Back to all posts
Natalia Rossingol

Unlocking Change: 11 Steps to a Successful Change Management Process

Organizational change is hard, but it's not impossible. The key to change that sticks? A well-implemented, successful change management process.

Without change, there is no progress. But change is rarely easy.

In any organization, successful implementation of change requires an organized approach, unified efforts of all stakeholders, and a considerable amount of mental energy. Without preparation, companies set themselves up for failure.

This is when organizational change management comes in handy – in particular, a change management process. By following a structured, coherent process, you can be prepared for all the potential bumps in the road that you may face in the journey from change initiation, through to implementation, evaluation, and beyond.

In this article, we will describe all the steps of the change management process for you to apply in your business. 

  1. Identify the need for change
  2. Establish objectives, goals, and KPIs
  3. Create a change team
  4. Develop a change management plan
  5. Analyze your stakeholders
  6. Provide training and support
  7. Implement the change management plan
  8. Monitor progress
  9. Manage resistance
  10. Evaluate and adjust
  11. Embed the change  

What is the change management process?

Change management refers to the improvement of organizations by changing certain aspects - for instance, introducing new processes, new teams, or new tools - and ensuring these changes bring positive results.

It’s a broad concept that covers various tactics, strategies, and tasks one applies to successfully lead their business through change.

The change management process, however, is a more specific term. It refers to the actual steps of change implementation and management in order to ensure that change progresses smoothly, making the best out of it. It’s similar to change management models but, unlike them, it provides a much more specific course of action. 

11 steps to a flawless change management process

If an organization is to meet the challenges of a changing world, it must be prepared to change everything about itself except [its basic] beliefs as it moves through corporate life… The only sacred cow in an organization should be its basic philosophy of doing business. – Thomas J. Watson, Jr., “A Business and Its Beliefs”  

1. Identify the need for change

While change is a natural and inevitable part of organizational development, it’s not always obvious something needs to be changed. It might seem that things work just fine, so why change anything? People like the status quo because it's comfortable and familiar.

However, there is a catch. By deciding to stay where you are at, you risk falling behind. That’s why a company that aims to be successful should always be alert and look for both opportunities and threats it needs to react to.

By analyzing the current situation, you may notice various ways of how to improve your business processes, operations and productivity and, consequently, get benefits like higher profits or a better company reputation.

Similarly, you may find out that something requires your immediate attention and that you need to make adjustments before it’s too late:

Noticing small changes early helps you adapt to the bigger changes that are to come. – Dr. Spencer Johnson, “Who Moved My Cheese?”

Take a closer look at different organizational aspects of your company, from communication and culture, to planning and marketing strategy. Analyze challenges both inside and outside the company. Your research will show you where to start and what change management practices to use.

2. Establish objectives, goals, and KPIs

Once you’ve figured out what you need to work on, it’s time to outline what you aim to achieve. This will provide guidance and structure for implementing change.

Setting change direction should be planned on two levels – strategic (goals) and tactical (objectives.) To monitor the whole process, you should also use KPIs – key performance indicators: metrics that would help you track progress.

For example, your strategic goal could be building a better employee organizational culture. In this case, your objectives could be the following:

  • Build employee morale: implement a system of perks and benefits; allow more flexibility by letting people work fully/partially remotely; analyze and, if necessary, reconsider the individual workload.
  • Build a culture of psychological safety.
  • Develop and communicate a system of company values.

To measure your success, you could use KPIs like:

  • Turnover rates
  • Absenteeism rates
  • Employee satisfaction index
  • Employee feedback surveys

3. Create a change management team

A change management team is a group of people who are in charge of planning and implementing various change initiatives. The purpose of this team is to ensure the change is handled properly.

The members of the change management team have different roles. Let’ mention the core ones:

  • Executive sponsor – the person responsible for setting the vision for the change and defining the overall strategy. 
  • Change agents – people typically internal within the organization whose task is to help employees enable the change. These are people who have credibility since they have been in the organization for a while, but also people who are truly excited about the change. They translate the executive sponsor’s vision into results that employees are expected to reach.
  • Change lead – someone within the organization (for example, a person from an HR department or even from an operation department,) a senior person who understands the business very well and probably has experience leading a change before. A company may also have an outside change lead – a third party such as a consultant who’s an expert in change management, helping coach the internal leaders. 
  • Communications team – people who communicate with different stakeholders and explain what the change is. They closely communicate with the executive sponsor to communicate the vision correctly.
  • Training lead (team) – people who develop training materials and facilitate the training, which is typically conducted by change agents.
Make sure there is a powerful team guiding change – one with leadership skills, credibility, communication ability, authority, analytical skills, and a sense of urgency. – John Kotter, “Our Iceberg is Melting”

4. Develop a change management plan

A change management plan is a document that includes the steps necessary to introduce and manage change. Its components can include the following:

  1. Description of the change, a vision, and an explanation of why the change is needed.
  2. Areas of impact.
  3. The people on the change management team.
  4. Goals, objectives, and KPIs.
  5. A list of actionable tasks
  6. Required resources and budget.
  7. Timeline of change implementation.

These are the main components of the change management plan; however, you could add more. For example, you can specify communication rules that would ensure smooth teamwork; you could develop a risk management plan, outlining possible risks and ways of dealing with them; or you could add the list of the tools that are going to be used while implementing the change.

A change management plan will be a great reference for team members to use in case they need any information.

5. Analyze and understand your stakeholders

Stakeholder analysis refers to gathering and analyzing information about individuals and groups who will be impacted by the change – employees, management of all levels, customers, suppliers, regulatory bodies like government agencies etc.

The purpose if stakeholder analysis is to understand the needs, interest, and concerns of those people, to identify possible resistance (or support), and to use the feedback to manage change more effectively.

To analyze the stakeholders, different methods can be used, such as interviews, questionnaires, or even observations. The best way to ensure the objectivity of results is to combine both qualitative and quantitative methods.

6. Provide training and support

Training is an important element of successful change management, as it provides people with all the tools and knowledge needed to adopt change. Thanks to training, you can minimize operational disruption, enhance collaboration, and ensure success.

Change management training can be conducted for both leaders and employees. Leaders can be trained on how to develop change management plans, assess risks, and communicate the necessity of change; this training is more strategy-oriented.

For employees, training is tactics-oriented. Its purpose is to help people understand how the change will affect their jobs. Employees get trained on new processes and systems, communication, and the psychology of change.     

Training methods can be different:

  • A training led by an instructor
  • Online training
  • On-the-job training (while employees work)
  • Role-play and simulations

7. Implement the change management plan

This step is self-explanatory. All the stakeholders should receive a copy of the change management plan to understand how exactly the change is going to be implemented and what their specific role is.

This is the point where the actual work on the change begins, and plans turn into action. Everyone starts working on their specific tasks concerning the change, knowing the time limits and resources allocated, and aiming to reach the goals and objectives stated in the plan.

8. Monitor progress

To make sure that your change management strategy actually works, it’s important to track progress. This will help you figure out if the methods you use are effective – and if they’re not, to adjust or replace them.

Change management progress can be tracked on three levels – individual, organizational, and on the level of change implementation:

Individual level

Here you evaluate individual performance metrics to see how employees deal with the change and how effectively they reach their new goals. The evaluation methods may include the following:

  • Employee training effectiveness, both quantitative (how many people have completed training) and qualitative (the analysis of skills acquired)
  • Proficiency measurement
  • Employee satisfaction surveys

Organizational level

You evaluate how changes affect organizational outputs by using:

  • Goals, KPIs, and business objectives, like sales and finances (profit, revenues, maintenance costs etc,) marketing (e.g. online traffic, or social media traffic,) customer relations (customer acquisition or retention etc.)
  • Execution speed
  • Performance improvement

Change management level

Here you evaluate the effectiveness of change management policies:

  • Plan progress
  • Communication effectiveness
  • Change team’s activities

9. Manage the change resistance

People are naturally change-averse. No matter what type of organizational change your company is going through, your employees might be unwilling to adapt to it. It can be expressed in various ways – from blatant and public dissatisfaction to latent forms when a person silently struggles (and fails to adapt).

The reasons why it happens vary. For example, people might feel a lack of confidence in their ability to successfully handle the change, or simply reject change as something that ruins their routine and therefore is perceived as a threat.

They might feel they don’t have enough skills and knowledge. Or they might not understand the necessity of change at all.

However, as we know from the change curve model, even though the first natural response to change is denial, it's possible to overcome it and reach the integration stage (where change is fully accepted).

Here are some tips on how to do it:

  1. Make sure to effectively communicate and even over-communicate the need for change. Share information openly. Let people know how exactly the change will affect their lives.
  2. Provide training and set clear expectations regarding the change. Clarity will help people stay focused.
  3. Involve employees in making a change management plan. This will let them feel like they own the change and have influence over it.
  4. Gather employee feedback.

10. Evaluate and adjust

While monitoring change management progress with various metrics, you get performance results. Then you should do some comparative analysis – for example, by documenting and comparing the results received before and after the change has been implemented, or by comparing the new results with your goals.

This way, you will see how successful your change policies are. If they are not satisfactory, you will need to adjust some policies or techniques and inform the stakeholders about it. Change management policies are not set in stone – you can modify something that doesn’t work. It’s okay to experiment. 

11. Embed the change into your organization's culture

Change is a continuous and never-ending process. To stay competitive, a company needs to actively study the market and its new trends, look for opportunities, and recognize challenges on time to be able to deal with them. This means that it’s important to develop a mindset that would help people welcome change and continuously improve.

Over time, cultural norms must change; strategy must change; product lines must change; goals must change; competencies must change; administrative policies must change; organization structure must change; reward system must change. Ultimately, the only thing a company should not change over time is its core ideology. – Jim Collins, Jerry I. Porras, “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies”

To develop a mindset where change is viewed as an inherent component of progress and an actual value, leadership would have to do a lot of work, communicating with their employees and convincing them of the importance of change.

Here are some ways of how to make change a part of the corporate culture:

  1. Assess the current attitude of people towards change. How many of them resist change, and how many are ready to accept it? Try to understand the concerns and worries of those who resist, and implement strategies to overcome resistance.
  2. Make change your value. Explain it to the stakeholders that without change, there is no progress, so they should aim to change.
  3. Reinforce specific benefits your change policies might bring, like profits and revenues.
  4. Make sure people get support regarding change whenever they need it.
  5. Eliminate systems that are incompatible with the change. For example, you may want to restructure your company’s hierarchy.

 While it might be relatively easy to add a small change to a particular aspect of your business, bigger organizational changes, needed for the business to develop, require thorough preparation. By following an effective change management process, you will make sure to cover all of the essential stages of a successful change implementation and lead your company through the challenge.

Enjoy the post? Sign up for the latest strategies, stories and product updates.

You might also like

Try Runn today for free!

Join over 10k users worldwide.
Start scheduling in less than 10 minutes.
No credit card needed