The Three Pillars of Every Successful Change Management Plan

successful change management plan

It’s 2017, and your boss walks into your office and says, “We need to restructure four key departments: Finance, HR, Internal Communications and Information Technology into a centralized function to serve all the core business lines globally. The result of the restructuring is vital for our organization because it’s projected to increase our operating margins by as much as 5-6 percent over two years. I need you to lead this effort.”

It sounds like a good idea until you realize the change will involve 5,000 employees in those departments. Oy! Now that’s some way to bring in the New Year! In addition to a solid organization design strategy (hint-hint, stay tuned for my next article), you will also need a change management strategy and plan in order to transition the entire organization to a shared services model.

A change management plan is like Google Maps. Google Maps gives you a roadmap for how to get to your destination and shows you obstacles you may face along the journey that could slow you down, such as a traffic jam, a stalled car, or a train delay. The components of Google Maps make you aware of the risks and tells you what you should do differently to avoid problems.

successful change management planA change management plan includes a stakeholder and change impact analysis, a communications strategy, and a training plan. A stakeholder and change impact analysis will help you assess risk by identifying all of the key stakeholder groups, how they will be impacted as a result of this change, and what will the organization, and those stakeholders will need to do differently as a result. The communications strategy will help build the foundation of ongoing dialogue by ensuring stakeholders understand what’s changing, why, and how they’ll be impacted. And a training plan will help you determine key skills that require training, who needs the training to gain/refresh their skills, and finally the training format.

Stakeholder and Change Impact Analysis

The stakeholder and change impact analysis will account for all the stakeholder groups and the obstacles they may face during a change. Initially, you must map out all of your stakeholder groups, i.e., senior leaders, vice presidents, and line managers. These are all of your key players that must be engaged along the way so that you don’t upset anyone during the journey. It is critical to determine how each these stakeholder groups will be affected by the change.

Here’s an example to help illustrate what is a stakeholder change impact analysis. Let’s say the head chef of your favorite restaurant decides to change its classic chicken dish from roasted chicken to a pan-seared chicken in peanut sauce. This is a big change because the roasted chicken has been a staple of the menu. Sadly, however, the oven roaster broke, making it impossible to make the roasted chicken.

The implications of changing a menu item like this could be met with resistance from employees and customers alike. In addition to creating an explanation for customers; the restaurant will have to identify people (stakeholder groups) that will be impacted so it can determine any risks, and then develop a mitigation strategy. In this situation, those key stakeholders are the head chef, the line cooks, waiters, the maître d’, and customers.

After the change, all line cooks will need to know the recipe, and how long it will take to cook the new menu item. Waiters will need to answer questions about the new dish, like whether it contains peanuts. The maître d’ will also be impacted because he or she may have to adjust seating times if the dinner service is shorter or longer as a result of the change. And finally, customers may be expecting the roasted chicken, and the restaurant may need to explain why they changed that menu item.

What the example above illustrates is that by determining your stakeholder groups, you can then determine how they may be impacted as a result of the change. Understanding the impact will help you map out risks between the current and future state.

Once you’ve mapped out the risks, two vital tools to mitigate them are a communications strategy and a training plan. The communications strategy will help you determine what you will say to stakeholders, and how you will say it.

Communications Strategy

A communications strategy is important because, without it, there is a big possibility that the change effort will fail. A communications strategy facilitates the change process and—at a minimum—ensures employees know what’s changing, when the changes will occur, and how they’ll be impacted. When done well, communications strategies tell a story to humanize the change for the people who may be impacted. Great communications strategies build a system that facilitates an ongoing dialogue between stakeholder groups in order to engage them.

Some goals of a communications strategy include:

  • Increasing awareness and understanding of the changes ahead
  • Improving positive attitudes about why change is critical
  • Getting buy-in for change by sharing a compelling story
  • Giving employees an opportunity to provide feedback

Back at the restaurant where the head chef has changed the menu item, our stakeholder groups are getting antsy. “Why is this change happening? And what do I tell the customers?” This is where consistency is critical. The worst thing you can do is give inconsistent reasons for why the menu change happened because it will ruin your credibility. And, it’s important to plan communications goals for each stakeholder group because each has different needs.

While the big picture reason about “why” the menu changed is consistent across all stakeholder groups, each group will need different details. For example, the customer will need to know there was a new addition to the menu, why there was a change, it’s price, and that it contains peanuts in case they are allergic. The waiters need to know how long it takes to cook the new dish in order to space the dinner service between appetizers and the main course. They also need to have answers to questions that they may get from customers (FAQs), such as “Why is the roasted chicken not available?”

In this case, your customers (end-users) should not need training because most know how to deal with this kind of change (the one exception being the unruly 3-year old that has learned the restaurant ran out of chicken fingers—but luckily that’s their parents’ job).

Training Plan

A training plan provides the training goals, recommendations for who needs training, the skills that training will help to solve, and goals that help solidify what success looks like. A training plan starts with the stakeholder and change impact analysis. It  reviews what changes will happen to each stakeholder group and uncovers what skills each of those stakeholder groups will need after the change. The training plan can then serve to fill the skills gaps that were identified in the stakeholder and change impact analysis.

The training plan should:

  • Align with the change goals
  • Lay out benefits that trainees get as a result of training
  • Focus on the stakeholder’s needs
  • Have desired outcomes as a result of training

In addition to meeting these objectives, a training plan (like a communications plan) also needs to show how it will accomplish its goals and what training delivery methods will be used.

Back at our restaurant, we have identified the key stakeholders from head chef to the customers and how they’ll be impacted. We also developed a communications strategy has the information they need to ensure the customer is happy. And now it’s time to train the line cooks. They must learn how to cook the new chicken dish, and prep in order to prevent a loss of efficiency. We’ve identified our primary goal: As a result of the training, line cooks will be able to efficiently and effectively prep and cook the new chicken dish within 35-minute time frame.

Training will be led by the head chef. He will provide a live demonstration with a breakout group so the line cooks can practice before the dinner rush. After the training was finished, the head chef evaluated the team and now feels confident because, during training, they improved their prep time from 15-minutes to 10-minutes, and were able to cook the new dish within the allotted 25-minute time frame.

So there you have it, an overview of the critical pieces of change management. To sum up, your stakeholder change impact analysis helps you assess risk by accounting for all of the stakeholder groups impacted by the change, and how those groups will be impacted. Once you know all the changes, you can develop a communications strategy to help stakeholders buy into the change. And finally, you design and implement a training plan to fill any post go-live skills gaps.