Change Management Process
The change management process is a structured approach that guides initiatives for organizational change.
Change is inevitable for any company. Shifting market sentiments, new challenges, and disruptive competition are only some of the reasons why an organization might need to implement substantial changes across workflows, systems, and best practices.
But change never comes easy—a robust change management process is essential to making sure that your team implements and accepts change successfully, and that the onboarding process runs as smoothly as possible.
In this glossary article, we describe the change management process as well as discuss its levels and principles for implementation.
Table of contents
What is the Change Management Process?
The change management process is a structured way of ensuring that organizational change happens in a way that maximizes stakeholder satisfaction. That doesn’t just mean ensuring that the company meets its business objectives through change. It also means that stakeholders embrace change and adapt to it well.
The purpose of having a change management process is to uncover the concerns of employees, managers, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders, to create a culture where change can be introduced without disruption or resistance. Change management helps organizations adapt quickly to new challenges through flexibility and innovation while maintaining their core values and integrity.
What Are the Levels of Change Management?
The effects of organizational change create ripples across multiple discrete aspects of your organization. Any effective change management approach will target three unique levels to help support different parts of your company.
Throughout history, humans have demonstrated remarkable resilience and adaptability to change. The key to successful adaptation is the support of their peers, community, and leadership. As a leader, you need to understand how change affects your staff at the individual level to provide that support.
Jeff Hiatt, the founder of leading change management firm, Prosci, developed the ADKAR model to help organizations support change at the individual level. ADKAR is an abbreviation that stands for the outcomes that leaders must seek out to facilitate individual change:
- Awareness: Make employees aware of any changes ahead of time, with the reasoning for the change explained in detail.
- Desire: Make the effort to understand employees’ feelings, assuage their fears and demonstrate the benefits of the change.
- Knowledge: Provide training as well as resources for your team that will help them adapt to life after the change.
- Ability: Observe your employees after the change, and provide feedback or adjust the changes to help them adapt.
- Reinforcement: Continuously observe how your employees respond to the change, and additionally positively reinforce your employees to encourage them to adhere to new processes.
It’s not feasible to manage every individual’s response to change. However, organizational change management is an effective way of supporting groups of individuals whom new processes affect the most.
The first step in this case is to identify which groups are most impacted by the change, and how they must adapt to this change. Then, change management teams should create tailored plans that are designed to provide training, mentoring, and guidance to affected groups.
You should also involve your employees in the organizational change management process and engage with them to find the best solutions to address new changes. By demonstrating that you’re listening to their input, they’ll be more inclined to accept change.
The highest level of change management is enterprise change management. At this level, you are optimizing your organization’s ability to adapt to the rapidly changing business environment.
To achieve this, you need to build your company’s enterprise change management capability. This means integrating change champions throughout all levels of your organization. These champions are influential leaders who are experienced in managing change and are capable of handling organizational as well as individual change to support new initiatives.
The result of a strong enterprise change management capability is a more agile company. Such an organization can rapidly adapt to new changes, easily embrace new technologies and best practices, and transition from old to new processes with little downtime or performance loss.
What Are the Principles of Change Management?
There are as many variations of the change management process as there are different companies on the planet. However, certain principles remain constant amidst the change.
1. Change Begins From the Top
As the winds of change begin to blow, employees will look to executive leadership for support. After all, the C-suite’s guidance and direction are the most visible indicators of organizational change. It’s imperative that your executive team speaks with one voice and a shared commitment to successful change, as this will help support the entire organization through this change.
However, it’s also important to remember that executives are still individuals themselves, and change management should support each of them through their own anxieties and misgivings about change.
2. Identify Your Change Champions
Your change champions may not necessarily be your managers or executives. They could be passionate non-management employees who can inspire as well as guide their coworkers towards successful adaptation to change. Identifying these champions across your organization is key to ensuring that change happens at every level.
3. Communication, as Always, is Key
There is no greater barrier to change than poor communication. Employees who are blindsided by change, or who don’t feel engaged by the change management process, may end up resisting change or simply failing to adapt to it.
This is why you must communicate change as frequently as possible, not just in the days or weeks leading up to the start of implementation, but even as the transition is happening. Use as many channels as possible, from newsletters and daily emails to reminders during town halls and regular reports.
The Only Constant is Change
Having a structured change management process gives you a playbook for dealing with organizational change. As you build your capacity to accept change, your company becomes a more adaptable, resilient machine that is sure to survive and even thrive in an increasingly global and dynamic competitive landscape that demands adaptation more than ever.