The four best practices for change management you can embed into your existing implementation plan
In the ideal scenario you’ve already developed a change strategy before you created the detailed implementation plan. But the ideal scenario rarely happens with new projects, and for those of you (most of you) who are starting implementation without a defined change approach, this is the resource for you!
This post will cover four change management best practices and where they can fit in your existing implementation plan.
Change management best practices
While inspired by thought leadership articles and actual change strategies I’ve been a part of, this list is what I deem to be the four must-dos. Each can be executed with different levels of detail and collaboration, but there should at least be a written decision or plan for all of the following best practices:
1. Continuously enforce messaging
The message should be simple, easy to remember, and focused on WHY you’re changing. You need to have an explanation for why this is worth the effort, why now, and what benefits are expected. It’s also a great time to share the expected KPIs, and let each employee group reflect on how they can contribute to those KPIs.
This message needs to be enforced in multiple ways. During change, it’s almost impossible to over-communicate (as long as the message is consistent) and very common to under-communicate. While the message should come from leadership, managers should also be enabled to drive the conversation with their own employees. People at every level are going to talk, so give them the key points to talk about.
For a more detailed approach, this article is helpful for designing communications during four emotional stages that employees experience through change: denial, resistance, exploration and commitment.
2. Develop feedback channels
It’s very likely that you’ll have testing or pilot phases during implementation, and these are excellent opportunities to show employees that you’re listening and that you’re inviting them to help shape the solution. Change can be most frustrating when people feel like it’s happening without consideration of them or their expertise. However, showcasing employee feedback and lessons-learned will help people feel like change is happening BY them instead of TO them, even if it’s minor adjustments or validation that a new process will work. While many businesses will actually have employee feedback stages, they forget to showcase that the feedback is heard and is valuable, missing an opportunity to improve buy-in.
A couple of activities to stimulate extra participation could be the following:
- RACI design (for groups that like structured, tangible outputs): invite different user or employee groups to workshop who at your organisation should be Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, or Informed for each stage of project implementation or each task in the new way of working
- Poster design (for groups that like unstructured, creative time): challenge different user or employee groups to create a poster of the benefits and KPI contributions for/from their group that are possible as a result of change
3. Consider all stakeholders
Depending on the industry you work in and the scale of change expected, you could prevent potential change issues by considering the perspective of all stakeholder groups beforehand. This could be a quick exercise, but helpful for ensuring you don’t forget about an employee group or the media. To illustrate, your stakeholder groups might look like:
The image above may be over-the-top for your company, or it could be missing important categories that should be treated differently, such as casual vs permanent or head office vs front line employees.
Once you’ve identified stakeholder groups, it’s helpful to plot each of them on a matrix (below) by discussing:
- How much influence they have: if they have a strong opinion, are they likely to have an impact on the success of the change or greater business implications?
- How much interest they have: does the change involve decisions that impact them?
While you’re discussing stakeholders, this is also a good opportunity to bring up high-risk individuals. If there are people particularly passionate who have the potential to be loud about their perspective, they should also go into the ‘manage closely’ bucket (top right of the matrix).
4. Show what good looks like
The project management and design team can easily become so close to the details that they forget that the end user is not, and as a result, the new way of working isn’t perfectly clear. This can be difficult for employees who used to be confident in what to do at work and are now unsure, resulting in change resistance. To help build confidence, employees should have access to multiple learning resources, such as:
- A mock (or real) demonstration of what good looks like
- Written and/or video resources
- A place to ask questions as new scenarios come up
And those are the four practices! While a lot of it is intuitive, it’s also often overlooked, and even the basics of change management can make a huge impact.
So – how do you make sure these steps are part of the plan?
Where change fits in your implementation plan
Depending on how large your project is you may have a change manager overseeing each piece in collaboration with the project lead, or your project lead may also facilitate change. Either way, it makes sense to consider the implementation plan and change plan with a collective view. This way it becomes clear that change management activities, such as soliciting feedback and describing clear goals, actually support implementation instead of slowing it down. It’s much easier to get buy-in and learn lessons early than try to correct mistakes with a disengaged workforce.
In the example below I’ve used the following activities for each best practice:
|Continuously enforce messaging||Develop a communications plan & materials|
|Develop feedback channels||Hold participation workshops|
|Consider different stakeholders||Conduct a change magnitude analysis|
|Show what good looks like||Define KPIs and share training materials|
I’ve then included these change management activities (in green) in a standard technical roll-out plan (in blue).
- If you discuss change magnitude and intended KPIs during your Discovery and Design stages you’ll have a better description of what you’re aiming to achieve, ensuring that you’re all on the same page and haven’t overlooked impacted stakeholders.
- Build and Test can be supplemented by progress communications and participation workshops to increase likelihood of catching issues and to help employees feel involved.
- Employees can ‘show what good looks like’ by contributing to training materials during participation workshops and through feedback during Go-Live.
I hope you’ve found this helpful! There are a lot of resources on Change Management but I find that you don’t need to try and do all the tricks and ideas, you just need to get the basics, and you’re more likely to action the basics when they’re embedded in your project plan.