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What is change management?

Whether you’re launching a new business venture or looking for ways to shake up company performance, forward-thinking actions require systemic changes. A successful change management strategy helps ensure that employees adapt more easily to new ways of working.

Change management explained

People are naturally resistant to change, making it difficult to roll out new initiatives in the workplace. The change management process is designed to provide a roadmap for these transitions. The term is used to describe the strategies adopted to influence people through their transformations, whether it’s at an individual or corporate level.

Rather than throwing sudden changes at your employees and hoping they’ll stick, a good change management plan provides structure to the process. This encourages the organisation to move forward as a unified whole, with seamless coordination.

Project management and change management are sometimes used interchangeably, but there’s a core difference between the two. While project management ensures the project is designed and delivered, change management ensures the project’s results are used.

Types of change management

You can look at the change management process through several lenses, each growing in scope.

1. Individual change management

At the individual level, change management looks at how each employee experiences change within the organisation. With the proper levels of support, people can readily adapt to new procedures and processes. This area of a change management strategy looks at the most successful messaging, the tools required, and the training programs that need to be put in place to teach new skills. There’s a heavy element of behavioural psychology involved to understand how individuals experience times of change.

2. Organisational change management

The second way to frame change management is at the organisational level. This considers the changes required to implement a restructuring or brand-new project. To implement change at this wider level, you need a plan not only for training but also for leadership and coaching. Team leaders need to know how they will be supported as they learn these new processes. New technologies assist with the logistics of supporting thousands of individuals at a time.

3. Enterprise change management

At the enterprise level, change management refers to the ability to adapt to external changes. This could include fluctuations in the marketplace, the development of new technologies, or compliance with government initiatives. An enterprise change management strategy must be integrated with your company’s structures to successfully guide teams through these times of global change.

Reasons to consider change management

A change management strategy alone will not produce an increase in sales or cost reduction, but it’s still beneficial because it improves the chances of operational success. What types of changes require the use of change management tools?

  • Changes to the everyday workflow

  • Business consolidation

  • The rollout of new technologies

  • Requests for individuals to take on new roles

  • Restructuring of company departments

  • Company mergers and acquisitions

Even small changes can leave employees feeling insecure or unsure of their place in the organisation. Anticipating this uncertainty and providing adequate support can make new systems run far more smoothly.

How to create a change management strategy

What does the change management process look like in reality? Here are a few tips to help you create your own strategy.

Make a multi-layered plan

When there are organisational changes on the horizon, workers will look to the executive team for guidance. Management all need to be on the same page with messaging to ensure an orderly rollout. Transformative programs impact businesses at different levels, so it’s important to develop plans and identify leaders at each level. Start at the top and work your way down when crafting your strategy.

Justify the changes

If you’re planning a large project that will change the way employees work, they need to know why. Individuals are rational and resilient, but they’ll be more likely to comply when you’ve made the case for the changes in question. From written mission statements to company-wide seminars, communication is essential.

Reinforce changes with incentives

Foster enthusiasm by involving individuals at all levels of your organisation, rewarding problem-solving and performance. A rewards program could include financial incentives as well as psychological incentives, such as a sense of camaraderie.

Finally, expect the unexpected when it comes to company-wide change. Even with a watertight message and carefully detailed itinerary, things won’t always go to plan. Change management is all about flexibility and the need for continual reassessment. You can then make necessary adjustments along the way.

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