Change Management Checklist

“Progress is impossible without change” – George Bernard Shaw

Do you love changing the way you do things? No?! Well, you aren’t alone. It’s just our human nature to get settled into a set of familiar actions and feel resistant to changing it. We do this at work, at home, at school, and just about everywhere else.

Unfortunately for team leaders and managers, we sometimes have to fight this aspect human nature to achieve business objectives. This is the genesis of the discipline of change management. As new technologies and solutions are incorporated into more business processes, change management best practices increasingly focus on IT implementation and adoption.

As part of implementing a new solution, your colleagues will need to accept changes in the way they do their job. Some people are more naturally inclined to be open to change and improving processes, while others are not. Change management allows you to plan and execute change in a controlled way, so ultimately it’s a positive experience for your organization.

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But REALLY, Why Do We Need Change Management?

Ask any manager about change management and chances are they can tell you why thoughtful and inclusive process for change is absolutely necessary for ROI, for morale, for operational cohesion, and many other reasons.

While all of that is correct, it’s not necessarily helpful or instructive. If it were, all those managers would be injecting change adeptly into their organizations, and their teams would be nimble and smiling as one tool was replaced with another. But how close do you think that is to reality on the ground?

The real reason we need change management, and not just change itself, is because operational change is hard and often fails. We need change management because it reduces the risk of failure when upending an entrenched set of behaviors and systems.

It’s the employees of your business who have to ultimately change how they do their jobs, and it’s the responsibility of managers to direct and support them as they do. If these individuals are unsuccessful in their personal transitions or if they don’t embrace a new way of working, then the initiative will likely fail. If employees embrace and adopt changes required by the initiative, you greatly increase your organization’s ability to reap the benefits of change.

Use this checklist and framework to reduce your risk during process change and get the most of new tools, processes, and systems.

Step One: Who Needs to Make the Change?

Your first step is to identify who will be experiencing change as a result of your project. There will be some obvious candidates, such as those who administer and are primary users of systems to be replaced, but think broadly about everyone who touches the current system or information from it. Does anyone outside your department use data your part of the business provides? Those people need to know what changes are coming, too.

Next, go a level deeper and identity those who will be impacted the most versus the least so you can prioritize accordingly. A three-tiered system as simple as “high, medium, low” can help you stay organized and targeted in your communication.

Finally, work with team leads to identify individuals who may have a more difficult time than others adjusting to the new process, such as those with weaker technical skills. If conducting group trainings, consider pairing those people with similarly skilled peers, or have them trained one-on-one so they can move at a more appropriate pace. Change can bring out people’s insecurities, and a sure-fire way to set back your transition is to make people uncomfortable or embarrassed with using your new system.

Step Two: Communicate Why the Change is Happening

Once you’ve identified who needs to change their behavior, you now need to communicate to them why this change is happening in terms they will care about. Communicating the benefits of the new system and process to your users is vital to getting their buy-in.

First, you should think about this at the individual level, then at the organizational level. Too often, managers focus on the high level business goals that will be achieved and do not spend enough time putting change into terms that resonate with individuals. What improvements will they, as an individual, experience as a result of this change?

This is a great opportunity to celebrate the benefits you expect from your new process and highlight how it will eliminate long-standing pain points employees have suffered, such as redundant work or cleaning up bad data.. After all, there must be reasons you are making this change. Connect the dots for your people so there is no question in their minds what they are going to get out of this.

Then, elaborate on the strategic value of this change to the business, and share that across the organization. The savviest of managers will use the implementation of a new tool or process as an opportunity to position their team and themselves as forward-thinking, strategic contributors to the business. How does the implementation tie back to your overall strategy? How will the solution improve the performance of your organization?

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Step Three: Tell Them What Needs to Change and When

Once you’ve communicated the benefits, your users will need to know, in detail, what they need to do! It is critical that they understand how a new process or system maps to their old, familiar one which anchors their perspective. This will pre-empt a lot of questions your team members will have, making training on the actual process go smoother. Start your training with a high level comparison of the old and new systems and highlight what is different AND similar. Underscoring what is staying the same can help limit concerns about change.

It is critical to provide a timeline for the change process with progressive goals or a transition period if possible. Be sure to have a hard deadline for when the old system or process will retire. Communicate these timelines far and wide, plus hold yourself accountable so your teams realize these are “real” deadlines that they must adhere to. Provide updates as deadlines and progressive goals approach. For example, if 50% of the team is supposed to have completed training by June 1, communicate progress toward that goal each week for at least two weeks in advance. Give people enough lead time to make adjustments and celebrate progress as it is made. Some managers might be inclined to issue a warning early about what will happen if people don’t follow the timeline; we urge you to resist that urge. Stay positive about the project and reserve a negative tone for those whose behavior merit it.

Finally, you will need a detailed training plan for each type of user or person who will use the new system. While the content of that training will of course depend on your business and systems, there are some training tips and methods you should consider using:

  • Train-the-trainer approaches create internal champions of new systems and help disseminate information about a new tool more quickly than relying exclusively on outside vendors to provide training.
  • Create a user guide that includes how the solution ties in with existing business process, what is different, and why.
  • Deliver training through face-to-face methods whenever possible to give users a chance to ask questions as easily as possible.
  • Record your training and make it available to current and future employees.
  • For more technical users, let them play in a sandbox environment so they can familiarize themselves with the system without impacting important customer data.
  • Let your users know what to do if they encounter an issue using the system. Give them the contact information for specific teams or individuals, along with any information you may have about how long they should expect to wait for a response.
  • Require users to get certified on the new system by completing a short test or some other demonstration of knowledge after training.
  • Gamify the process with a small reward for the first people who get certified.

Ensuring Successful Change

Identifying the who, why, what and when of change is just the start of ensuring successful transitions in your organization. Change management is more likely to be successful if the following are also included…

  • Define measurable goals for the implementation, and track them – don’t forget to celebrate when they’re achieved!
  • Monitor and mitigate the risks, assumptions, and issues being experienced as part of the implementation. A well thought through support process is crucial to assisting with this.
  • Grin and bear it. Change is always uncomfortable, and you will encounter resistance. Sometimes users just need to be able to vent, so hear them out. Gently remind them of the benefits of the change, and give them some time to become accustomed to the new ways of working.

Register now for our upcoming webinar ”From Ideation to Adoption: Maximizing User Adoption of Your Enterprise Software” that explores the process of requiring a solution through to adopting one, where to begin when it comes to training a team on new software, assets to leverage to help you on your way, and so much more!

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