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7 steps to successful change management

Be it in personal behavior & skills or in organizational direction, systems and processes, a change starts with a need, followed by identification of alternatives, benchmarking, and a shortlist.

One of the shortlisted options will be selected for implementation.

The goal thereafter is to ensure a successful implementation and switchover, with minimal disruption and loss of productivity.

There are seven actions which have proven to facilitate the success of a transition or change

I. Communicating the need for change

II. Key stakeholder involvement

III. A well-documented implementation plan

IV. Clear depiction of potential risks and mitigation plans

V. Management of productivity through the transition

VI. Communication of progress

VII. Celebration of milestones

Communicating the need for change

Any proposed change can trigger curiosity, anxiety or uncertainty in those affected by it. What was the driver to make the change? Do they have a role to play in it? Will they be able to adapt to it? Will it make them less relevant? Is this a harbinger of more changes down the line?

A clear, timely, and open communication by sponsors of the change can address these questions. The more interactive it is, the higher the chances of a comprehensive coverage of likely issues and of getting valuable inputs and suggestions on how the change can be implemented better.

In a 2007 survey by Richard Discenza, James B. Forman, 43% respondents identified inadequate communication as the #1 reason for project failure, even higher than the 42% failure due to poor process.

Key stakeholder involvement – those most impacted should lead the change

Those most impacted by the change and responsible for its success need to be key sponsors and participants during the change process.

They best understand the current state and what needs to be improved, thus bringing valuable input on the desired end state and how to make the transition successful.

Their participation also ensures that they assimilate the new process or system faster, adapt to it surer & sooner and even become advocates for the change.

A well-documented implementation plan

A change can require a range of activities and often the involvement of multiple constituents.

Documenting these activities clearly and sharing with all participants ensures that each knows their role and has a similar understanding of the process, milestones, outcomes, measures, and timelines.

A written implementation plan is also easier to distribute and get reviewed. It facilitates engagement, collaboration & completeness.

Recognizing its importance, the task of writing a transition plan should be assigned to individuals who are diligent and detail oriented. Having a less than diligent person write a transition plan is a sure way of introducing risk of failure or delays.

Recognize risks and plan contingencies

There will be stages during a change process which may not go as per plan. Even after all ducks are lined up, one may decide to step out of line.

Recognize these vulnerabilities. Document them, the actions to take should any of the events occur and the impact on transition timelines, resources, and costs.

Equally importantly, ensure that all relevant stakeholders are made aware of the potential contingencies, and what is expected of them should any of the contingencies occur.

Management of productivity during transition

While a change may yield positive productivity and yield over a period of time, there can be a dip in productivity during transition.

If the dip is minor and does not make a significant dent to ongoing activities, no action may be taken.

For dips which can compromise ongoing operations, a mitigation plan needs to be in place.

If stakeholders need greater time to adapt, and the cost of the productivity loss is high, it may be appropriate to transition in bite size phases, moving to the next phase when the prior one has stabilized.

Another option, budgets permitting, is to have existing teams, systems, or partners work in parallel till the replacement team/system/partner becomes adequately productive.

When significant proprietary knowledge or processes are bring transitioned, there is low likelihood of knowledge being available outside the incumbent teams. Retaining key personnel from existing teams for an extended period can help retain their expertise. They can also serve as mentors and trainers who enable a surer & faster change while mitigating loss in productivity during transition.

Communicate progress

A process of change has started. How is it doing?

Ensure regular and transparent communication of progress with participants, impacted parties, & sponsors.

Keeping them informed facilitates ongoing inputs and ideas and preempts misunderstandings and the likely risks arising from it.

Celebrate milestones

Whether small or large, a change or transition has been planned for a better future. There may be one or more participants involved the change may occur in one step or many

Celebrate key milestones. These are occasions to cheer and recognize the contribution of those who have made meaningful contribution thus far and to energize all to continue working towards future success.

In closing

There are seven actions which can facilitate a change, be it in personal behavior or in organizational processes.

It starts with a clear communication of the reasons for change, inviting inputs and feedback from all those who are affected or need to participate in making it successful.

Having those impacted by the change as key stakeholders, outlining a clear transition plan with an understanding of contingencies, managing productivity during the change process, communicating progress regularly, are also enablers of success

And finally, celebrate milestones. Each step forward is a step closer to the goal. Break out the bubbly, pat all on the back for getting there and energize them to get to the next milestone.

Keep swinging!

Recommended book – Atomic Habits by James Clear


I. The Nagarro blog by Olympia Marc 7/20/2018

II. Brent Gleeson (Forbes, 1/25/2017)

III. McKinsey note – Changing change management (1/7/2015)

IV. Seven causes of project failure - 2007, Richard Discenza, James B. Forman – PMI Global Congress 2007


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