Change management seems to be the magic word of modern business management, and not only when it comes to digital transformation. Organizations are usually quite capable of dealing with change, because the “system” of organization in itself is a continuously changing one. But, the ability to control one’s organization is limited, and especially when it comes to radical changes, there are some things to consider.
In theory, the strategy and processes of change management often appear to be easily manageable; their concepts seem coherent. However, as change progresses, a momentum of its own sometimes develops. The more profound the change is, the more disruptive the change process can be to the environment. The positive effect of minor changes, on the other hand, may go unnoticed as may the desired increase in efficiency.
Comprehensive change management plans in a company are said to often have a negative impact on the business, employees and customers before the desired goal is achieved. It is therefore helpful to consider whether one should be implemented, and if so, which model should be worked with. There are many models: some have proven themselves, others less so. What they all have in common is the following: it is a task to be assigned to the managers. Similarly, there is no doubt in the specialist literature that certain factors are indispensable if changes are to be implemented successfully:
- Target-oriented communication with all those involved.
- The development of understandable goals and a vision.
- The early and comprehensive integration of all employees affected by the change.
- Motivation, will, ability and qualification for change. (And this not only for the employees, but above all for the managers.)
To realize change in a promising way, a change management plan is helpful. It keeps the irritations that can result from changes to a minimum. It makes it possible to adapt to challenges quickly and dynamically. At the same time, it is an important monitoring instrument to keep track of key figures and milestones.
A change management plan also ensures that the change process is recorded and kept in view under various aspects. After all, we not only have numerical facts whose changeability can be observed, but above all, there will be changes to the people who are implementing this change. A change management plan means gaining certainty about the budget to be used, the process, the degree of goal achievement and the resources used, while at the same time remaining agile.
The plan at least helps us to register deviations early on and recognize whether we should correct our original direction.
What Does a Change Management Plan contain?
A lot has already been written about this. There are countless consultants who make it their business to create plans with companies and to work through them carefully. This always reminds me a little of Bertold Brecht’s BALLADE OF THE INABILITY OF HUMAN PLANS:
(…)Yeah, just make a plan.
Just make it a big one!
And then make a second plan
Neither of them are working.
Nevertheless, the plan at least helps us to register deviations early on and recognize whether we should correct our original direction. And, we should and take a lot of time to plan! A change management plan should address:
1. Why Should Something Change?
The reasons for a desired change are usually manifold: adaptation to new technologies, employer branding, performance deficits or maybe because the orientation and/or strategy of the company has changed.
One way to set up the change management plan is to therefore describe the current situation with all its deficits in granular form, and then present what the future situation that is to be achieved by the change should look like.
2. What Exactly Should Change?
The aim is to describe the affected aspects of the organization. Who and what is part of the change? Is it about positions, processes or company policy? Which departments, systems or other aspects of the company will be subject to the changes?
3. Who Will Support The Changes?
In my opinion, this is one of the more important points of the change management plan! It’s about identifying the right stakeholders, and above all, ensuring that these are the ones who can make decisions, and getting them on board. First and foremost, these are the managers or even employees who are directly affected by the changes.
I liked a proposal that recommended listing and assessing all key representatives in terms of their awareness of the need for change, their level of support and their influence, simply based on a scale of low, medium and high; then, communicating this diagram openly.
4. Putting Together a Change Management Team.
Such a team should have a member of senior management who acts as a promoter and, where appropriate, initiator of changes to the organization, because this team is responsible for ensuring that the communication about the change processes is correct. Not only are good communication skills essential for this, but it is important to develop a good sense for concerns and resistance as well as to be able to listen. Therefore the team should consist of a team of credible and reliable members.
A proactive attitude is particularly beneficial here, because it is also about prevention, not just intervention. It is about active cooperation, especially from the management. It is not just about signing a plan.
Some may supplement this with a plan for each representative of the change process and may also involve senior management in order to receive regular feedback. In my experience, this is indeed beneficial, but it can also become a project in its own right, because this behavior is not established in the corporate culture.
5. Development of a Communication Plan.
This is one of the most important steps, and its creation is independent of the corporate culture lived up to now. The type, frequency, communication channels and scope, on the other hand, depend on the type of organization. As one of the most important components of a successful change, it should always focus on the reasons for the change and what the benefits are. Different audiences should receive different communications, but the messages should not be contradictory. Especially with the stakeholders, personal two-way communication can also be best within the framework of face-to-face meetings.
6. Analyze And Counteract Resistance
Every change creates resistence. It is less about avoiding this than about taking them into account and counteracting them. This requires a thorough investigation of the causes by people who have the trust of the employees. Sometimes it is misunderstandings or a limited opportunity to participate that lead to the rejection of the change.
It is important, once it has been identified, to carefully observe the resistance and/or its elimination. Resistance is the biggest enemy of change management projects and the main cause of their failure.
7. Dissolve Blockages And Resistance
In most cases, adapting the communication strategy helps to break down the resistance and achieve active participation or even a positive attitude. Sometimes, however, a little more effort is required. These can be helpful:
- Provide appropriate training for changes in roles or processes.
- Consider a bonus system for extraordinary participation or even a company event.
- Suspend a feedback meeting to remove stakeholder exclusions.
There are many other ways to create a change management plan. And yet, to me it always seems that the most important aspect is to keep special focus on the affected employees and all other stakeholders so that you can keep them motivated in the same way. Transparency and appropriate communication are the catalysts that make a change process successful.