30 Tips for Better Change Management
Written by Tim Creasey
Prosci has been publishing industry-leading research and content on change management for more than two decades. Through this research and client feedback, we identified six focus areas where change practitioners need more resources and support. Read on for five tips in each of these areas, along with in-text links to deeper content.
5 Tips for Succeeding in Change Management
These tips focus on applying an intentional, structured and customized approach to managing the people side of an organizational change. In Prosci's most recent Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking study, the use of a structured approach was the #2 contributor to success, and use of a methodology correlated with meeting project objectives. The other tip highlighted engaging those in the organization who are the face and voice of change: your senior leaders and people managers.
- Start early – be more proactive to avoid "fire fighting" and damage control
- Apply structure – be more effective and efficient, and increase the credibility of the work you are doing
- Customize your approach – understand your unique situation and adapt accordingly
- Engage employee-facing roles – prepare, equip and support those who are the face and voice of change in your organization to be successful
- Focus on the individual – remember that organizations don't change, people do
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5 Tips for Managing Resistance
Resistance to change is one of the major issues change management addresses. Participants in Prosci's Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking studies consistently reveal that a change-resistant culture is a top obstacle to success. However, change management extends beyond the systematic elimination of resistance. It includes engaging employees and creating a compelling case for the need to manage change proactively. When change management is applied effectively, much resistance can be avoided. A formal and forward-looking approach to mitigating resistance and addressing the root causes of resistance results in better performance.
- Do change management right the first time – effective change management can eliminate many of causes of resistance before it occurs
- Expect resistance – do not be surprised by resistance; expect it and plan for it
- Address resistance formally – incorporate resistance management planning in all phases of your change management strategy and plan development
- Identify the root causes – make sure that you aren't simply responding to the symptom but really addressing what is causing the resistance
- Engage the "right" resistance managers – senior leaders and people managers are the right people in the organization to manage resistance
5 Tips for Better Communications
Communication is another regularly cited top contributor to success in our benchmarking research. The communication plan is one of the recommended core change management plans in the Prosci Methodology and part of the structured communication effort that begins early in the project lifecycle. Communications should answer the key questions people have during change, such as, "Why is the change happening?" "What are the risks of not changing?" and "What's in it for me?" Doing so creates momentum for change.
- Structure your efforts – including sequencing messages and creating a formal deliverable
- Start earlier – even if you do not have all the answers, share what you can and share when more answers are expected
- Communicate more often – frequent communications are critical to successful change management
- Answer the questions people have – avoid focusing on the details, and focus instead on the reasons for the change and personal impacts of the change
- User preferred senders – senior leaders for business messages and people managers for personal messages
5 Tips for Developing People Managers as Change Coaches
People managers are some of the most important allies in times of change. They have the proximity to and relationships with employees that are critical for building support and navigating resistance. Unfortunately, many people managers are not enabled with the skills and tools they need to become great leaders of change. Remember, being a great manager and being a great change leader are two different things. People managers must first be on board with a change before they can lead their direct reports through the change.
- Get them on board – people managers need to go through their own change process before supporting their direct reports
- Share the role you expect – including high-level and detailed actions
- Build competencies – appreciate that leading change is a competency that can and must be developed
- Provide tools – including individual change models, tip sheets and information for fulfilling roles
- Enable them with support – help people managers succeed at leading change with peer and expert support
5 Tips for Building Organizational Change Management Competency
As organizations face more and more change, effectively managing change is becoming an increasingly important strategic capability. However, building an organizational change management competency is a significant undertaking. You are fundamentally changing how the organization reacts to change. When organizations decide to build this competency, they must treat the effort as both a project and a change to be managed. Research shows that successfully deploying change management across and organization—what we call enterprise change management—requires focus and intent.
- Treat it as a project – building the competency requires a set of planned actions and someone to manage them
- Treat it as a change – you are asking people to do their job differently; it requires change management to deploy change management
- Utilize a holistic strategy – actions are needed in the leadership, project, skill, structure and process areas
- Dedicate a team – a representative team needs to lead the effort to deploy change management
- Secure sponsorship – like any organization-wide change, deploying change management needs effective and well-placed sponsorship
5 Tips for Addressing Change Saturation
Change saturation occurs when there is so much change occurring that it has negative consequences. Given competitive, customer and economic demands, many organizations are facing a point of change saturation--resulting in negative impacts on individuals, projects and organizations. Once your organization begins to consider the overall change load, and the cumulative and collective impact on employees, you can begin to manage the portfolio of change more effectively.
- Clearly define saturation and its elements – recognize that change saturation occurs when the amount of change (change disruption) is greater than the amount of change an organization can handle (change capacity)
- Understand why saturation occurs – no one is focusing on the collective impact of the changes taking place
- Share the consequences of being saturated – individuals, projects and the organization as a whole suffer when there is too much change
- Manage the portfolio of change – a structured process can help you understand, evaluate and better manage your changes
- Manage each change more effectively – when a change is managed well, it takes up less change capacity than when it is managed poorly