What’s included in a change management plan?

What are some of the essential parts of a change management plan?

Change can come in different forms in an organization, for example, an organization may be moving to a new enterprise resource (ERP) software, a type of software system using a centralized database that is utilized to automate and provide insights on data regarding services, supply chain, manufacturing, finance, sales, etc., or a change within one of these, like a manufacturing method that involves new machinery to meet demands.

In the past few years, many brick-and-mortar businesses and organizations that heavily operated with an in-office presence were abruptly faced with the sudden reality of having to move their operations online because of a global pandemic that made in-person interactions less than ideal.  Change in organizations is inevitable. Some changes, like the pandemic, are external to the organization. Others, like a merger or integrating new IT systems, are internal.

Whatever the nature and type of change, every organization should master change management. Change management can be defined as an organizations’ approach to a transition in the use of new tools, processes, or systems.

A change management plan details the steps an organization will take to implement the change management process. The plan can be carried out by the organization or they can seek the services of a change management consulting firm, such as Zolicity.

A change management plan is an important tool in ensuring that organizational change is successful. It has the following benefits:

  • It helps to streamline and plan for resources like time and money
  • It supports employees
  • Improves communication in your business
  • Allows management to foresee and manage any negative impact
  • Minimizes resistance to change
  • Increases chances that the change being implemented will succeed

For the change management plan to be successful, it should detail not just the steps to carry out the change but also how to transition people through it. The latter recognizes that smooth adoption by employees is essential.

Show the need for change
The first stage in designing a successful change management plan is to make a case for the change. The Why of it. This involves clearly stating the objectives you wish to achieve with the new initiative. According to research, these objectives should be tied to the overall organizational goals to increase the chances of success. Employees will already be aware of these goals and will embrace a change that helps meet them.

While the project leader might know why the change is necessary, reasons can range from: it will reduce costs, it will make work less tedious, it will put you ahead of the competition, they need to communicate the same to the rest of the organization.

Project heads need to be aware that even in the presence of clear objectives, changes can still come up within a change management plan. For instance, timelines might become more critical or necessary additions might come to light. In this case, a change request form may be utilized, which can help to track change requests and to document the same. This will help to streamline any new changes and ease the burden on project leaders to adopt every suggestion and implement every idea that is presented.

Identify key stakeholders
An important part of a good change management plan is the identification of stakeholders. Some such as the employees might be very obvious. However, with a little examination, or the insight of change management consulting, you might discover other stakeholders critical to the success of the change.

These may include your suppliers. If you adopt a new system, how will it affect your regular suppliers and the relationship you have with them?  How will it affect other parties? Third-party customers may emerge as essential elements to the success of the new initiative.  Therefore, it may be essential to detail how the change might be a positive.  If the impact might not be favorable to some stakeholders, it is also important to address it and put in place measures to mitigate the negatives. Once key stakeholders have been identified, an engagement plan for each can be set up.

Clarify roles and responsibilities
For a change management plan to succeed, there have to be clearly defined roles and responsibilities. There should be individuals responsible for planning, implementation, and monitoring of the process.

Some companies can identify early adopters among employees and give them the role of supporting their fellow workmates. These are people in the company who are swift to change and can offer peer support for those who might be struggling with adoption.

A change management plan might also update roles.  Since a direct supervisor is already the go-to person for employees who have questions, management can take advantage of the existing trust to make that person a contact point for queries on a particular part of the process. However, this supervisor would need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to assist other employees.

Having a coalition of skilled and competent individuals to help manage change was cited as one of the factors necessary for the success of organizational change management.

A communication strategy
A lot of the success of a change management plan will lean on the communication strategy. It will detail:

  • What key messages will be communicated
  • What channels will be used to share them
  • When they will be shared and how often

Communication shouldn’t be a one-time affair during change management. Resources should be made easily available to employees to get more information and refresh what they already know, should they wish. Signage and charts in public spaces and electronic communications and reminders are just a few ways organizations can keep communication visible and consistent.

The objectives to be achieved should be documented and put in an area where employees can easily see them. This will serve as a reminder that the organization is moving from one stage to another and help to reduce resistance.

The communication strategy should make room for communication from the employees to the change management team and upper management. This way, even if employees feel like they have support from their peers and supervisors, they are also able to reach upper management.

A communication strategy might also require incorporating learning and development strategies, such as employee training sessions. This is when employees will be equipped with skills, technical and otherwise to make sure they can keep up with the changes.

Metrics
A change management plan will be incomplete without a way to measure success. The metrics will be informed by the objectives. For instance, if the change plan was to encourage employees to use one software over another, what was the adoption rate? The metrics should state what an excellent performance is, what average is and what failure is.

A change management consulting firm can help to identify what exactly needs to be measured and what project management assets and tools to use to get not just data but meaningful information.

Change management models

It is good practice to implement organizational change in the framework of a change management model. A change management model will offer guidelines to assist an organization to navigate change. While there are several proven change management models, for example, the McKinsey 7-S model, Kotter’s change management theory, and ADKAR change management model, let’s take a look at three of them and identify some of the pros and cons of each.

The Kubler-Ross change management model
This model is derived from psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler Ross. It details the internal emotional journey when people experience change. Applying this model gives management a chance to respond and manage employees’ reactions to organizational change at every stage. This can increase the chances of success of a change management plan.

It highlights these phases:

  1. Denial-It is common for people to be uninterested and even hope that the change will go away.
  2. Anger- Having been comfortable with a previous system, employees might express anger about a change.
  3. Bargaining-Here, you may see employees wanting to arrive at a compromise, as opposed to fully adopting the change.
  4. Depression-You may experience some disengagement at work.
  5. Acceptance-At this stage, employees accept that there is no option and they have to adopt and embrace the change.
    It is not enough to simply be aware of these phases. Managers, should plan for each phase and educate employees to make the transition easier.

Pro:

This management model takes into account the emotional dynamics at play in the organizational setting. Emotional intelligence has been identified as a critical component of success at work.

Con:

The stages don’t necessarily happen in sequence. In addition, one might experience one phase more than once and even get stuck at a particular one. This makes it difficult to properly support employees.

Lewin’s change management model
This method is named after Psychologist Kurt Lewin who developed it in the 1950s. Despite that, it is still relevant today. Lewin’s model offers 3 steps.

  1. Unfreeze: You look at the current situation and what needs to change. At this stage, management communicates the need for change to employees and helps them understand why it is important.
  2. Change: Once employees understand why the change is necessary, the process can move into the Change or implementation phase. People need to learn new behaviors at the stage and management should support them.
  3. Refreeze: At this stage, steps need to be taken to ensure that people do not revert to the old ways. Systems need to be put in place to cement the new behavior or systems.

Pro:

The three-step process is relatively easy to implement and can be applied across any field.

Con:

The refreezing stage may be time-consuming. The concern is that there might not be enough time to simultaneously apply this process to different changes happening across an organization.

The nudge theory
The nudge theory encourages indirect techniques to influence the behavior of people instead of having management giving direct change requests. It is more about telling people the benefits and allowing them to adopt the change themselves.

With the nudge theory, management looks at change from the employees’ perspective and how it benefits them and then offers it as a recommendation. Feedback is an important part of the process.

An example is an organization wishing to encourage a healthier diet among employees. After a nutritional seminar, the company might re-arrange their lunch buffet to have fruits and vegetables at the start of the line-up, giving employees the choice to make as big or small a serving as they would like.

Pro:

Because change adoption is driven by personal motivation, it is more likely to be embraced in the long term.

Con:

The nudge theory requires a lot of time to take effect. In a situation where change needs to be made fast, it is not the ideal choice.

All in all, a change management plan will make the process of change easier and more likely to succeed.  Whether management decides to use resources internal to their organization to plan for, manage and navigate change, or hire a change management consulting firm to bring a broad range of experience and an unbiased view, change can be managed for the benefit of an organization.

Does your organization have large projects or changes on the horizon? Contact Zolicity and find out how a competent team of change management professionals can help your organization achieve its goals.

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