How to implement change in your company

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Implement Change with a Change Management Strategy

What is a change management strategy?

Change management involves making sure new organizational processes are implemented according to plan. Most types of change management strategies include company or department-wide processes that impact more than one employee. Individuals in different roles or departments often view change management differently. An IT project manager, for example, would view it as process changes for gaining approval on a project’s budget. Support technicians in the IT department may view changes to processes involving the approval of software installations as part of a change management plan. A plan and change management strategy is usually necessary when a new organizational program or event will impact one of the following:

  • The nature of the organization.
  • What roles individual employees fulfill. 
  • How individual employees fulfill their roles. 

The change management process contains several steps. According to the Kotter change management model, the number of change management steps is eight. The steps involve communicating a sense of urgency, forming a team, creating a vision, communicating that vision, removing identified obstacles, aiming for short-term goals or successes, allowing the change to mature, and integrating the change. While Kotter’s model is not the only one organizational leaders can use, it serves as a testament to the complex and evolving nature of the organizational change process.

The History of Change Management Models

Over the years, various theorists have created different change management process steps. Leaders and managers can use these models as a guide or starting point. They might also want to perform a change management models comparison to see which change process model would work best for their situations. The Lewins change management model, the Kotter change management model, and the ADKAR model are three of the most prominent theories. 

The Lewins model consists of three stages. Those three stages are unfreezing, change, and freezing. While the model was created in the late 1940s, its steps are still relevant to modern organizations. The first stage involves unfreezing or prepping employees for change. In order for organizational change management strategies to be successful, employees need to know that change will be happening, why the change is necessary, when the change will occur, and how they will be impacted. 

Once employees are aware of the impending change, everyone in the organization needs to work on the transition process. This stage involves implementing the actual change. During the change stage, employees will need additional support, guidance, and encouragement. Leaders should expect a learning curve and be ready to guide employees who get off track. 

The final stage in the Lewins model is called “freezing.” This stage occurs after the organization has implemented the change. Freezing involves creating stability as employees get used to the change and establishing the new process as an accepted norm. In many cases, the freezing stage can take longer than the change itself.  

While Kotter’s Change Management Theory has already been briefly discussed, leaders should understand the model’s steps in detail. Creating a sense of urgency is similar to the “unfreeze” stage in the Lewins model. The first step involves communicating the need for change to employees, but also the need for the organization to take immediate action. 

The second step in Kotter’s model is to build a team. This means selecting the people who will be able to guide, coordinate, and communicate the different actions involved in the change management strategy. The size of the team will often be dependent upon the nature and scope of the change. 

Kotter’s third and fourth steps are interrelated. These steps involve creating an overarching vision and communicating that vision. The vision incorporates how the organization will move from where it is now to where it will go. Leaders can include multiple dependent objectives and initiatives in a single vision. 

Removing identified obstacles involves getting rid of the things that stand in the way of the change. This could mean inefficiencies and structures that prevent employees from freely doing their jobs. Once the obstacles are gone, leaders should recognize short-term results and successes to keep the momentum going. Allowing the change to mature and integrating the change are steps similar to Lewin’s “freeze” stage.

The ADKAR model is a more recent change management theory that emphasizes organizational goals. Each of the letters in the model’s name stands for tangible deliverables that employees need for successful change management. The deliverables or outcomes include awareness of the need to change, desire to support the change, knowledge of how to implement the change, an ability to exhibit skills and behaviors and reinforcement to make the change permanent.

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Why you Need a Change Management Strategy

While the exact reasons why leaders need to know how to implement change in the workplace vary, the most common reasons include the organization is not meeting its goals, a restructuring of the chain of command is necessary, influential employees leave or enter the organization, new integral positions are created, or a new initiative is introduced. The optimal strategies for implementing change should include a business case, as well as who and what will be impacted. 

When leaders are choosing strategies for change, the underlying reason, need, or business case will drive the strategy’s design. For instance, if an organization is not meeting its goals, leaders need to figure out why. If certain processes or hierarchial structures are impeding efficiency and productivity, the change management strategy might focus on new processes, eliminating old processes, and changing who reports to whom. 

Another change management strategy example involves changes in processes due to the creation of new positions. A company may need to create a new management position due to growth. The new position may result in the creation of a new sub-department, as well as functional changes in the jobs of several employees. The change management strategy would entail not only communicating changes in job duties and responsibilities, but communicating the reason for the creation of a new sub-department. Existing employees may shift into new roles with new titles, while others may relinquish some of their responsibilities and oversight.

How to Create a Change Management Framework

Creating a change management framework or strategy is something every employee and team can initiate. Although leaders are typically responsible for spearheading organizational change, some of the best ideas can come from their team members. Knowing the foundations of successful change management can help teams formulate effective frameworks. These foundations include defining the change, assessing what and who is needed, leveraging the team’s culture, encouraging behavioral changes and simplifying the process. 

Defining the change is about recognizing what change needs to happen and why. For example, the observation that employees seem unhappy and leave increases the likelihood that change needs to happen. However, the symptoms are not necessarily what needs to change. In the case of increased turnover and lowered morale, the necessary changes could be a combination of salary increases and reductions in average workloads. 

Being able to assess what and who is needed involves identifying necessary resources. These resources can be both tangible and intangible. Are additional funds necessary to implement new processes or will retraining employees be mandatory? Will the organization need to hire additional employees or will positions need to be consolidated? These are some of the potential questions teams need to ask during the assessment phase.  

Leveraging the team’s culture means aligning the strategy with the organization’s values. However, in some cases change to an organization’s or team’s culture becomes a key component of the change strategy. This often needs to happen due to crisis scenarios or when the organization’s financial sustainability is at stake. In less urgent cases, culture change may need to happen due to problems related to concerns like poor productivity, performance and brand perception.

Encouraging behavioral changes is similar to the freezing state of the Lewins model and the reinforcement component of the ADKAR model. Leaders and peers can provide positive reinforcement and encouraging feedback when employees demonstrate desired behaviors. Depending upon one’s style, some leaders may choose to also use negative reinforcement or constructive criticism to correct undesired behaviors.  

Keeping the process simple means not overwhelming employees with too much complexity too soon. Although not all change management strategies can be small or incremental, employees should be able to understand and follow new processes. Communication before, during, and after the change should also contain a single, unified, relatable message.