Over 2500 years ago the Greek Philosopher Heraclitus was credited with the wise words “change is the only constant in life.” This wisdom has transcended time as this sentiment could not ring more true in today’s turbulent and dynamic business environment. We have all heard and seen a million different methodologies and frameworks depicted by chevrons and fancy graphics swearing to be the methodology to end all methodologies. The reality is that change management is a uniquely individual and circumstantial approach that needs to be treated as such by each organization looking to successfully impact change amongst its people.
Change management in the modern organization can be implemented at various levels, each of which entail different levels of inherent risk and directly correlating implementation efforts, these levels are defined as:
When approaching a change management strategy, most organizations start at the project and individual level, referred to as “change life,” which entails the critical phases of:
- Creating a change vision
- Building the commitment to change
- Executing the change
- Sustaining the change
Creating a change vision involves building awareness of the need for change which typically starts by the project sponsors and steering committee setting expectations and gathering input. The change vision should respond to the topics of why the current state is not working and consequently, how the future state will look. After drafting the vision statement it is critical to initiate immediate and open messaging using various tools to communicate the vision across the organization and justify the case for change.
Building the commitment to change requires ensuring that key people possess the desire to participate and support the change within the business. The critical components of this phase include identifying the key stakeholder’s; understanding the organization’s perception of the initiative; and strategically planning communication to reach all targeted stakeholders.
In order to execute the change, an organization must move to the next level of complexity which requires not only the knowledge on how to change but also the ability to implement the required skills and behaviors. Critical to the success of this phase is the agreement and alignment of processes, organization, skills and competencies across the business to be targeted and focused on the unified goal. To enforce these positive behaviors it helps to celebrate and communicate the early successes of each initiative.
Many believe that once a project is complete the change management process is over, but to truly benefit from a project an organization must sustain the change. This involves identifying appropriate milestones and metrics to measure the projects’ benefits; ensuring the new process is used and any possible gaps allowing people to revert to the old process are closed; and finally celebrating the success of the project which will carry over into the excitement for the next project.
There is no one-size fits all methodology to change management but using a proven and consistent framework and toolset from which to build your organization’s approach will save time and support a more successful and sustainable change management strategy.