According to Gartner, half of all change management projects end in failure! The cause: too much resistance to change, a lack of strategy, poor communication, or an over-ambitious timetable. The solution to these obstacles? Methodology… and, of course, patience!
By definition, change management is the process of preparing and supporting an organizational transformation. No surprise, then, that such a project requires planning! Indeed, implementing a change management method is essential to anticipate potential obstacles and develop an effective strategy.
But what elements should be included in this action plan? How can employees be mobilized? And what are the best practices for supporting change? Here’s our three-step method for a successful change management project. 👇
1. Prepare for change
Preparation is the first essential step in any change management project. Here’s how to get it right the first time around.
Test the waters
First and foremost, take the time to take stock of your organization:
- What change management projects have you already implemented? How were they carried out? How many were successful and how many were unsuccessful? And why did they fail?
- What are your organization’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of change management?
- Generally speaking, how do your employees react to change? Do they welcome it positively, or are they rather reluctant to change? And what are the main reasons for their opposition?
- What impact will change have on your employees and your company?
- What resources do you have to manage change?
Carrying out this initial diagnosis will enable you to identify potential resistance, but also to assess your employees’ ability to accept the change. Based on this assessment, you can then estimate the feasibility of the project, and the actions required to ensure its success.
What changes would you like to implement? And why? These are the key questions to ask when identifying your needs. This is one of the essential steps in a change management method, because it’s what will enable you to justify the change internally. In other words, take the time to think about it!
Once you’ve identified your needs, ask yourself what the objectives of your project are. For example, are you looking to streamline team collaboration? Better capitalize on your knowledge? Accelerate decision-making?
To keep track of your objectives, you’ll need to define easily measurable indicators. This is what the OKR (Objective and Key Results) method advocates, which involves defining ambitious objectives and measuring them against key results.
Surround yourself with a great team
To manage change, it’s also important to surround yourself with the right people. This involves creating a project team, the size of which must be adapted to the scope of the project. Depending on your resources, this team may be made up entirely of internal players, a mix of internal and external players, or only external players (if you choose to outsource the project to a consulting firm, for example).
Surrounding yourself well also means mobilizing sponsors and communication relays who can help you drive the change. Ideally, you should first get management on your side, so that they support the project and help you reinforce its legitimacy internally. Once this has been achieved, you can then create a network of ambassadors to help you evangelize your employees.
Finally, one of the last steps is to create a psychosocial safety climate that will enable employees to deal positively with change.
🧐 But what is psychological safety? Used since the 90s, this term refers to the ability to express oneself and give one’s opinion without fear of suffering the consequences. In concrete terms, the more psychologically secure an environment, the more freely employees will share their ideas and take the initiative. And above all, the more confident they will feel when faced with an organizational transformation!
According to Gartner, only 38% of employees today say they are ready to support change, compared with 74% in 2016. That means that driving change today is far more complex than it was a few years ago.
To bring your employees on board, you need to start by creating a healthy environment. This means putting people first, being transparent, giving people the right to make mistakes, and encouraging feedback.
2. Implement change
Once the change has been prepared, it must then be implemented methodically. Here’ are the four-step method to follow to implement your change management project.
Create an action plan
To implement change, you first need a clear strategy and action plan. To develop this, we advise you to involve your management, employees, ambassadors, and project team. This will not only give you a 360° view of the actions to be taken, but also ensure that your stakeholders understand that their opinion counts.
In this action plan, please specify:
- project milestones and the actions required to reach them
- the priority level of each action
- deadlines to be met
- the level of resistance you face (and, if possible, the arguments you can use to overcome this resistance)
- the person(s) responsible for each action
- the changes this will mean for teams
- indicators to measure your results.
Communicate and engage in conversation
Good communication and transparency are essential to successful change management. We recommend that you create a communications strategy specific to your project, and integrate it into your action plan. This strategy will clarify:
- the targets of your messages (employees, shareholders, partners, customers, press, etc.).
- the key messages you want to get across to each of these targets,
- the content and resources you’ll need to create,
- the communication channels you’re going to use,
- the communication actions you will be implementing.
Depending on the type of project, communication can be solely internal, or both internal and external. But keep in mind that the most important thing is to involve your employees in the change!
To do this, focus on communications that start a conversation, not just share information. For example, why not launch a survey? Hold a videoconference Q&A session? Or create an exchange group dedicated to your project? That’s what you can do on a collaborative platform like Talkspirit!
Test and deploy
Before implementing the change, take the time to test it in small groups. This method—also known as “proof of concept“—will enable you to validate the feasibility of your project, as well as identify any problems that may arise during deployment. The advantage? You can use this method for any type of change management project (implementation of a new tool, a new process, etc.).
The aim of these tests is to gather as much feedback as possible (both positive and negative), so that you have the material to analyze and apply the necessary corrective measures. This will enable you to roll out your project on a larger scale… with peace of mind!
That’s what we recommend at Talkspirit to ensure successful change management. Test our collaborative tool before adopting it, you’ll be amazed 😉
Support and train
Coaching is a key lever for an effective change management method, enabling you to:
- explain the change
- clearly identify the obstacles to change
- find solutions to overcome these objections
Active listening and empathy are the most important skills when it comes to supporting employees in the face of change. So don’t hesitate to call on your communication relays to help you support change.
Another aspect of support is, of course, training. We recommend that you create a training plan—just as you would for your communications. This will enable you to easily anticipate the resources to be mobilized and the tools to be put in place to manage training.
Finally, don’t forget that everyone needs support—regardless of hierarchical level. Your approach should therefore include both managers and employees.
3. Anchor change
Your change has been implemented, but the work doesn’t stop there. The challenge now is to anchor this change in internal practices, so that it benefits everyone in the long term. Here, then, are the final steps you need to take to ensure that the change is sustainable.
Set an example
Anchoring change means first and foremost setting an example. This is particularly important for management, who are the embodiment of change. Through their words and actions, they must show that they believe in change, but also and above all: they must apply it themselves!
Imagine that a new process has been implemented in your company. Employees are asked to apply it, but managers continue to work as they please, without changing their habits or work tools. This situation will seem unfair to employees, who will wonder why they’re the only ones who have to undergo the change. As a result, there’s a good chance that they too will decide not to apply the new process, and that the project will fail.
The moral of the story: set an example so that your teams can change their practices.
Numbers often speak louder than words. That’s why performance evaluation is one of the key stages in change management.
Regularly monitoring key results (or KPIs) will enable you to measure the effectiveness and return on investment of the change. It’s also a way of assessing how practices and attitudes are evolving, and identifying where improvements are needed to make the change sustainable.
For example, if you’ve set up a new collaborative tool, you can track indicators such as the rate of active users or the rate of engagement, which will enable you to measure the level of adoption of your platform. And above all, share your results! It’s the best way to showcase the efforts made and the impact on the company, and to give meaning to the change.
Keep tuned in
Finally, listen carefully to your employees’ feedback. What do they think of the changes you’ve implemented? Are they satisfied? Or do they see room for improvement? These questions will help you take the pulse of your teams, going beyond simple figures.
To develop this continuous feedback approach, we recommend setting up employee surveys, as well as encouraging active listening by managers in the field. This will give you all the keys you need to understand the impact of change on employees, and keep them committed over the long term.
As we’ve seen, change management involves three main stages: preparation, implementation, and anchoring. By following these steps, you’ll be able to develop an effective change management method, rally your teams around the project, and make your practices sustainable over the long term.
So, what does this action plan look like? Which topics should be prioritized, and how should deadlines be managed? Our team of experts is on hand to help you drive change in your organization. Contact us today for personalized support!