Proven Change Management Success Factors
Change Management best practices are the bedrock of key success factors for sustainable benefits delivery in successful business transformation projects and assure business continuity and sustainability both for your operations and for your brand. Ensure that the people and partners you hire to help realise your transformation dream and run the project management are equipped to plan, track and measure in this vein.
Common drivers of change are to realise transformative benefits from strategically aligning business actions to the business strategy objectives stated in the business case that kicks off organisational change. The most fundamental element of success is that it must be sustainable, but to be sustainable, it must be planned and implemented sustainably from the outset, down to post-implementation sustainability planning. This is change management best practice because it instils the discipline of planning for what the end looks like, and not just the project, which is more likely to make change stick.
We change to adapt, survive and thrive. The great composite driver incorporates improvement, increase, growth and aspiration but a substantial number never grasp those goals, falling at the hurdles of project management, implementation and transition. This indicates that there are metrics one can drive to ensure success and it, therefore, pays to know and understand these key success factors. Business transformation takes a flawed construct of processes and interactions and methods for entering inputs and collecting and transforming outputs and, seeks to optimise them and thus elevate the consolidated set of operations and ultimately improve business performance.
Knowing the key success factors for managing and implementing change sustainably is crucial to ensuring that we don’t leave people behind in the change process, that change adoption is persisted, roles, responsibilities and knowledge are clear and transferred where necessary and people are able to continue in their roles and business is not disrupted. All change management best practice is geared towards maintaining business continuity while disrupting and shifting business-as-usual, which makes the Business Transition discipline so critical.
Evidence of successful transition would be measured by factors such as Day 1 clarity on roles, responsibilities, workflows and successful operations of new platforms, tools and correct and complete communication flows.
As the need, scale and pace of change continue on an ever upward trajectory with incidences of failure not appreciably declining, recognising certain change management best practices that make success more likely is extremely salient.
The top reasons for failure can be subsumed under one category – People! Let’s look at why people are important and the best practice around managing that most important of business and project dimensions.
1. Best Practice People Management for Change Management Success
It is smart to consider employees assets and if you do not already, for your change management or business transformation exercise to be successful, you should consider them as such and address the following common issues.
- Properly prioritised, equipped, engaged and well-managed people.
- Managing Resistance to Change
- Toxic working environments and relationships
- Lack of clear roles and responsibilities
Change is never successful without the buy-in, support and facilitation of people who are customers of your change. The quality of the Employee Experience through change and beyond is one of the reasons why people management is such a key factor of successful change management. It’s vitally important to get your employees on board because sustainable change is far more challenging when staff are unengaged, and not brought properly into the process.
Engage people in all areas of involvement through events, seminars, talks and break out meetings, presenting the change and giving an opportunity for feedback, to ensure employees are part of the planning and transition strategies because this helps to increase participation, valuable procedural information and unstinting knowledge transfer, all of which actively combat fear and resistance to change.
Correctly managed and engaged, people are co-creators of sustainable and successful change and must be motivated, included, with the impacts on them and how they are managed, made a primary metric by which we measure success.
Stakeholder management allows us to control, in a targeted way, the impact of change and processes like communication and attention leaders therefore ultimately need to expend on them. However, a primary stakeholder strategy must emanate from the business transition management plan in the strategies that it employs in integrating users and all those impacted right from the inception of the program.
2. Leadership and Communication
Great leaders on business transformation programs are undeniably a key success factor as they ensure that all change management best practices are adopted and they drive and enable Attitudes, Behaviours and Collaboration, the ABC© of effective people on projects. Leaders including members of the Change Management Team, Program/Project Managers plus senior change agents including but not limited to the programme executives/board/steering committees play a huge part in reinforcing the necessity and the drivers of the change as well as the benefits.
The leaders help to shape and manage prevailing attitudes to change and create useful and reasonable counters to fear and resistance to change and ensure that the levels at which behaviour change must happen are planned, resourced for and enabled through the business transition. From having the right messaging, graduated at the right levels to the changing of the target operating models, redesigning processes to empowering teams to collaborate and create greater transparency and efficiencies throughout the process and reduce rework.
Great communications will augment and power all other factors, and with a detailed plan for engaging with all employees impacted by the change to hear and answer queries and concerns and take on board suggestions, a more collaborative approach could grow. From sharing the vision to project communications, communications from leaders need to have great clarity, be aligned, directive and influential. As evangelists of the change, leaders pursuing change management best practice should be willing and communicators with a plan for communicating with different stakeholders to build and maintain confidence as well as momentum.
3. Address the lack of a specific, focused business transition Management Function
Some change projects are managed with different workstreams owning large chunks of the transition elements and almost no representation of the adoption elements which leads to a fragmented and fatally flawed implementation in several cases. A central focused function that owns this large and significant area is key because a lot of the markers for failure originate in this not being centralised, sponsored stream that protects the people, brand and adoption considerations of a business transformation programme. This may be the single most important best practice to adopt.
Business Transition Management and Operational Readiness
The process of implementing the scoped and planned change through the structured phases of project management is dependent for posterity on embedding and business adoption, which must be persisted through sustainable behaviours, attitudes and processes. This foundational process depends on the change management best practice of Business Transition to drive change adoption.
Business Transition is the process of moving the business from where it currently is to where it needs to be as seamlessly as possible with all the constituent components in lockstep to deliver a full end to end solution for all of your people, the processes they manage and the technology and tools they use to do that. Business Transition is, therefore, the linchpin of implementing sustainable change.
The ‘People’ Key Success Factor means that a fierce and unerring focus on how well people are catered for and managed is absolutely critical. Consequently, the function that leads this process, which is Business Transition Management, is also key Success Factor for successful and sustainable change. Business Transition Leads never forget that the purpose of business change and transformation is to deliver something of greater value to people, for people, than what we started out with.
Business Transition Management needs to be integrated across all workstream deliverables to be highly effective and to manage readiness and cutover risk, including operational readiness as a risk management strategy for change design and implementation, the Target Operating Model, the output and integration of cross-functional and diverse teams as well as post-closure sustainability planning.
Business Transition Focuses on the Design and Embedding of Change
Business Transition is so important because it guides and focuses the design of change and processes for embedding around people, integration and transition elements from project inception to cutover to post-project closure. Business Transition perpetuates the benefits delivered and enables sustainability. As the Change Team is assembled, aligning actions to deliverables that constitute the target state requires the business transition function to bridge the gap between the as-is state and the desired to-be state.
4. Your Brand Strategy and Managing Change
Your brand risks losing resonance and equity when the impacts of the change management make key operations and common responses deviate from the target and your business does risk damage to the brand perception and reputation when change is not managed well.
Giving consideration to how things change for customers and whether the change strategy is aligned with the brand strategy helps to protect the business’s reputation because with change initiatives come risks to operations and people, the customer experience and therefore the brand.
It is necessary to incorporate or extend practices that build or embody the principles, values and ethics of your business’ position and promise. A core function of a Transition Lead, a pivotal role and key success factor, should be to protect and maintain brand standards and track actions with the potential to impact on customer and employer experiences.
5. Planning – Preparation, Change and Implementation and Beyond
There need to be detailed plans for all deliverables and workstreams, not least a plan for engaging all employees impacted by the change to hear and answer queries and concerns and take on board suggestions. The first rule of planning is that while it must map out the destination and the steps to get there from where we currently are, plans are never the final full shape of the whole journey.
It is only ever the shape of the key steps we must take until we see what the bend in the road reveals. It’s a living document that defines key milestones we must hit but accommodates changes in the journey to the destination, so it must be iterative, all-encompassing and include everybody involved in creating, contributing, transforming or using any input or output.It is absolutely necessary to make continual assessments about what risks, dependencies and issues do to the estimated dates of completion of tasks and what happens when the resources estimated encounter the true complexities of a task.
We are always estimating with plans, but as time goes on, we can firm up some assumptions, and with knowledge and experience, our estimates become more realistic. However, these changes must be discussed, agreed and communicated widely and regularly to keep control of potentially spiralling scope, costs and durations.
Transition Bedrock for Sustainability – Sustainability Planning, Transition and Cutover
It is customary to create detailed project plans but there must equally detailed plans for post-closure activities that assure the implemented changes and supporting are further embedded and persisted. There must be clear activities and responsibilities and dates and durations for each activity plus a mechanism for capturing and communicating the issues and ideas to the right people.
Sustainability planning can be put another way – planning that makes change stick and truly requires and depends on long term vision and willingness to build change capability into the business and should begin at the start of the change process. It also requires a recognition that the current change is unlikely to be the last and a willingness to invest in an infrastructure that can drive change and continuous improvement going forward.
This helps in several ways, not least helping your business to be more responsive to change, more agile and increasingly innovative. Successful change initiatives will contribute to instituting a change structure and that change structure is more likely to lead to further successes as more change projects are undertaken as needed.
6. Capture the Change with a Target Operating Model
If you are changing the way your business functions and ways of working, you need a Target Operating Model (TOM), that depicts a future state (the To-Be, i.e. Target Operating Mode)l that your business will be moving to for its future goals, presented in the context of the As-Is, i.e current Operating Model. It is necessary to capture, document, codify and store the knowledge that is necessary for the TOM BAU from suppliers, the change teams and within the organisation.
The Target operating model provides a standard and integrated view of the business, aligning operating and functional structures with strategic business objectives for the business’s people, processes, technologies and tools. It will show all the interactions, integrations, roles, responsibilities and handoffs across functions and lines of business.
The target operating model is the embodiment of the structures that will facilitate the desired change and drives it by capturing and modelling the proposed new ways of working in a visible way. It represents the best organisation across people, processes and technology that your business should adopt to meet your business goals of survival, growth and supremacy in your sector, and can be shown at several levels for different audiences in the organisation from a conceptual level, all the way to very detailed process designs that show handoffs, interdependencies/interfaces and functional and role level interactions. It is a powerful tool for depicting different perspectives of the organisation that should elicit incisive questions on the suitability of the planned TOM and form a touchpoint and focus for discussing how the change will really look.
7. Diversity and Inclusivity
Business transformation change programs still fail an awful lot and a lack of inclusivity and diversity in the leadership, process and change agents is a key reason, with 97% -fortune 500 companies declining to share their diversity data, as C-suite leadership are demonstrably still extremely homogenous being predominantly white, male and from very similar backgrounds, education and networks.
McKinsey found that companies with higher diversity profiles outperform those with lower diversity by 15%. Leaders wanting to benefit from diversity wins ensure diversity all across the organisation, especially as inclusion at the top can help positively shape the propagation and power of diversity in the business. This does require a commitment to diversity and inclusion and a change programme is often a good opportunity to deploy strategies around improving a culture that values diversity. The in-flight change also benefits from change teams that are drawn from a range of backgrounds with cross functional capability.
A culture that values inclusivity is more likely to learn lessons and make gains in paying attention to diverse and less authoritative voices when managing change resistance and the feedback loop.
Celebrate and Empower Teams
Great leadership in this or any context especially with the diversity dimension must foster the right attitudes and empower the right behaviours and is nowhere more important than on teams. Leaders need to show that they value the people in the team, their differences in what they bring to the table, and enable them to innovate.
Cross-functional teams help to reduce friction in projects through constant collaboration, integration and time taken to discuss problems and make decisions. Diversity and inclusion of cross-functional teams are key factors of sustainable change because people are more likely to be creative and innovative in teams like these.
Cross-functional project teams are constituted of members of the project who have been assembled for the sole purpose of delivering the sought outcomes of the project, from within the business as subject matter experts in their functional areas, as well as external people like business analysts, modellers. developers and data, data scientists, testers, workstream leads, trainers etc.
People should also be empowered to report inappropriate conduct, both from leaders and team members and must believe that action will be taken, or it reduces willingness to expose themselves for what may be perceived as for no good reason.
8. Proactive Dependencies, Resources and Risk and Issues Management
Dependencies, risks and issues will affect a range of phases and projects, in a program and may arise through means internal to the project or external to it. They can be very complex and numerous as a result and require organisation.
It is well recognised that one of the main factors of failure of change programs has to do with how well we can manage resources, as well as risks and dependencies. We’re back to people again because they are of course the primary resources, but also because many dependencies and risks arise around them. Other resources – tools, software, technology, hardware, architecture – are of course a source of primary dependencies, risks and issues.