62% of employees don’t like leaving their comfort zone – Forbes
73% of change-affected employees report experiencing moderate to high stress levels – McKinsey & Company
Today, organizations need to be more agile when implementing and managing change in their organizations. Their leadership needs to be transformational, and their need to be able to inspire people and mitigate the consequences of their resistance to change.
These are the best practices of change management
According to one study with more than 8,000 individuals involved in change management, the following seven factors impact the results of change initiative. The participants who identified these contributors were experienced practitioners, project leaders, executives and consultants.
1. Mobilize Active and Visible Sponsorship
Having a positive leader who actively guides the organization through change and participates visibly throughout the lifecycle of change is the greatest contributor to success. The importance of sponsorship was cited four times more frequently than the next contributor to change success. Participants consistently used the key words “active and visible” to describe this top contributor. Active and visible sponsorship means the sponsor is:
- Supporting the change by giving consistent attention to the change and the need for change management
- Championing the change by leading and motivating others in the organization
- Making effective and influential decisions regarding the change, including aligning priorities among other leaders in the organisation
- Maintaining direct communication with the project management and change management teams, and remains accessible during the change
- Influencing peers to maintain buy-in and participate in a coalition of sponsorship
Correlation between the effectiveness of sponsorship and the likelihood of meeting project objectives:
2. Apply a Structure Change Management Approach
An intentional and defined approach to managing change provides the structure necessary to stay on track. It earmarks adequate time for meaningful activities and allows space to identify and address gaps throughout the project lifecycle. Using a formal approach also makes processes repeatable for consistent application of change management on more initiatives throughout the organisation. Keywords that emerged when participants described this best practice included:
- Easy to implement across multiple changes
- Easy to apply at every phase of the project
Again, the research reveals just how much applying a structured approach contributes to success. Participants who applied a structured approach were 33% more likely to experience good or excellent change management effectiveness than those without a methodology.
3. Communicate Frequently and Openly
Change management practitioners often struggle against the misconception that change management is “just communications.” Although change management is much more than that, effective communications are critical to leading change successfully. Beyond frequency, participants cited these factors as important to success:
- Leveraging multiple communications channels
- Preferred senders
4. Engage with front-Line Employees
We apply change management to help employees understand why change is necessary and how it will affect them, and to equip them to transition through the process successfully, which results in successful outcomes for organisations. Given this objective, it is clear why employee engagement and participation was identified as a top contributor to success. Tactics to increase engagement include:
- Highlighting “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM)
- Identifying and building relationships with impacted groups
- Ensuring impacted groups receive the appropriate level of training
- Involving employees in identifying a proposed solution and future state
Reinforcement is a critical step in the change management process. Because most organizations are saturated with change today, and practitioners must juggle many changes concurrently, they often neglect this step. Inadequately addressing reinforcement and sustainment activities has a negative impact on the overall outcome of the change. Participants who planned for reinforcement activities were 20% more likely to achieve project objectives than those who did not.
5. Dedicate Change Management Resources
Your project needs dedicated resources and funding to get change management work done. Dedicated change management resources and funding means having access to:
- Appropriate funding and resources
- Dedicated resources with change management experience
- A change team or community of flexible, ambitious, decisive, collaborative individuals
To realize the benefits of change management, someone must be responsible for it and have access to an appropriate amount of funding. The data reveals a positive and meaningful correlation between having a dedicated resource (person) and overall change management effectiveness. Participants who had dedicated resources were significantly more likely to achieve good or excellent change management effectiveness than those without a dedicated resource.
6. Engage and Integrate with Project Management
There is a common trend of integrating change management work with project management activities. These complementary disciplines naturally cross paths throughout the life of an initiative. In the latest study, 74% of participants integrated project management work and change management work to some degree. When they identified this as a top contributor to success, they gave examples of how they achieved integration:
- Adding change management activities to the project plan
- Working collaboratively with the project team
- Aligning change plans with project plans
- Combining or assigning responsibilities and roles
- Providing change management training to the project team
Participants who integrated these two disciplines were 17% more likely to meet or exceed project objectives than those who did not integrate.
7. Engage with and Support Middle Managers
Managers can become a change practitioner’s greatest ally in times of change because they are closest to employees impacted by change. Participants explained this top contributor as:
- Emphasizing communication about the change and the managers’ roles in change
- Holding one-on-one meetings, team meetings and alignment sessions
- Focusing on awareness-building, including how the change will affect them, the business reasons for the change, and the need for change management
- Providing materials, tools and support that will help managers understand and navigate the change
Engaging and involving managers during the early phases of the change and throughout the project lifecycle.
Smarp, (2020) ‘The Ultimate Guide to Organizational Change Management (OCM)’ Available at: https://blog.smarp.com/the-2020-guide-to-organizational-change-management-ocm [Accessed 26 May 2021]
Prosci, (2020) ‘Best Practices in Change Management’ Available at: https://www.prosci.com/resources/articles/change-management-best-practices [Accessed 26 May 2021]