Change is the engine of progress, and although it can be painful or difficult at times, it is a necessary and positive thing. Like any endeavor in business, change has to be carefully managed to have the best chance at success. Indeed, careful planning will indicate for you exactly what “success” will look like.

“Buy in” are the two words that inspire the greatest change management. Otherwise you are going nowhere.

Successful changes require thoughtful planning. Implementation needs to reflect sensitivity to the concerns of the people affected by the change. The process should involve consultation with those people and they should be involved as much as possible.

Selling change, or forcing it upon people is seldom successful, so buy-in is critical.

Another “two-little-words” to write down - “goal setting”.

While management is ultimately responsible for making change, the likelihood of success is multiplied when team members are included in planning. Remember my recent post: 4 Things I Learned About Gamification in the Men’s Bathroom? It’s relative here. Making change fun and interactive - not sticking five people in a closet to come out three years later and tell us all what’s changing - can help everyone get excited about the process. It can improve the two most important words: buy-in.

Change also has to be realistic and measurable. In other words, the outcome must be achievable, and you have to set a method in place beforehand for evaluating whether it has been achieved.  You can begin by asking: What do we want to achieve with this change, why, and how will we know that the change has been achieved? It’s all about making the process simple and focused.

Some other preliminary questions to ask yourself (as an organization) include these:

  • Who is affected by this change, and how will they react to it?
  • How much of this change can we achieve ourselves, and what parts of the     change do we need help with?

Start by Getting Specific

Early in the process, establish clear definitions for the change. What will be the scope of the project? Who will be involved? What are some factors influencing the timeline? Since the process will involve multiple players, this step is important for ensuring that everyone’s understanding is the same,  along with understanding everyone still has their “day job.”

Next: Consult

In formulating the plan, make sure that the people affected understand the need for the change. Let them know how they will be involved, both in planning and implementation, and the benefits of why this will help them. It’s about making team members feel like this isn’t an overwhelming proposition - but, rather, something that’s achievable and in their best interest. This communication is much more effective in a face to face situation, and it’s definitely important enough to warrant the time that will take compared with email.

Consultation also refers to making use of expertise outside the company. Change management services can provide oversight for the entire process or help with specific tasks and aspects. Their goals are in line with yours, and will include:

  • Faster integration
  • Higher levels of workforce engagement
  • Better adaptability to new systems
  • Effective culture change
  • Better employee retention

Experts in change management apply what we know about human psychology to help make change smoother and more effective. A four-part sequential framework for personal change developed by Dawn Stanley provides a clear picture of how organizational change works as well:

Realisation: The 'lightbulb moment' - knowing and accepting that change is needed, and committing to it - "knowing you want to change".

Investigation: Developing clarity about what, why and how change can happen. Asking those questions is paramount.

Substitution: Out with the old, in with the new - creating conscious change.

Embedding: Transformational change - reinforcing the change at unconscious competence level. The process behind transformational change is quite fascinating. Here’s a great read if you want to dive deeper.

Without a solid foundation of planning and information gathering, any change can be doomed to fail. The effort and cost of planning upfront is minor compared with the nightmare that a failed change effort be. To keep moving forward, know where you want go and then map your route.