Change Management – and How to Succeed

Change Management is all about moving from the current state to a desired state using a structured approach that affects employees, who in turn act differently and create the change you desire.

Change Management illustration

What is Change Management?

Change Management is a systematic method for managing the transition or transformation of an organisation's goals, processes, or technologies. The purpose of Change Management is to implement strategies for effecting change, controlling change, and helping employees to adapt to change.

Change Management is closely linked to operational development. Operational development evolves the business and is, therefore, by nature, several ongoing change processes, where employees play a decisive role in embracing and driving the changes.

Change Management can also be seen as part of operational and business development – just like Deviation Management, Strategic Business Development, and Competency Development. The difference is that "change" can also be seen as the approach and purpose of Business Development. The difference between Project Management and Change Management is fundamentally that Change Management places employees at the centre (of change).

Method for Change Management

Successful Change Management is a combination of structured planning, continuous communication, understanding human reactions, and strong management commitment.

  • Vision: A clear and shared vision acts as a compass for change (read more about Hoshin Kanri here), and when everyone in the organisation participates in shaping it, the chances of success increase.
  • Plan: A well-communicated and understood plan provides everyone with a clear path forward and reduces the risk of misunderstanding or confusion.
  • Resources: Ensure early that you have sufficient resources. Time and money (budget) give employees the tools and time they need to adjust and contribute effectively.
  • Motivation: Motivated employees are the driving force behind every successful change. Understanding what drives them allows you to tailor the change process to meet these motivators. To achieve motivated employees, support, feedback, regular and clear communication in the change processes are needed. This leads to employee engagement.
  • Competency: Change often requires new skills or knowledge. Training and support reduce uncertainty and promote a smooth transition.
  • Monitoring: Regularly measure and evaluate progress.

How to Implement a Change Effort

According to ASQ, these eight steps describe how you should work with Change Management in broad terms:

1. Define the change.
2. Select the Change Management team.
3. Identify the mandate from management and secure commitment.
4. Develop implementation plan and metrics.
5. Implement the change (preferably in stages).
6. Collect and analyse data.
7. Find gaps and understand resistance.
8. Modify the plan as needed and return to the implementation step.

3 Common Models within Change Management

1. McKinsey 7-S Model
2. Lewin’s Change Management Model
3. Kotter’s 8 Step Change Management Model

According to McKinsey, many transformation efforts "lose significant value in the target setting and planning phases".

4 Ways to Influence – and Succeed with Change Management

According to a Gartner survey, 74 percent of employees were willing to support changes within the organisation 2016, but today only 38 percent say they are willing. Change fatigue is spreading, and it is important for the organisation to see the person behind the employee, invest in the right changes, and carry out the Change Management in the right way.

According to McKinsey, the recipe for successful Change Management contains four ways to influence people. The companies that are most successful with ‘Change Management’ have embraced 'the influencer model':

1. Act as a Role Model

People imitate others both consciously and unconsciously. If the boss works at the office, there is a higher probability that the employees do too. However, it does not only have to be managers who are key figures for the change to succeed. There are always informal leaders who can be even more important as role models in a successful change process.

2. Create Understanding and Willingness to Contribute

Employees need to understand what the business aims to achieve and what is expected of them in that work. Understanding increases the likelihood of acceptance and, in the long run, a willingness to contribute.

People often overestimate how much others have the same beliefs, opinions, and attitudes. People also find it difficult to understand that others do not understand something they themselves understand. An insight into these connections is important for anyone working with Change Management, as the time to create understanding and anchoring is often a larger job than expected.

Having faith in the ‘why’ of change and having a common view around it facilitates and motivates the work effort that the change constitutes. Here, a communicated narrative linked to the change is of great help. The narrative can continuously be improved through feedback from the employees.

3. Reinforce Formal Mechanisms

If employees see that technology, processes, and routines support them and what the business aims to achieve with the change effort, it becomes easier to develop the business. Clarifying this also involves taking input from the employees and supporting and reinforcing what works.

You might remember the experiment with Pavlov's dogs or B.F. Skinner's theories on conditioning? Today, we talk about 'nudging', where you simplify and with small means influence in choice situations. In a nutshell, it's about making it easy to do the "right" thing. Nudging is also applicable in digital tools, routines, and change processes.

4. Develop the Employees

Employees should possess the competencies to act as change advocates. If these conditions are not met, resistance to change or demands for competency-enhancing measures will arise instead. It is simply crucial to understand what is going on in the employees' minds and that they are capable of the new conditions.

An important conclusion is, therefore, to ask before the change if the employees have the competencies and resources required. If the answer is no, then efforts may be required to first create the right conditions.

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