Best Practice

How to Build a Change Management Plan That Drives Organizational Success

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The importance of having an effective change management plan in place when your business is negotiating new challenges can’t be overstated.

It’s easy to run into problems when making large-scale changes, such as restructuring departments or introducing a suite of new tech solutions. But with the right approach, you can anticipate these issues and develop a plan for dealing with them.

This article looks at what a change management plan is and how to create one that will deliver the change you want to see in your business.

What is a change management plan?

Change is hard. Completely revamping an organization’s processes, technologies, or structures is one of the biggest challenges business leaders ever face.

If there are significant changes on the horizon for your company, you’ll need to develop an effective change management plan. This means treating change as a project management task. 

Rather than introducing changes piecemeal, you need to take a structured approach that encourages buy-in from the entire company, from front-line employees to senior management.

The change management process must be well planned in advance.

So, what kind of situations necessitate the use of these plans? Well, the answer is any scenario where your everyday operations are about to be transformed, such as:

  • Technological change as your tech stack gets an overhaul
  • Structural change due to a merger
  • Cultural change due to a shift in policy focus

Each of these changes can be challenging to achieve. There may be some resistance at first, which is why it is paramount to build a plan that is sensitive to the eventual impact on employees.

How to build a change management plan

The basic elements of any plan are similar. It’s all about developing organizational strategies that foster seamless business transformation. Proper change management emphasizes rigorous planning and recognizes the importance of taking a systematic approach. Here’s how to do it.

Clearly outline objectives and goals for the change initiative

Before you do anything else, it’s crucial to establish what your objectives are. Successful change management relies on having a deep understanding of what you’re trying to achieve and how this aligns with your overall company goals.

Be specific. Do you want to:

  • Improve customer satisfaction scores? 
  • Increase productivity? 
  • Boost profitability? 

Quantify the business outcomes you aim for, making the vision crystal clear for everyone.

One mistake some companies make is to outline their objectives but then lose sight of them as the day-to-day challenges of change management begin to take priority.

The only way to prevent this is with good planning and regular monitoring. Investing in enterprise business management software like the one from Sage can be a good move as part of a strategic approach; particularly as it helps expanding medium and large companies to manage increasingly complex operations by integrating data from multiple departments and creating a centralized database.

Good project management software makes change management easier.

The great thing about this kind of solution is that it functions as the ultimate project management tool. It helps you manage every aspect of your business, from keeping a handle on finances to optimizing communication strategies. You can use it to keep a close eye on progress to ensure you’re on track to hit your goals.

Once you’ve got a handle on what your goals will be and how you’re going to monitor them, you should also consider using a collaborative road-mapping tool like Figma for example. This will allow you to get feedback on your ideas and provide a clear way for everyone to understand the new objectives. 

Identify stakeholders and understand their interests and influence

A well-executed change management plan should actively involve employees and other stakeholders in the process rather than impose it from the top down. In fact, according to Gartner, involving the right people in the transition boosts the chances of change success by as much as 15%.

Who will the process of change affect? And in what way? You can sometimes face difficult questions here, and it’s better to tackle them head-on than let them fester.

For instance, if you’re restructuring your business operations, some employees may feel anxious about the potential impact on their job security. Others might see the transition process as disruptive to the task of fulfilling their day-to-day job roles.

Employee morale is not something you can afford to ignore. To create a smooth transition, everyone needs to be on board. Your management team should prioritize explaining clearly what benefits each and every employee will see as the change process takes effect.

Don't forget to obtain feedback from key stakeholders.

Develop a stakeholder communication strategy to inform and engage 

So, how best to get all key stakeholders involved? With effective communication. Regular communication is essential to keep everyone up-to-date with progress and encourage feedback from employees.

This is a critical aspect of the process because change doesn’t always proceed in a predictable, linear fashion. It’s likely that you’ll have to deal with some complex questions, and having the expertise of your entire team at hand will be invaluable in resolving them.

Basic email communications detailing how things are going will be a good start, but there’s more you can do to truly engage individual employees. Consider using other communication channels, such as regular surveys to take the temperature of general opinion and collaborative digital team workspaces that remove siloes and allow for brainstorming. 

You might also think about building a centralized document database where you store all information related to the change process. Having a freely accessible repository of information increases transparency and guarantees everyone can engage at their own pace.

Determine the resources required for change implementation

The next step of your comprehensive plan should focus on establishing the resources required to deliver a successful transition. This means identifying the key components of the entire process and making sure you can source everything you need to action them. 

Typical resources you may need include:

  • Project management software
  • Dedicated communication channels
  • Documentation tools
  • Training plan

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a crucial aspect of running any business, but it’s never more important than when you’re making large-scale changes. Using a cloud ERP system like Sage is an easy way to follow best practices here. It centralizes all of your business-critical data, so you have the information you need to plan your financial, human, and material resources as well as make better-informed future decisions.

As you move through the organizational change management process, it’s more straightforward to manage resources and keep all key stakeholders informed of developments. It also simplifies the task of analyzing progress later on.

Plan tasks more efficiently with a clearly organised timeline.

Identify potential risks and challenges associated with the change

We’ve already mentioned resistance to change as one possible problem you might face, but there are others. Identifying and being ready for these challenges is a critical component of a successful change management plan.

Some common risks you should be on the lookout for include:

  • Poor communication: Keep lines of communication open and update all stakeholders regularly.
  • Slow decision making: If your workflow depends heavily on specific individuals approving each step, this can slow things down considerably.
  • Lack of buy-in: Foster a positive attitude to change by highlighting the benefits and removing barriers to action.

As a general note, the role of leadership is also vital. An organization’s leaders set the tone for company culture. Top managers have to be firm believers in the change process, otherwise it’ll be difficult to persuade everyone else to fully engage with the project.

Create a timeline and action plan for implementation

Break the process down into individual stages. Set out a clear action plan for each stage and an estimated timeline. It’s a good idea to divide each step into a number of substeps so you can monitor progress more easily.

Remember that change usually takes longer than you think, so work in some contingency. But it’s also crucial to keep on top of the process at a micro level. 

For example, you can use time-tracking tools to record how long an individual task takes. That should help you plan future change management efforts more accurately.

Offer training and support to help employees adjust to changes

Having a comprehensive training plan in place is one of the most critical elements of any change management process. Whether it’s making sure your employees are up to date with new technological platforms or introducing them to new structures and processes, regular training is the key to success.

Don’t forget that people will need time to get to grips with the new practices and concepts. As far as possible, let them adapt at their own pace and offer them the support they need to make the transition.

Get your middle managers and line managers involved in developing the training and support programs. They’re likely to be able to make helpful suggestions because they understand the needs on the ground. Besides which, they’ll be dealing with a lot of the implementation themselves, so it’s vital to make sure they have the tools to do it.

Wrapping up

When it comes to change management, the difference between project success and failure comes down to planning. Senior leaders have to develop organizational strategies for change that are fully aligned with the company’s broader business objectives.

Change doesn’t happen in a vacuum – and it can’t simply be imposed from above. The trick is to foster genuine engagement from everyone from the C-Suite to the post room by eliciting regular feedback, keeping everyone informed, and delivering on your change management plan.

If you take this kind of clear-sighted approach, you’ll create the best conditions for achieving lasting change.

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