In short, change management is a process that supports the continuous improvement of project-driven organizations by controlling and monitoring changes to ensure they don't negatively impact the success of the project. To be effective, change management needs to be a part of each step of a project as well as an ongoing process throughout all stages of that project, including the planning and execution phases.
In the organizational setting, change management stands for the collective of tactics, strategies, processes, and tasks you'd need to activate in case of, well, change.
The simplest scenario where a change management process is in place would be, for example, one where you and your team set out on a 6-month project, yet 2 months in you discover that you only have 3 more months to finish it. As the deadline shifts, you need to think of ways to optimize resources and processes to accommodate the new deadline and still see the project succeed.
But now imagine how powerful the impact of change you are not prepared for can be on the organizational level. This is why you always need an effective change management process on the ready.
In figurative terms, embracing the change process is like taking an umbrella with you even if the sun is out and it doesn't look like it's going to rain — but you know you live in a location (read: industry) where the weather is fickle and things can sometimes turn on a dime.
In this article, we're going to look at the value of change management in organizational settings and ways how change management actually helps.
Have you ever had a project management initiative that started, progressed, and finished, exactly how you planned it would? The answer is probably no — organizational structure and management are never black and white.
The business world is constantly changing, and it’s important to be prepared for the changes that could affect your organization, whether they’re externally driven or internal. Change management helps you stay on top of those changes, so you don’t get blind-sided by them.
Rather than thinking of change as an event that happens at a certain point in time (say, your planned implementation date), try considering change as a natural part of your organization's life cycle — as something that will inevitably happen to your business in some form or another over time. Being able to anticipate change and deal with it before it becomes disruptive helps keep your company on track, and allows you to adapt more quickly when changes do occur.
You can't sustain success if you're not able to adjust to changing market conditions. A change management strategy helps you modify your plans and processes in response to new opportunities and risks.
In order to successfully manage change, you first have to understand what constitutes change within your organization and how it affects your business. This might include changes in the law or regulations (e.g., GDPR), changes in customer preferences (e.g., more people shopping online), or changes in technology.
Once you know where your organization sits on the spectrum of change readiness, you can set up a plan of action for improving your adaptability mechanisms — which could include things like having a cross-functional team dedicated to implementing new business strategies or conducting regular training for executives on new technologies.
Success also depends on having the resources that you need to be successful, but there's always a risk that things won't go as planned because of unanticipated changes.
Having a change management plan in place allows you to be prepared for any situation by identifying the right people, systems, and processes needed to execute your revised plans effectively.
A strong change management strategy will help mitigate resource-related risks by prioritizing change requests and finding the best solution to resolve those requests in the least disruptive way possible.
And what's the most unreliable resource there can be? It's people! They take vacations, take unexpected time off, or choose to pursue other challenges — all of which can derail your business plans and call for an urgent change management process.
Understanding the needs of your customers is an ongoing challenge.
Change management can help you remain attuned to new ways of satisfying their desires by helping anticipate changes in their needs and behaviors, while also helping your team develop methods for understanding these changing needs more quickly than your competitors do.
We are constantly changing, adapting, and adjusting to the world around us. The same goes for our customers, who are also in a constant state of growth, change and evolution. Without change management, your company could easily get left behind as new waves of technology, regulation, and culture come into play.
Digital technology has become an integral part of our lives and businesses. The Digital Age has created an environment where organizations must constantly adapt and evolve to meet the needs of their customers, employees, and partners.
Companies that have understood why organizational change management is important and embraced this new reality are achieving competitive success as well as improved employee satisfaction and communications. They're also enjoying greater agility in responding to market changes, faster time-to-market for new products and services, lower costs and increased productivity.
These organizations have embraced change management processes that enable them to manage this constant state of flux while remaining focused on the goal of strategic differentiation.
Organizational success requires constant change. Business processes need to be improved, optimized, and streamlined constantly in order to remain competitive in a marketplace that's constantly changing.
Organizations that don't adapt and change with their environment can quickly become obsolete, losing their competitive edge and possibly going out of business altogether.
To a great extent, change management is the practice of facilitating the cultural changes necessary for an organization to improve its business processes and meet the needs of a dynamic marketplace.
By focusing on the impact of change, you can foresee problems and eliminate or reduce them before they arise. The process of change management often involves identifying the problem that needs to be solved, determining the resources that are needed, implementing an approach to solve the problem, and evaluating whether the solution is adequate.
This process can be applied to an organization's mission and vision and its goals in order to make sure they are being met.
If you don't establish a change management process, you don't have a plan to deal with unexpected changes. That means that instead of dealing with problems as they arise, you're trying to change things on the fly.
The more last minute changes you make, the more stress everyone will feel about getting the project done on time, which leads to miscommunication and missed deadlines — basically, a whole mess of unnecessary overhead.
On the other hand, if you do have a change management process, everyone knows what to expect when something changes. So when a last-minute change comes up, it's not such a big shock because your team has had time to prepare for it.
One of the key reasons why change management is important to organizational success is that it increases employee engagement and satisfaction.
Change management helps people navigate an organization's transitions, so they can feel engaged with the changes being made and be better able to adjust to them.
When an organization implements changes that their employees don't agree with or aren't ready for, the employees will be less likely to buy in to the organization's vision. They'll also be less happy, which can lead to decreased productivity.
Organizational success comes from being able to change with market or technology changes, or sometimes even just being able to change for change's sake (if the status quo is no longer working).
Agile organizations are able to respond quickly and creatively to changes in the marketplace. When a new product comes out, for example, agile companies are able to use that information to create something even better and more competitive than the original product.
The agility of an organization is also essential for embracing new ideas that could revolutionize the industry. The openness of an organization will help it identify these new ideas, which can then be quickly implemented in order to bring the company into the 21st century and beyond.
In this context, managing change means you're able to identify problems before they become big enough issues to disrupt workflow or cause anything but the least amount of drama. It's also important because it makes sure that change is well-explained to your employees, so they know what's going on and how it affects them personally.
When people feel that they're being heard, their morale tends to increase. And when their morale is high, they'll be more productive — and it'll be in general easier to find and retain the best talent.
In the business world, change is the only constant.
Change is often seen as a harbinger of bad things to come, especially when the change is big or when it happens rapidly. Sometimes that's justified, but often it isn't.
Change can be for the better, and if you're a project manager, it's your job to make sure that what your team aligns with the company's change plans, which will benefit everyone in the end.
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