strategy, creating clarity and ease for a successful implementation.
Actively Involve Stakeholders
Stakeholders are those who have an active interest in the change being implemented.
There are several layers to consider, from those who will enact the change process as part of their daily routine, to those who will drive the initiatives. It’s best to start off by influencing upper management, since they’re responsible for financing the endeavor, while standing true as change champions.
Change should be led from the top down, so it’s important for management to be aligned in support. Everyone has different expectations, but there must be a high-level buy-in across the organization.
While each change framework requires different encouragement, the common factors are always the necessity for patience, time, and communication.
Plan for Change
A critical part of your change management process is to establish a route to success. This begins with ambition, where it’s crucial you establish an end goal.
The difficult part is identifying the resources necessary to get there, including tools and funding. Data can be leveraged to provide clarity, with clear reporting that allows for better communication on the route to achieving milestones. This can be coordinated through a multi-step process.
Outline your project with clear steps, implementing measurable targets, incentives, and analysis. Patience is critical. Avoid rushing into unplanned ‘sweeping’ changes that can do more harm than good. Avoid shortcuts, and devise a comprehensive plan with realistic targets.
Communication is the cornerstone of any successful change management process.
It is the golden thread that ties everything together — any objective is within reach if you create the right dialogue. Good communication helps you navigate through the fears and frustration that change may incite.
Humans have a tendency to naturally reject the unknown, and communication can help break down that barrier.
Transparency and two-way communication gives staff an opportunity to express their frustrations, and gives change leaders time to modify strategy accordingly. With clear communication channels, employees ambitions will be better aligned with the best interests of the company.
Resistance and Risks
Resistance to change is to be expected, but when it isn’t properly managed it can threaten the success of your project. Change is perceived as risky, but perceptions can be influenced even when risks are very real.
You’ll have to consider the risk of allocating your budget to something new, the risk of impacting dependencies, and return on investment risks.
Ultimately, staff should be encouraged to embrace risk in order to receive rewards. With the correct tools to manage a smooth change life-cycle, you can mitigate the negative impact of resistance and risks. Like Peter Senge so aptly stated, ‘People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!’ This suggests that it is human behavior that needs to be addressed.
Recognizing milestone achievements is a crucial part of ensuring you’re moving in the right direction.
You should reinforce positive behaviors, those which contribute to your overarching goals. When staff are incentivized to meet company objectives, their motivations will be in the right place. Recognize the success of your team throughout proceedings, since this will help with the adoption of your change management process, and the change itself.
Review, Repeat, and Improve
Change is difficult, but it’s truly an ongoing process, where constant adjustments are necessary to meet ever-evolving consumer and business needs.
Your ability to review your change strategy will define its potency, with special regards to identifying and removing roadblocks. Repeat positive steps, and modify things according to your data and KPIs.
Your process is only as good as its commitment to analysis, and once you’ve implemented something beneficial, you can repeat it.
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