The 8 Steps of a Successful Change Management Process

Madeline Jacobson
Madeline Jacobson
6 mins
steps to change management

We’ve discussed the ample benefits of successful change management when it comes to avoiding the organizational kiss of death…employee burnout. But how exactly do you achieve those benefits? Building a successful change management process that is right for your business might be a little more complicated than you think, but it’s still very achievable. Organizational psychologist Nick Tasler likens completing a change management project to running a marathon: it requires significant effort, but the good news is “that most people who commit to a change initiative will eventually succeed.” 

We’re here to help as you lace up your shoes for this metaphorical marathon. Follow these eight basic steps of a successful change management process to maximize the ROI of the changes you make within your organization.

1. Define the Change

Change in the workplace must be taken seriously. Successfully implementing a change management process requires time, resources, and lots of careful planning. So before you set out with grand ambitions to completely revolutionize the daily operations of your office for the fun of it, sit down and define the change. 

You and your change management team should start by answering the following questions:

  • What is the problem you are attempting to solve? 
  • What are the primary objectives of the change? 
  • What benefits do you expect to see from implementing the change? 
  • What are the possible negative outcomes, and how will you handle them should you encounter them? 
  • What are the human behaviors you expect to see if the change management initiative is implemented successfully?

If you can’t easily identify answers to these questions, you are not ready to move on to the next step of the change management process.

2. Select a Change Management Team

While securing executive buy-in is crucial to the change management process, change in the workplace should not just trickle down from the top. Executives making decisions that directly affect employees without consulting them will only leave you with a dissatisfied team who feels undervalued. Successful change must be driven from within every layer of your organization. This will help you get people across the organization invested, which makes the change 30 percent more likely to stick, according to McKinsey

Identify individuals who you believe can be champions of change across every department and level of the organization. These are often the individuals who always go above and beyond, never work just to meet the bare minimum, have a positive attitude about nearly everything they do, and are passionate about the work your company does. This team will lead the change from the ground up, avoiding a workplace bourgeoisie. Some leaders also chose to include employees who typically resist change in their change management teams. This can often be a successful strategy because if you can get your most stubborn employees on board, the rest will be sure to follow.

3. Plan and Strategize

Now for the fun stuff. You’ve identified the problem. You’ve identified the solution. You’ve considered all the pros and cons. You’ve built an all-star team of change management champions. Now it’s time to get to work. With this team, hold as many brainstorm sessions as necessary to develop an incredibly detailed, well-documented plan of exactly how you hope to bring your organization through this transition. As you build your plan, consider these components:

  • Budget: The budget for your change management initiative will need to account for resources needed to support the project team and other change agents, new technology required, and training costs.
  • Timeline: Estimate the amount of time it will take to complete each step of your change management process and set a realistic deadline.
  • Success criteria and metrics: What does success look like for your change management initiative, and how will you measure it?
  • Resistance: While you may have change management champions, you should also prepare for some resistance and determine how you will work with those resistant employees to help them move forward with the change.
  • Existing tech stack and technology needed: Consider how your existing tech stack can support your change management initiative and what technology gaps you may need to fill.
  • Communication plan: You’ll need to plan how to communicate with both stakeholders and employees throughout the change process–and how to collect and act on feedback you receive along the way.
  • Training plan: Plan training sessions for all department leaders and employees affected by the change. Keep in mind that you will likely need to tailor your training to different audiences.

There is no such thing as a strategy that is too thorough. This step may be the most important step in the change management process, so take your time and don’t move on until every member of the team has full confidence in the plan.

4. Conduct a Trial Run

Whether the change you are implementing is adding new technology to your tech stack, altering your workflow, reorganizing teams, etc., you can and should conduct a trial run. The trial run should consist of your change management team and a few more selected members of every team affected. Depending on the change, the trial should run for roughly two weeks. At the end of the trial run, hold one (or several) meetings to review every component of the change. What went well? What needs improvement? What are participants’ observations, concerns, and praises? Listen to the participants and make adjustments.

5. Communicate the Purpose of Change and Train

You’ve conducted a trial run and made adjustments, but you’re still not quite ready for the big rollout. At this point in the process, only your change management team and the additional employees who participated in the trial run are truly in the loop. It’s time to make the big reveal company-wide. 

Don’t cut corners when communicating the change: the top reason that change management initiatives fail is insufficient communication

Hold a meeting to announce and explain the change you are making to the company. Grant your employees total transparency, and thoroughly explain the answers you established to the questions in step one, defining the change. What problem are you trying to solve? How will everyone’s daily work life be affected? What is the timeline for this change? Set aside ample time to answer questions as well.

Once everyone is in the loop, it’s time to train, train, train. One reason employees may resist change is because they worry a new system will challenge their competence, but thorough training can help alleviate this fear. Hold as many training sessions as necessary before the launch to ensure everyone affected by this change is on board and prepared with the skills and resources they need to tackle the challenge.

6. Roll Out the Change

Now for one of the most satisfying parts of the change management process! Launching a major change in the workplace can be daunting, so take a little bit of the edge off with a launch party. Plan a date for the launch, build excitement leading up to that date, and then celebrate. Whether it’s a pizza party, a lunch out, a happy hour, a cheese and wine day, or a game to drive buy-in and adoption, make the change something employees look forward to, and dedicate a time to get the ball rolling.

7. Review and Continue to Communicate

So the rollout was great…don’t stop there. Change is a continuous process, not a one-time event. Successfully implementing a major change but failing to follow up with consistent meetings, regular communication reinforcing the change, and additional training is a lot like a phenomenal first date with no callback. No one really benefits. 

For the first few months following a major workplace change, hold weekly meetings for employees to ask questions, raise concerns, and share what they like or dislike about the change. After a while (or after things seem to be going smoothly), hold meetings once a month, and so on. As changes or updates are made to the product or system, hold additional training as necessary.

It’s also a good idea to give employees a continuous way to share feedback on the platform, such as an open survey. Additionally, you can send out surveys at regular intervals (e.g. every six months) to measure the results of the change and keep a pulse on employee sentiment.

8. Determine Your Ongoing Reinforcement Plan

Change management doesn’t stop one month or even three months after a launch. Look for additional opportunities to reinforce the change. This could include sending monthly emails with important metrics, joining stakeholder team meetings to provide project updates, or even rewarding individuals exemplifying the change in their teams. No matter the strategy, employees will need to be continuously reminded of the importance until it becomes part of their day to day operations.

Following a thorough, comprehensive, and strategic change management process will ensure success in tackling any change your team chooses to take on in the workplace. Don’t let your hard work and planning go to waste. Follow this structured approach to building a change management process to keep your employees engaged, passionate, and excited about the work they do.


This post was originally published on April 11, 2018. It was most recently updated and expanded on December 7, 2020 to incorporate new statistics and best practices.

December 7, 2020

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