Change Management Process: How to Handle the Inevitable

Grace Pinegar
Grace Pinegar  |  April 2, 2019

Change is hard, and some people do not handle it well at all. I have a friend whose phone case is falling apart, yet she refuses to use the new one because it means making a change. The funny thing is, the replacement case is IDENTICAL TO HER CURRENT CASE. 

The lesson here is that even if we’re not making a drastic change, and even if it’s for the better, it’s still difficult to wrap our heads around the idea of adjusting to something new. 

For growing businesses, it’s impossible to avoid change. We change our dress codes, our logos, our communication strategies, our hours, our web address, and more year after year. However, it’s still important to maintain company culture.

Instead of trying to avoid change, serious professionals would benefit from learning how to manage it. This is called –you guessed it change management, and is an increasingly important concept for growing businesses.

Facilitating the change management process

When you work in a business setting, you’re forced to confront the challenge of working with people of varying opinions ranging from how the business plan should be run to what kind of creamer should be available for morning coffee. 

As a business owner, board member, or manager, it will be impossible to please every person on your payroll. Rather, your focus should be on doing what’s best for business as a whole.

In order to better facilitate the changes you’re making, you should have an adequate change management plan in place to ensure seamless company-wide adaptation.

Ready a change management team

Similar to a project team, a change management team exists specifically to facilitate the “project” of company changes. 

change management model

 Image courtesy of Prosci

Whether it’s as serious as a large round of layoffs, or as unassuming as a change in uniform requirements, a good change management team will ensure all transitions go through smoothly.

Assess company readiness

This instruction sounds vague; how do you “assess” readiness? It’s actually not as ambiguous as it seems. You can gauge a company’s readiness by understanding how impactful a change will be. In other words, understand its scope.

Look at what other changes have happened recently, and consider how employees have reacted. This will give you an idea of what to expect.

Messaging/communication

If your parents ever sat you down for bad news, you understand the importance of how information is delivered. With change management, how you give employees the news of change will make a huge difference in how receptive they are to that change.

Be sure you communicate change to employees at a good time. For example, maybe wait until the end of the fiscal year to announce changes in the sales playbook. There’s no reason to freak employees out in a stressful time!

Communicate the change strategically. Instead of giving the big news all at once, maybe deliver some soft news here and there about how your company is looking to solve certain business problems.

Stakeholder’s role

Sometimes, the news needs to come from the top. It’s the change management team’s responsibility to let executive sponsors know their role in the change management process. 

Additionally, a change manager will want to seek out executive sponsorship for the change project. This means having an executive or other key decision-maker participate in the change management process so as to ensure support and guidance along the way.

Adequate manager training

Managers are leaders both within their teams and throughout the rest of the company. It’s important to have the leaders on board with change first as they can use their influence to help convince others to support the project.
change management manager training

Image courtesy of Center for Creative Leadership

As part of an adequate change management process, you’ll want to set aside time and resources for specialized manager training.

The training should cover two things:

  • What are the changes and how will they affect managers and their teams?
  • What specific role can managers play in helping their teams transition?

Specialized training shows you’re willing to devote resources to ensure employees feel prioritized at work.

Adequate employee training

Next, you’ll want to prioritize employee training. It’s possible their managers will go through the actual training process, but you’re responsible for developing the materials and ensuring new processes or expectations are clearly defined. 

Employee training is arguably the most important step, as employees are the people who can make or break the success of a business change. In short, don’t short-change this step.

Prepare for resistance

As I mentioned earlier, not everyone likes change. Proactively preparing for resistance means it can’t catch you by surprise one month into the change. Have your strategies prepared for how you plan to approach resistance, and what language you intend to use for employees who don’t feel encouraged by the change.

Remember, you’ve already done the research and know what problems to anticipate. Use that research to help create proactive responses.

Stay agile

No one knows what they’re doing 100 percent of the time, even if they do have the title “manager.” Throughout the change management process, be sure to remain open to any feedback from higher-ups, or even from employees whose work will be affected. 

Accepting feedback is a key challenge of being a manager, and listening is more effective than becoming defensive.

Celebrate wins

After you make changes, it’s important to provide positive feedback to employees so they can see the changes they’ve adapted to are making a difference. Recognize employees who are making the new processes their own. Reward employees who work hard to succeed under a new strategy.

change management reward employees

Image courtesy of Vertical Elevation

Celebrating these wins, no matter how small, will encourage employees to adapt with excitement.

Review progress

As you would at the end of any project, review the progress made after these changes went into effect, and keep that progress on record. It’s important to show others the value of change and the success of your particular change.

Additionally, if you want to make changes in the future, you can learn from the notes you took previously.

Don’t hate the change

See, change isn’t so bad, is it? It’s a normal part of life and a wheel that keeps on turning no matter how much we wish it wouldn’t.

Instead of avoiding change, try and embrace it. What are some ways you could make changes starting today? 

To read more on projects and how to determine their likelihood of success, read How to Conduct a Feasibility Study.

Grace Pinegar
Author

Grace Pinegar

Grace Pinegar is a lifelong storyteller with an extensive background in various forms such as acting, journalism, improv, research, and now content marketing. She was raised in Texas, educated in Missouri, and has come to tolerate, if not enjoy, the opposition of Chicago's seasons.