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What is Change Management and How to Make it Successful?

Done Right Change Management is the Key Ingredient to True Organizational Transformation

The textbook definition of change management is defined as the application of a structured process and set of tools for leading the people side of change to achieve the desired outcome. So, what exactly is this outcome? 

We know all organizations develop a need for change. Whether it be for new products, software, projects or initiatives, they all require a change in structure and change in protocol.

But like most everything, organizations are built by the people that work in them. The CEO, managers, developers, and HR departments form an essential part of the organization’s culture and health. These are the people that build upon the structure that holds an organization together and they are the individuals that are impacted when a change occurs, be it a technology, business process or organizational realignment.

If the people that make up the organization refuse to change or even struggle with said change, the new implementation will often fail. The goal is to set a successful transition from the current state to the future state where everyone adopts the new corporate status which impacts the overall return on investment (ROI) linked to the change.

Change management is similar to project management in that it impacts people, within an organization, but with a very different focus. Companies typically implement project management to ensure a technology change comes in on time and on budget.  Transformational platforms like Salesforce impact organizations this way.

These project management teams focus on the technical, or project side of an organization. These teams map out the details and create a plan of action, which they then manage and implement detail-by-detail toward on-time and on-budget completion. Discovering what the project entails and then planning it all out so that it’s successful. 

Once the project management team has planned the project, they start to design, build and implement it before finally closing it. These are just a few of the fundamental steps a project management team will take to get the project across the finish line; often not considering how the changes will impact the broader organization. However, change management teams take a different approach to bring about the transformation the company is looking for.

Change management is focused, almost exclusively on how each individual will be impacted by what is changing (e.g. technology, process, etc.). As we previously mentioned, an organization is only as good as the people working for it. It is the people who will drive whether or not the changes being implemented are successfully implemented.

Change management teams also have steps to their plan. Below, we break down the three main steps in the process of effective change management.

Three-Step Process

1. Help Organization Prepare for Change

When an organization is preparing to implement change, they hire a change management team. Leadership teams must also support what is changing. These are the first steps for a successful project launch.

This team and the plans that they enact will help the organization prepare for the upcoming change. They help the people around the organization brace and prepare themselves for the transition from current to future state.

Whether a company is implementing Salesforce or another software/CRM, these change managers will help motivate and steer the people in the right direction while helping them welcome change into the organization.

2. Manage the Change as it Happens

Change does not come easily. In fact, human nature is resistant to change. People don’t like to leave what is comfortable, familiar and safe to them. Most times, they already have a way to do things that work for them, so why change it? 

Change is inevitable and will come in the form of new business practices, software upgrades and to stay competitive team members must be supplied with the tools to adapt. This reluctance or apprehension to change is precisely why a change management practitioner should support the project from its genesis to “Go-Live” and beyond.

They must help manage the team as the change happens in case there is pushback. Pushback allows cracks to form in the foundation of the future state and can impact end-user adoption for what is changing in the company.

3. Reinforce The Change

We like to emphasize that like with any sports, hobbies, or skills, change needs proper reinforcement. Most people will never pick up a skill on the first try, not even on the fourth try. People need reinforcement to understand the ideas that are being presented. 

Change is difficult because people will always try to go back to their old ways. They will embrace the status quo and find ways to use the old software or go back to old business practices and habits. By reinforcing what is new and different, the change management team will ensure a smooth and consistent transition towards the new project.

With the three-step process outlined above, change management teams are well on their way to successfully implementing change in an organization and the people that run it. 

Many might wonder when change management practices are completed what is next. The simple answer is that change management should never end. An organization should make sure that they are taking a structured approach to reinforce change over and over again. 

Not only is it important to reinforce what has changed with current employees, but new employees as well. People come and go in an organization and research shows it’s important to utilize a change management tool for all of them. 

Change management should never end, there is just less focus when an organization has achieved the adoption that is wanted.

Why is Change Management Important

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Ignoring the idea that change management is needed can have costly effects. Organizations that provide a team to help educate employees on the benefits of the change will see improved success factors. 

Investing in your employees and the idea that they might need a little push to get the change you desire will help provide the desired organizational outcome. People will always need help in understanding why change is needed and why change is coming. Change managers can support the change, provide explanations for it, address any apprehensions while contributing to high user adoption.

Without change management, you will not be able to deal with pushback successfully and address any productivity declines.  

These factors can contribute to increased stress and turnover within the organization.  Remember, it is helpful to employees to understand why something is changing and what their role is for a successful transition.

All of these outcomes can happen due to the lack of change management being implemented. If the people who make up this organization believe they are failing due to lack of help, they will feel desperate to leave and choose another organization that will invest in them and their ability to change.

It is important to establish a well-thought-out change management plan and project team that will ensure the success of the people. People run an organization and are the backbones of it. Without proper care and help, they will struggle to adapt to upcoming changes which leads to poor user adoption. 

Proper change management practices will help employees understand the benefits, how it helps the organization and how it contributes to improved job performance and satisfaction.

Optimal user adoption is the goal for successful change management which makes the company money, reduces cost and keeps team members engaged.

Interested in learning more about Change Management? Stony Point can help!

Eric Jones

Eric Jones

Eric possesses a unique mix of skills that allow him to have a tremendous impact on businesses across the globe. He has spent over 25 years as a senior leader in field operations; managing teams as large as 350 team members. Over the past 14 years Eric has worked as a change management practitioner in 25 different industries. He also has extensive experience helping companies with organizational design, executive coaching and employee engagement projects. Eric has earned a Bachelor Science in Economics/Management, Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Organizational Development. He is PROSCI, Certified Change Management Professional and Conflict Resolution/Mediation certified.

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