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This tutorial provides a summary of the main elements of change management based on Prosci's benchmarking research over the past two decades.
Defining these change management elements ensures a common understanding of what change management is. Tools or components of change management include:
- Readiness assessments
- Communication and communication planning
- Sponsor activities and sponsor roadmaps
- Coaching and manager training for change management
- Training and employee training development
- Resistance management
- Data collection, feedback analysis and corrective action
- Celebrating and recognizing success
Change Management Process
The change management process is the sequence of steps or activities that a change management team or project leader follow to apply change management to a change in order to drive individual transitions and ensure the project meets its intended outcomes. The below elements have been identified from research as key elements of a successful change management process.
These elements are incorporated into Prosci’s 3-Phase Process. Learn more about Prosci’s methodology and how to apply it to achieve better outcomes.
Here are the nine elements of a successful change management process:
Assessments are tools used by a change management team or project leader to assess the organization's readiness to change. Readiness assessments can include organizational assessments, culture and history assessments, employee assessments, sponsor assessments and change assessments. Each tool provides the project team with insights into the challenges and opportunities they may face during the change process. What to assess:
Assess the scope of the change:
- How big is this change?
- How many people are affected?
- Is it a gradual or radical change?
Assess the readiness of the organization impacted by the change:
- What is the value-system and background of the impacted groups?
- How much change is already going on?
- What type of resistance can be expected?
You will also need to assess the strengths of your change management team and change sponsors, then take the first steps to enable them to effectively lead the change process.
Many managers assume that if they communicate clearly with their employees, their job is done. However, there are many reasons why employees may not hear or understand what their managers are saying the first time around. In fact, you may have heard that messages need to be repeated five to seven times before they are cemented into the minds of employees.
Three components of effective communication
Effective communicators carefully consider three components:
- The audience
- What is communicated
- When it is communicated
For example, the first step in managing change is building awareness around the need for change and creating a desire among employees. Therefore, initial communications are typically designed to create awareness around the business reasons for change and the risk of not changing. Likewise, at each step in the process, communications should be designed to share the right messages at the right time.
Communication planning, therefore, begins with a careful analysis of the audiences, key messages and the timing for those messages. The change management team or project leaders must design a communication plan that addresses the needs of frontline employees, supervisors and executives. Each audience has particular needs for information based on their role in the implementation of the change.
Business leaders and executives play a critical sponsor role in times of change. The change management team must develop a plan for sponsor activities and help key business leaders carry out these plans. Research shows that sponsorship is the most important success factor.
Avoid confusing the notion of sponsorship with support
The CEO of the company may support your project, but that is not the same as sponsoring your initiative. Sponsorship involves active and visible participation by senior business leaders throughout the process, building a coalition of support among other leaders and communicating directly with employees. Unfortunately, many executives do not know what this sponsorship looks like. A change manager or project leader's role includes helping senior executives do the right things to sponsor the project.
Managers and supervisors play a key role in managing change. Ultimately, the manager has more influence over an employee’s motivation to change than any other person. Unfortunately, managers can be the most difficult group to convince of the need for change and can be a source of resistance. It is vital for the change management team and executive sponsors to gain the support of managers and supervisors. Individual change management activities should be used to help these managers through the change process.
Once managers and supervisors are on board, the change management team must prepare a strategy to equip managers to successfully coach their employees through the change. They will need to provide training and guidance for managers, including how to use individual change management tools with their employees.
Training is the cornerstone for building knowledge about the change and the required skills to succeed in the future state. Ensuring impacted people receive the training they need at the right time is a primary role of change management. This means training should only be delivered after steps have been taken to ensure impacted employees have the awareness of the need for change and desire to support the change. Change management and project team members will develop training requirements based on the skills, knowledge and behaviors necessary to implement the change. These training requirements will be the starting point for the training group or the project team to develop and deliver training programs.
Resistance from employees and managers is normal and can be proactively addressed. Persistent resistance, however, can threaten a project. The change management team needs to identify, understand and help leaders manage resistance throughout the organization. Resistance management is the processes and tools used by managers and executives with the support of the change team to manage employee resistance.
Managing change is not a one way street; employee involvement is a necessary and integral part of managing change. Feedback from employees as a change is being implemented is a key element of the change management process. Change managers can analyze feedback and implement corrective action based on this feedback to ensure full adoption of the changes.
Early adoption, successes and long-term wins must be recognized and celebrated. Individual and group recognition is a necessary component of change management in order to cement and reinforce the change in the organization. Continued adoption needs to be monitored to ensure employees do not slip back into their old ways of working.
The final step in the change management process is the after-action review. It is at this point that you can stand back from the entire program, evaluate successes and failures, and identify process changes for the next project. This is part of the ongoing, continuous improvement of change management for your organization and ultimately leads to change competency.
These elements comprise the areas or components of a change management program. Along with the change management process, they create a system for managing change. Good project managers apply these components effectively to ensure project success, avoid the loss of valued employees and minimize the negative impact of the change on productivity and a company's customers.