Five Steps to a Successful Change Management Process

By Jodee Handley

Structure changes, new systems, policies, procedures and tools can all be major changes for businesses. They require consideration, planning and investment from the businesses implementing them.  Successful change cannot be achieved without the buy-in of the people affected.

Jodee Handley, change management specialist, OBS said: “Generally the higher ‘people change’ the lower the likelihood of project success. Before you roll out a change (project) you must first understand who it will impact and how. Change management is a strategic way to assess and manage change to ensure project success.”

“Before you start next project, ask yourself this - What would this solution look like if nobody adopted the system and no one used it? Without change management, this is the reality.”

OBS provides five tips for a successful change management process.

1. Define Success

The first step is to clearly define what success looks like, what is it you are trying to achieve? Make sure to use SMART goals, for example:

Specific – target a specific area for improvement.

Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.

Assignable – specify who will do it.

Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.

Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Think about the individuals that will be impacted. Simply rolling out a new system (process, procedure etc.) will mean the project is more than likely to fail.

2. Assess the Characteristics of the Change

The change may mean dramatic transformation for a very small group or a small change across an entire organisation. It is important to assess the size, intensity and type of change (project). Look at factors such as whether the change is enterprise level (a particular initiative or project) how many people will be affected and their geographical spread. Intensity refers to factors such as time constraints, how much each group will be affected and how they are likely to react based on previous attempts at the change. The type of change simply refers to what type of change it is (system, engineering, support etc.).

This information will help set up a framework with appropriate timeframes, resources and support where it is needed most. Group people according to how they will be affected by the change and tailor a plan to their specific needs.

Try to maintain a realistic timeline to complete the project, while maintaining momentum with individual tasks or groups. When projects stop and start, you risk losing engagement and interest.

3. Highlight risks

It’s important to understand the risks for project failure so you can mitigate against them.

Businesses should assess the existing project and change management capabilities within the business to expose potential failure points. This is no small task, so consider bringing in change management experts to help identify and plug these gaps.

4. Identify the change management team/sponsors

A major factor in successful change management success is to have the right team to implement the change.

Identify what change management skills are available in-house and what needs to be outsourced. As well as experienced change managers, the team will require influencers who will advocate the changes to the wider business. Form a ‘sponsorship coalition’ to help you highlight the benefits of the changes. The change management team should reflect all affected groups and all the skills that are required.

5. Understand the ‘stages’ of change

There are five stages that every individual goes through when being asked to change the way they work.

  1. awareness of the need to change
  2. desire to participate and support the change
  3. knowledge about how to change
  4. ability implement new skills and behaviours
  5. reinforcement, to keep the change in place.

Understanding these five stages will help you provide the correct support and focus conversations, especially with resistant employees. It can also diagnose gaps in the change management program for each group and identify corrective actions required to reach the desired outcome.

Jodee Handley said: “The steps outlined here are required before you even begin to implement the change. Success ultimately relies on getting the maximum number of users to come on board quickly as well as how well they understand and use the system. To achieve this you have to understand the characteristics of change. Businesses must not underestimate the level of knowledge and expertise needed. If handled incorrectly you risk the project failing, and losing productivity, staff and, ultimately, profit.” 


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