It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who survive, but those who can best manage change. – Charles Darwin

Change is inevitable. It forms a crucial role in every area of life- be it personal or professional. Only when you embrace change, get comfortable with the unknown, and adapt to challenges, can you fully realize your potential and achieve success in a fulfilling manner.

Having a healthy relationship with change is extremely important for an organization. In our rapidly changing society with globalization and technological advancements, organizations need to consistently re-evaluate their methods, models, and priorities or risk going out of business. This is where the concept of change management comes in.


What is Change Management?

A business that keeps evolving to service the need of an ever-changing consumer landscape stays in business, while those resistant to change perish. Changes can come in many forms:

  • Adopting new technologies
  • Changing work methodology
  • Removing old file systems
  • Improving team performance
  • Adopting to acquisitions and mergers and more!

These are just a few examples of some organizational changes that can happen in a business lifecycle.

Change management is a set of systems and policies that guide organizational change by helping employees adapt, settle, and thrive in the new system. Wikipedia describes change management as: “A collective term for all approaches to prepare, support, and help individuals, teams, and organizations in making organizational change.”

Change management aims to successfully implement company-wide change by making sure all the shareholders are onboard with the changes, and are given the proper guidance and training on how to better align themselves with these new goals and strategies.

There is, however, a small problem…

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The Biggest Challenges to Change Management

By now, we all agree that being agile to change is the only way to survive in a cutthroat and global marketplace. However, there’s one small problem with change- sometimes employees can hate it!

Yep, more often than not, it’s not the higher-ups who refuse to let go of their ideologies and archaic methods, but other employees who are unwilling to embrace change.

According to Mckinsey70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. When people have been doing something for years, they don’t like to be told to do it differently. Change brings fear, insecurity, and vulnerability…all valid reasons some employees have to avoid it.

Employees are not wrong in avoiding change, they just need proper workplace communication and guidance, helping them understand the benefits of the new system and the pain points of the old one. Once the benefits have been communicated, organizations need to make sure that the change process is as smooth as possible.


6 Steps for an Effective Change Management Process

The foundation of successful change management is strategy. Without a proper system and strategy in place, change management will fall apart, resulting in catastrophic repercussions. Here are a few steps you can take to ensure that the change management endeavor at your organization is a successful one:

1. Identify What Needs to Change

Any change process starts with the knowledge that there’s an issue (or a scope for improvement) in the organization. Identifying the area(s) of improvement is the first step towards change.

It helps give a sense of direction, answer the “why,” and helps to clarify the future goals of the organization. This also involves identifying the individuals who will be directly impacted by the change and defining the role of upper management in facilitating a smooth transition.

Being transparent with the employees of the implications of carrying out the change is key to successful change management.


2. Identify and Communicate with Stakeholders

A top-down approach is usually the way to go while implementing company-wide change. Identifying and selling stakeholders on the need and the subsequent benefits of the change is a crucial step.

Upper management first needs to be on board as they are the ones who will approve, finance, and facilitate change. Next, the stakeholders who will be directly or indirectly impacted by change need to be sold on the idea of change.

The higher the “buy-in,” the better the results of your change management process will be.


3 . The “How” of Change Management

Once the need for change is communicated to key stakeholders and everyone is on board, the next step is to plan out a step-by-step change implementation strategy.

This will be the roadmap that will define where the change will start, what resources would be required, the cost of the whole operation, and how the result should look like. Note that the planning should have incremental steps so as to not overwhelm the stakeholders with big changes upfront.

Planning this process helps mitigate risks and ensure steady transformation and understanding of the new system.

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4. Equip Managers with Resources

It’s important the managers who have direct reports with employees and are in charge of implementing changes are equipped with everything they need to ensure success.

The resources they need will depend upon the process, product, or the methodology that is being changed. Here are just some examples of the types of resources managers may need:

  • Software licenses
  • Equipment
  • Infrastructure
  • Budgets
  • Training manuals
  • Emotion management
  • Communications training

To ensure rollout success and change implementation managers on the front-lines have to have the resources they need to ensure success.


5. Understanding the Role of Communication 

Communication training is a key element in implementing change management.

Every person reacts differently to change depending upon where they are in the Change Curve. If this term is new to you, the Change Curve is based on a model developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1960s to explain the grieving process behind change. Since then, the method is widely used to help people understand their reactions to significant change.

Here is how it works….


Managers have to be trained at handling communication with different people at different stages of their change acceptance process

Unfortunately, this step is often ignored or not successfully implemented by organizations, which ultimately leads to costly changes at the end. In fact, reports suggests that the cost of poor communication has hit an overwhelming $37 billion!

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6. Measure Success

To measure the effectiveness of your change management process, you need to set up some key performance indicators (KPIs).

In order to drive real change, organizations have to put in some measure that shows whether a real change has taken place and whether the implementation lead to a successful outcome.

Creating and measuring proper metrics over time will help explain the effectiveness of the process to decision makers. It’s also a valuable way to guide future change management decisions and strategies.


Three Common Change Management Models

There are some popular change management models that will help act as guides for your change rollout. These models will not only help you implement change, but also help you ease the impact change can have on yoour employees. Let’s walk you through the most common ones:

#1. The Deming’s Cycle

A common approach to change management is Deming’s cycle, also known as the PDCA approach. PDCA is an acronym that stands for Plan (P), Do (D), Check (C), and Act (A). The PDCA cycle was popularized by W. Edwards Deming, considered by many as the father of modern quality control. He referred to it as the “Shewhart cycle” over the prominent statistician Walter A. Shewhart, who introduced a model consisting of Plan, Do, See, an early iteration of PDCA.

The PDCA method distills the change management method into 4 simple steps and is used by many organizations to bring incremental yet significant changes. The method is as follows:

Plan: The first step in Deming’s cycle is planning. Without a proper plan and strategy, change implementation could be reckless. Identifying the area(s) of improvement and formulating a strategy is imperative to successful change management.

Do: The next step is to carry out the plan in incremental steps. The key takeaway is the word “incremental”. Deming suggested that an organization should not bring about rapid changes and should instead focus on the smallest possible change that can bring results. In this way, organizations can carry out change management, test out their hypothesis, measure the potential- all without committing to the process in one go.

Check/Study: The next step is to review your results and measure how effectively you were able to predict the outcome. Documenting this whole process is crucial as it can help with future decision making and avoid costly mistakes.

Act: The last and final step of the Deming’s cycle is to Act, i.e. take action based on the results of the study. There are two approaches to this:

  • If the change is successful, implement it
  • If the change did not work, repeat the cycle with a different approach.

No matter the result, the documentation of the process should be handed over to relevant departments for study and feedback.

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#2. John Kotter’s 8-Step Model of Change

Harvard Business School professor and a world-famous change expert, John Kotter showcased his eight-step change process in his 1995 book, “Leading Change.”

Step 1: Create Urgency

For change management to take place as smoothly as possible, it helps if everyone is on board form the get-go. Developing a sense of urgency across the organization for change can give the process the much needed initial boost of motivation.

This can be done by having honest discussions with teammates, identifying potential threats to staying with the current system, effectively communicating the benefits of change and more.

Step 2: Form a Powerful Coalition

Find key influential figures inside your organization that can help lead the change process form the front. These people can be managers, leaders, important stakeholders, etc. who are well-versed with leadership skills and communication. Once you have formed your “change coalition,” this team can continue building a sense of urgency inside the organization and build momentum for change.

Step 3: Create a Vision for Change

Having a clear vision of what the end result will look like helps formulate concrete strategies and gives a sense of direction the organization should be moving in. The vision should be crystal clear so as to remove any ambiguity and help people understand the need and idea behind the change.

Step 4: Communicate the Vision

Transparent two-way communication is a must to deploy change management. Communicating the goals, vision, and most importantly, the need for change, help remove anxiety amongst stakeholders and reinforces the “why” behind the change.

Step 5: Remove Obstacles

Once everyone is on board with the process, you need to identify and remove barriers that are currently hampering or can cause trouble in the future for deploying change. Obstacles can be people who are still not fully convinced or processes that need to be modified.

Step 6: Create Short-Term Wins

Change is an incremental process and creating short term wins helps gain momentum and gives the team, the much-needed morale boost. This helps silence the critics and bestows confidence to the people that change is not only possible, but it’s easier than they thought.

Step 7: Build on the Change

Getting small wins is great, but you need to keep building on the momentum for a complete overhaul and not get satisfied with a short-term vision. Analyze the end result and determine what went right and what didn’t go as planned. Learn about Kaizen as it helps promote the mindset of continuous improvement.

Step 8: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture

Corporate culture determines what gets followed in the organization. Hence making change a part of your core values is an essential step to make it stick long-term. Continue talking about the benefits you are receiving because of the change and make it a part of your organizational culture.

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#3. Kurt Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze Model

Kurt Lewin, a physicist, came up with a rather simple model of change management way back in the 1940s. His model is known as Unfreeze – Change – Refreeze, which refers to the three-stages every organization goes through while implementing change. Below are the steps discussed in brief:

Step 1: Unfreezing

The Unfreezing is the first step towards change management. Unfreezing refers to challenging the status quo, breaking down the current way of doing business and identifying what needs to change. Since people are naturally resistant to change, the goal during this phase is to educate the people for the need to change, communicate them with the problems with the current system, and initiate a dialogue.


Step 2: Changing

The next step is the transition to change. This step involves implementing the said change- be it policies, procedures, methodology, technology or something else and making sure that there’s a smooth transition.

A lot of people will struggle with accepting the new reality as change often brings uncertainty and fear in the minds of people. It’s important to have a lot of healthy communication, give ample space for employees to vent, and providing them the required training, can help ease the pain of adopting change. Constantly remind employees of the benefits of the change, once fully implemented.

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Step 3: Refreezing

The final stage of this change management model is refreezing. In this phase, the organization starts settling in and accepting the newer ways of doing things. An important step in this phase is to make sure that change is constantly talked about by higher-ups and managers so as to make sure that people fully embrace the new way. Stabilizing and reinforcing the new status quo is an important part of the change as it prevents people from falling back to the ‘old ways of doing things.’


Final Words

Nobody likes change, but as the saying goes “change is the only constant.

The primary goal of change management is to stay on top of a growing environment and stay relevant. As organizations continue to evolve in this digital age, managing change becomes crucial.

The most important aspect of change management is the ability to have two-way discussions with the stakeholders of change, communicating them the advantages of change, and understanding their resistance. The stakeholders should be made aware of why there’s a need for change and how continually looking for ways to improve can help them achieve more.

Have you ever gone through a change management process at your organization? What was the biggest obstacle you faced? Let us know by tweeting us @bit_ai

Further reads: 

What is change management and how to cope with it - Pinterest