The Ultimate Guide to Change Management


Following the events of the last couple of years, the working world has changed for many people beyond what they could possibly have imagined. Over 50% of office-based employees now work from home at least once a week and, in many cases, a lot more. That means the need for good technology solutions to keep everyone “on the same page” has never been greater. Of course, this means that strategic change, which was previously a rather slow process which trickled slowly into the workplace, needs to adapt to all of these demands and work towards continuous improvement.

The agility that some organisations have provides a fantastic competitive advantage, but change is not something that comes easily to everyone. Our Ultimate Guide looks at Change Management and how you can use it to help your organisation embrace change.

What is Change Management?

Change management is defined as a systematic approach that is used for dealing with the transformation or transitions of the goals, technologies and processes of an organisation. The main purpose behind change management is that it is used to implement those strategies that are used for effecting change, controlling those changes and also assisting individuals in adapting to these changes.

In order for it to be effective, any change management strategy needs to consider the way in which an adjustment or replacement may have an impact on the processes, employees and systems that make up an organisation. There needs to be a process that is used for planning and also testing any change, communicating about these changes, implementing and scheduling changes and documenting and then evaluating the effects of the changes. In change management, documentation is absolutely essential. It is used to maintain the audit trail in case a rollback is necessary and also to ensure that an organisation is maintaining compliance with both external and internal controls and also with regulatory compliance.

Why is change management important?

When change management is successful, there is a wide and diverse range of benefits to be had by any business. These are benefits that can work for the organisation itself, its employees and even specific departments and teams.

From work processes to a more enhanced employee experience, these are advantages that come in many forms.

Change management is important to an organisation because it can help with:

  • Improved business processes
  • Decreased project overheads
  • Better workflow within a team
  • Improving company culture
  • Providing a workplace that is more fulfilling and attractive
  • Making workers happier
  • A better employee experience
  • Risk mitigation
  • Better support from the top
  • Career development
  • Greater options for training and reskilling
  • A greater openness to innovation and change

In addition, it can also assist in defining the visions of a project and any key outcomes. It uses these visions and outcomes in order to create a strategy for messaging and also a communication plan.

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The processes involved in managing change

There are a number of clearly defined procedures that are usually followed when it comes to change management:

1.     The submission of a formal change request

This must contain all of the necessary information and is usually done either through a form or, as is far more likely as we move to a more diverse working method, through an online tool. This process will depend on the maturity of the change management procedure, the size, and complexity, of the project and the organisation itself.

2.     The request is evaluated

This will help to determine if there is a valid request and whether all of the information and reasoning that might be needed for the request have been given. This information should include the business benefit or cost.

3.     The request is reviewed

This is done by the stakeholders, the project manager and anyone else who might be impacted by any change. At this point, it is important that any additional information, including any time estimates that relate to the implementation, information regarding risks – both for implementing and not implementing, any impact of the existing tasks that are already in the project are identified. These should all be used as part of the review.

4.     A decision is made on whether to approve or reject the change

The stakeholders and project managers will make a decision on the outcome of the change. They may also have the option at this point to postpone that change (for example, until after the delivery of the project) but only in an instance where this is feasible.

5.     Rejected changes are returned to the requester

This should always be done with a written explanation to help them decide how to proceed.

6.     The budget and resources are adjusted

Where the changes have been approved, it is necessary for the budget and any resources to be adjusted accordingly. In some instances, this is not always possible, and it will be necessary for the project manager to negotiate for any lower-priority tasks to be removed.

7.     Prioritising of the tasks

Depending on the type and number of approved changes required, there may need to be some prioritising that takes place. This will usually take into account any factors, such as if a failure to implement a change will have a negative effect on the useability of the final product if workarounds are feasible, and if the problem could be mitigated through user training.

8.     Approved changes are incorporated

These are added to both the project plan and schedule, which should then be updated with any additional risks, dependencies and, of course, deadlines.

9.     The changes are incorporated into other areas

Any approved changes are also incorporated into other areas of the project, including any documentation, test cases and also user documentation.

10. Change control reports are produced

This is done on a regular basis, and the production of the report will show the status of any change requests and also the impact they have had on the project over time. This will be in respect of any changes to the schedule or budget.

When this change management is done effectively, and through formal processes, it can help to prevent scope creep. It can assist in keeping the schedule on track and also making sure that the end product is fit for the purpose it was intended for.

managing strategic change

What are the barriers to managing strategic change?

It is important to understand the barriers that can occur in change management. This can assist an organisation in identifying and then implementing change.

Conducting an assessment is an important process that can assist an organisation when it comes to identifying any barriers, both potential and actual, to change. These barriers create a gap between the recommended and current practices and ultimately can have a negative effect on the production processes of an organisation on a daily basis. There are a number of barriers that an organisation can find itself facing. However, the main ones that occur in change implementation are:

1.     Lack of involvement by employees

This is widely considered to be the most common barrier. Employees simply don’t like change unless that is they are actively involved in the entire change process. Involving your employees in any changes can really go a long way towards removing this particular barrier and ensuring that the change process will be much smoother. Listen to your employees and get their opinions. Make sure that they see that the change is for the good of the organisation.

2.     Lack of effective communication strategy

If there is no effective communication strategy within your organisation, then you are making a big mistake that really is very easy to rectify. Employees don’t just want to know about any changes that are being planned, they also want to know how these changes will affect them, and it really doesn’t take much to give them this information.

3.     A bad culture shift planning

Sometimes, the team in charge of planning are simply not aware of how the change will affect the people in a team. They will usually not make their decisions based on the feelings of individuals, and whilst they shouldn’t need to it can be a good idea to consider the feelings of every individual when putting these changes into place so that there is no disrespect. Taking the feelings of team members into account will remove this barrier.

4.     Unknown current state

If an organisation lacks the idea of their current state, then change can be difficult. It is a common mistake to try to implement changes without fully understanding the current state of things. However, this is a barrier that many do not understand exists. A full understanding and analysis of the current situation is a must before trying to make any changes. This makes it much easier to plan and make transitions.

5.     Organisation complexity

When an organisation has a complex set of processes, then it can be much harder to plan and implement change. Processes, products and systems all become more complex, which can contribute to barriers to change. A skilful approach is needed in order to tackle this barrier with quality, diligence and a highly organised project approach.

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How to successfully lead change in a project

If a company wants to be dynamic and grow, then change is absolutely vital for its success. Any company that is fluid and responds well to external factors is likely to achieve a competitive advantage. Any organisation that is resistant to change is at risk of falling into a state of stagnation. This will lead to failure. It isn’t always easy to accept change but with good leadership, bringing about change is much easier.

At some point, every organisation will need some form of strategic change. A good leader should be able to identify when these changes are needed and what type of changes they are. There are three main types of change they might be looking at implementing:

  • Developmental: this involves managing a project in order to make improvements to existing processes, performance or skills
  • Transitional: for example, a project that seeks to create a new service or product to replace one that exists.
  • Transformational: often the most challenging as it means a more radical change in order to create an entirely new process or service. It is an unknown quantity requiring new behaviour.

It is important that leaders advocate for change. This is vital if they are to be successful. If a project is not supported by senior members of staff, then it is likely that others will follow them. This will sabotage the change or result in fewer people being involved in it. Weak leadership is likely to cause the project to suffer, and changes be unsuccessful. Good project skills are essential. Project managers are the driving force in a project and should aim to convert their team to become more supportive.

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