Business change, Commercial strategy, Insights, Product development

Key principles of change management

Change is inevitable in the workplace. Organisations that become static risk irrelevance and stagnation, allowing competitors to seize the strategic advantage. However, change can be challenging. How you implement change programmes across your organisation can have profound impacts that determine wider strategic success.

According to research by McKinsey, more than 70% of enterprise transformations fail.

That’s partly because today’s organisations face complex, multi-faceted challenges. Rapid innovation, technology deployments and digital transformation projects can involve significant operational upheaval. Much rests on the shoulders of an organisation’s human resources. Employees need clarification about change, what it means and how to best support it risk adopting resistive stances and becoming blockers.

How an organisation manages and leads its changes can set it apart from its competitors.

While there are many ways to effect change – both small and large scale – there are broad fundamental principles of effective change management that can support its successful implementation.

When planning change in your organisation, find out how you could benefit from hiring a management consultant.

The principles of change management

1. Establish goals and articulate the vision for change

Before any change can occur, it’s crucial first to establish the end goals and what the vision of a successful outcome looks like as the foundation of the principles of change management.

Change starts with leadership, and a proactive approach sees change initiatives as positive opportunities for organisations to improve continually. Any goals set must have a sense of urgency and be anchored to an internal or external reason. This reason must demonstrate the need for change.

Consider articulating the vision by:

  • Setting out clearly what the outcome of change will be for the organisation.
  • The reason behind the change – what’s driving the need.
  • How the organisation will implement change.
  • Who it will affect and how.
  • The benefits of change – how will it position the organisation or operation for future success?
  • How success will be measured.

Once you establish these goals, they can inform your change management plans. These plans outline the tools and steps required to achieve your organisation’s goals.

2. Understand the challenge and assess the organisation’s readiness for change

Change isn’t without risk – and understanding the shape of the challenge, the risks involved, and ensuring an organisation is prepared for effective change can mitigate risks.

Types of risk include:

  • People – does the organisation have the right expertise, skills, experience and people in the correct positions and roles?
  • Operational – does the organisation need to change how it operates and what risks are inherent in the change process?
  • Systems – what platforms are needed, how will systems and processes change, and what risks do these involve?
  • Communication – how will change be communicated to employees, customers, suppliers and stakeholders?
  • Monitoring – how will change be monitored and feedback processed to identify emerging risks?

It’s essential to identify potential challenges and risks associated with each step of your change management plan before moving forward. You may find some obstacles or risks too great to overcome or require you to adjust your plans to mitigate them.

principles of effetive change management

3. Involve the right people

Making sure you have the right people in your change management team can help everything run smoothly.

Two factors to consider when making these decisions are the type of change you want and the power and influence dynamics at play.

Two types of change can occur during a change management plan – transformational and transactional.

Transformational change generally affects multiple areas of an organisation and takes longer to achieve, as the aim is to transform fundamentally.

Transaction changes can happen faster and require fewer individuals to be involved – usually, just those immediately affected.

Ensuring buy-in from key roles and people within an organisation is vital for success. While senior leaders and the top team might have a clear sense of the need for change and have bought into the plan, managers, supervisors, and other employees might have a different understanding.

Identify the vital people to bring on board at all levels of the organisation. Consider creating change champions tasked with communicating and advocating change to the broader organisation.

4. Create a change plan

Setting a clear course of action for your end-change goals is necessary for a smooth transition.

Your plan of action will need to include a roadmap, what success should look like, timeframes, who is involved at each stage, tasks and systems required, milestones, deliverables, and any additional tools or platforms needed.

Ensure that you also plan regular assessments and reviews to measure progress.

5. Communicate the vision

Communication is an integral part of business, especially during periods of change.

However, more communication is not always the most helpful.

Instead, focus on communicating the correct information at the right time to the right people.

When you announce organisational changes, employees may have questions concerning how change will affect their employment, concerns over job security, and fear over learning new systems and processes. It’s common for some employees to resist change. This can lead to small acts of blocking and sabotage that, taken together, can derail or hamper a change programme.

It can be worth ensuring effective, transparent and active communications before, during and post-implementation:

  • Detail who will be affected, how they will be affected and why.
  • Explain the benefits of change and the positive impacts on employees and the organisation.
  • Allow questions and concerns to be raised, and address them with regular updates.
  • Be clear on the timings and what will change.
  • Provide tools and information to support employees.

Leaders are responsible for communicating answers and updates to employees, but they also play a vital role in keeping employees engaged and motivated and dispelling any worries or negativity.

Read our guide on employee engagement in change management.

6. Lead by example and remove obstacles

Leading by example may be one of the best ways to keep your employees engaged and increase your chances of making successful organisational changes.

By doing this, you can provide employees with the knowledge and context needed to handle the transitional period while also demonstrating an effective way of handling any obstacles that may appear during the process.

Because change management hinges on the different areas of your organisation working in sync to meet your change goals, an obstacle in one area may hinder progress overall. This means any issues must be dealt with efficiently and quickly, with departmental leaders working in unison to unlock issues.

7. Anchor the change in the organisation

Too often, change management plans fail because existing employee rewards and incentives don’t support new ways of working. To effectively anchor the changes you want to make in your organisation, you must ensure that different parts are actively working together towards the same goals.

One way to evaluate the success of your efforts is to look at how different parts of the organisation align with the goals of the change management plan.

Ensure incentives and rewards support new ways of working, actively communicate successful outcomes and reward good behaviours that support change.

change management consultant

How a change management consultant can help

A change management consultant can help you follow all the principles of change management and achieve success in your organisation.

A consultant can help you identify potential changes and assess your organisation’s current position, help build your change strategy, problem solve, recommend and implement software and tools, and be involved during the transition periods, providing experienced guidance.

Read our guide on signs your organisation should hire a consultant.

If you’re unsure where to start your search for a change management consultant, talk to our experts here at Portevo.

Our project wizard tool can accurately match your needs and project with the best-fitting consultant for the job.