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What Is Change Management? (+Best Practices)

By Tara Porter
Updated May 22, 2024
What Is Change Management?

Let's face it, change is a constant in the business world. New technologies emerge, strategies shift, and sometimes the office furniture gets rearranged (because, why not?). While change can be exciting, it can also be disruptive. That's where effective change management comes in – it's your secret weapon for navigating those transitions at the organizational level with a structured approach.

Why Embrace Change Management?

Imagine rolling out a brand-new software system without any training or explanation. Sounds like a recipe for frustration, right? Effective change management helps you avoid that by:

  • Minimizing Resistance: People naturally resist change, but clear communication and a focus on the desired outcome can help them get on board.
  • Boosting Employee Engagement: When employees feel involved and supported throughout the management process, they're more likely to embrace the change and contribute to its success.
  • Maximizing the Benefits: A well-planned management strategy can unlock new efficiencies, improve collaboration, and ultimately help your organization achieve its goals.

The Blueprint for Effective Change Management

Think of change management as a three-step process:

  1. Understanding the Need: Why is this change happening? What are the goals? Once you have a clear understanding, you can communicate it effectively to your team.
  2. Planning and Preparation: This is where you develop a roadmap for the change. It includes defining the steps, identifying potential challenges, and putting training programs in place. Here, project management skills come in handy to keep things organized.
  3. Implementation and Reinforcement: Time to put the plan into action. This involves monitoring progress, addressing any issues that arise, and making sure the new way of doing things becomes the norm. Management teams play a crucial role in ensuring successful implementation.

Popular Change Management Models

Different organizational change management models offer distinct "routes" for navigating organizational change. Let's delve deeper into three of the most prominent models to equip you with the right tools for your specific climb:

Lewin's Change Management Model: A Three-Stage Journey

Developed by Kurt Lewin, a pioneer in social psychology, this model emphasizes the importance of transitioning smoothly between states. It's a cyclical approach consisting of three stages:

  • Unfreezing: This initial stage involves identifying the need for change and dissolving the forces that maintain the status quo. This might involve highlighting performance gaps, showcasing industry trends, or addressing employee pain points. The goal is to create a sense of urgency and openness to new possibilities.
  • Changing: Here, the actual implementation of the change takes place. This could involve rolling out a new software system, restructuring departments, or implementing a new marketing strategy. Effective communication, training, and addressing resistance are crucial during this phase.
  • Refreezing: The final stage focuses on solidifying the new way of working and making it the new normal. This involves reinforcing the desired behaviors, monitoring progress, and celebrating successes. Integrating the change into existing processes and company culture is key to long-term sustainability.

Lewin's model offers a simple yet powerful framework for understanding the dynamics of change. However, it doesn't provide a detailed roadmap for navigating the specific challenges that may arise during each stage.

Kotter's 8-Step Change Model: A Structured Climb

John Kotter, a Harvard professor and renowned leadership expert, developed this more prescriptive model. It outlines eight sequential steps that guide organizations through a successful change initiative:

  • Create a Sense of Urgency: Clearly communicate the compelling reasons for change and the potential risks of inaction. Data, competitor analysis, and customer testimonials can be powerful tools here.
  • Build a Guiding Coalition: Assemble a team of influential leaders from across the organization who are passionate about the change and can champion it within their departments.
  • Form a Strategic Vision and Initiative: Develop a clear and concise vision for the future state and translate that vision into actionable plans with measurable goals.
  • Empower Broad-Based Action: Communicate the vision effectively throughout the organization, encouraging employee participation and ownership of the change.
  • Generate Short-Term Wins: Celebrate early milestones and successes to maintain momentum and keep employees engaged.
  • Consolidate Gains and Produce More Change: Refine the approach based on learnings from early wins and continue to drive momentum towards the overall vision.
  • Anchor New Approaches in the Culture: Integrate the new behaviors and processes into the company culture to ensure long-term sustainability.
  • Institutionalize New Approaches: Reinforce the desired changes through performance management, recognition programs, and ongoing communication.

Kotter's model provides a clear roadmap for leading change initiatives, emphasizing the importance of leadership, vision, and employee engagement. However, it can be quite time-consuming to implement all eight steps in every change scenario.

Prosci ADKAR Model: A Focus on Individual Change

Developed by Prosci, a change management consultancy, the ADKAR model focuses on the individual and their psychological readiness to embrace change. It identifies five key outcomes that must be achieved for successful change at the individual level:

  • Awareness: Employees need to understand the reasons for the change and its implications for their roles.
  • Desire: Employees must have a personal desire to support the change and see the value in it.
  • Knowledge: Employees need the necessary knowledge and skills to implement the change effectively.
  • Ability: Employees must be confident in their ability to perform the new tasks or behaviors required by the change.
  • Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement through coaching, recognition, and support systems is crucial to sustain the change over time.

The ADKAR model is a valuable tool for understanding the human side of change and developing targeted interventions to address individual concerns and build readiness. However, it needs to be integrated with a broader change management strategy that addresses the organizational context and business processes.

By understanding these popular change management models and their strengths, you can select the right approach or even combine elements from different models to create a customized plan that best suits the specific needs of your organization and the change initiative at hand. Remember, the key is to equip yourself with the right tools and strategies to navigate the inevitable uphill climbs that come with organizational change.

Cornerstones of Successful Change Management

While popular change management models provide valuable frameworks, successful change management hinges on several key considerations that go beyond following a specific set of steps. Here, we explore these crucial elements that will ensure your change initiative reaches the summit, not ends in a frustrating avalanche:

Crafting a Clear Communication Plan:

A clear communication plan acts as your roadmap, keeping everyone informed and aligned throughout the change journey. This involves:

  • Identifying Stakeholders: Who needs to be kept in the loop? Employees, managers, executives, external partners – tailor your communication accordingly.
  • Choosing the Right Channels: Emails, video messages, targeted team meetings – utilize a mix of channels to reach everyone effectively.
  • Delivering a Consistent Message: Ensure all communication is clear, concise, and aligned with the overall vision for the change. Transparency and honesty are key to building trust.

Celebrating Short-Term Wins:

Reaching the peak of a mountain requires celebrating milestones along the way. Short-term wins serve as motivational markers, keeping your team energized and focused on the bigger goal. Here's how to leverage them:

  • Recognize Achievements: Acknowledge and celebrate even small victories, both big and small. Public recognition can be a powerful motivator.
  • Showcase Progress: Communicate the impact of these wins, highlighting how they contribute to the overall vision for the change. This reinforces the value of the effort.
  • Maintain Momentum: Short-term wins create a sense of accomplishment and fuel continued engagement with the change initiative.

Harnessing the Power of Human Resources:

The HR department is a critical partner in navigating the human aspects of change. They act as your base camp, providing support and resources to ensure a smooth climb:

  • Developing Training Programs: Equipping employees with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate the change is crucial. HR can design and deliver effective training programs.
  • Addressing Employee Concerns: Change can be anxiety-provoking. The HR department can provide support and address employee concerns through open communication and counseling.
  • Facilitating Development: HR can play a role in identifying and developing talent to support the new way of working brought about by the change.

Cultivating a Culture of Change:

A supportive company culture acts like the favorable weather conditions that make your mountain climb more enjoyable. Here's how to foster a culture that embraces change:

  • Open Communication: Encourage open communication and feedback throughout the change process. Employees who feel heard are more likely to be invested in the outcome.
  • Collaboration: Break down silos and promote collaboration across teams. Working together fosters a sense of shared responsibility and ownership of the change.
  • Adaptability: Encourage a growth mindset and a willingness to adapt to new ways of working. This agility will make future changes less disruptive.

By focusing on these core considerations alongside a chosen change management model, you'll be well-equipped to navigate the inevitable challenges of change and transform your organization into a peak performer. Remember, successful change management is a journey, not a destination.

How VisualSP Makes Change Management Easier

VisualSP, a Digital Adoption Platform (DAP), simplifies change management by providing in-context support and communication for enterprise web applications. Here are several ways VisualSP makes change management more effective:

Accelerates Onboarding:

  • Interactive walkthroughs guide users step-by-step through important processes, reducing the learning curve and enabling quicker adaptation to new systems.

Walkthroughs

Enhances Communication:

  • In-app notifications, banners, and pop-up alerts allow for effective communication of relevant information to employees, ensuring everyone stays informed and aligned.

Alerts & Notifications

Empowers Self-Service Support:

  • Provides 24/7 access to searchable support materials and company documentation, enabling employees to find answers to their questions independently.

Customizable Content

Offers Pre-Built & Customizable Training Content:

  • Create and tailor support content to meet specific employee needs or use pre-made content. AI-generated content can also be utilized for dynamic and personalized training.

Context-sensitive Support

Pinpoints Compliance and Support Issues:

  • Tracks how employees interact with web applications, identifying where they struggle and ensuring compliance with processes.

Compliance Issue Tracking

Increases Return on Investment (ROI):

  • Full usage reporting provides insights into hours saved, increased productivity, and overall ROI, highlighting the tangible benefits of VisualSP.

Increase Return on Investment

Provides Consistent Support Across Applications:

  • Acts as a universal in-context training and support resource, regardless of the web application being used (e.g., Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Hubspot).

By integrating VisualSP into your change management strategy, you can streamline transitions, improve employee engagement, and ensure the successful implementation of new initiatives.

Get started free with VisualSP today.

Conclusion

Change management isn't about forcing something new down your team's throats. It's about creating a collaborative environment where everyone feels involved and supported. By following these tips, utilizing the right management plans, and embracing the journey, you can turn change into a positive force for your organization. After all, navigating change effectively is a key differentiator in today's competitive business environment.

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