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6 min read

What is change management? A guide for leaders

Want to become a master of change management? Explore insights, tips, and challenges you may face when implementing organizational change.
From Team '23

Tempo Team

Change is inevitable. Favorable outcomes? Those are a little harder to come by.

From technological advancements to shifts in laws and regulations, the world is constantly changing. Business leaders must embrace change management as a guiding principle to adapt and thrive in this chaotic landscape.. 

Organizational change management requires planning, measuring, and reviewing change initiatives. Let’s explore how change management works, its benefits and challenges, and critical steps in the change management process. 

What is change management?

Change management refers to the methods and tools used to achieve organizational change. It aims to transform an organization’s essential components, such as its culture, infrastructure, internal processes, or resource management.

Change management ranges in scope from minor, incremental adaptations to dramatic, sweeping transformations. For example, a company may hire someone to handle a new process or address increased demand. This adaptation expands capacity and represents a relatively modest alteration. In contrast, starting a new division or launching a new product can completely alter how a company does business, resulting in radical change. 

Crucial steps in a change management process

Managing organizational change involves four essential steps: 

1. Preparation

Before implementing organizational change, you must set expectations. During the preparation phase, change management thought leaders help employees recognize the need for change by discussing the organization’s challenges. Identifying obstacles makes it easier for people to accept change and buy into the program. 

2. Planning

Once you establish a culture that embraces growth and adaptation, you must create a concrete change management strategy. Questions your organization must answer include:

  • What goals do we hope to achieve with this change? What falls outside the project’s scope?

  • How do we measure success? What metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) will we use?

  • Who is responsible for overseeing change and implementing updates?

  • What milestones will we address during the project?

Every change management plan should have a concrete structure while retaining flexibility during implementation. For example, you may encounter a setback sourcing parts for a product launch, requiring you to pivot and alter your objective.

3. Implementation

With a plan in place, you’re ready to implement the change. To succeed, leaders must motivate employees to stay on task, overcome challenges, and maintain transparency. Communicate your vision throughout the implementation phase to reduce confusion and ensure key stakeholders remain informed and focused on the end result. 

4. Revisions

Change management doesn’t end once you finish implementing an initiative. You must measure outcomes to determine if the project is successful and fix any post-launch bugs or challenges. A project retrospective is a great way to determine what went well and what went wrong, providing valuable insight that your organization can use when implementing future changes.

8 tips to lead a successful change management initiative

Change management takes many forms. What works for one organization may not work for another. Still, some change management principles remain consistent across teams and organizational structures.

Here are eight essential action items in any change management initiative:

1. Sell your vision

An idea is only as good as the pitch used to sell it. If you can’t get people excited about change, then no amount of statistical evidence or alarm-ringing will convince them to support your vision. Change management leaders must know their projects inside and out and research the best ways to generate interest. 

2. Get buy-in from leadership and key stakeholders

Support from leadership ensures change management remains a top priority for the organization. Buy-in from users and stakeholders is equally important, as these individuals have the most investment in how a prospective change may impact day-to-day operations. Carefully select the decision-makers who will oversee a change initiative to streamline implementation and maximize your influence. 

3. Prioritize effective communication

Successful change management often relies on how clearly and frequently you communicate your vision. Communication is essential to generate buy-in and maintain enthusiasm. 

4. Foster a culture that values change

Even the best initiative will fail if your organization doesn’t value change. Reward ingenuity (whether it succeeds or fails), provide resources for growth, and seek feedback to show that it’s okay to take risks. This creates a culture that values curiosity and transformation over following the status quo. 

5. Look for quick wins

Short-term wins are small improvements achieved during a larger change initiative. Examples include implementing a new process, fixing a common issue, or testing a new technology. Securing quick wins builds momentum, enthusiasm, and credibility for change management. If you experience resistance to your change proposal, highlighting some quick wins is a great way to overcome it. 

6. Share your successes

Giving credit to team members involved in your initiative boosts morale and highlights their achievements. Share your success with blog posts, articles, and emails to maximize awareness. Frame each accomplishment as a chapter in a story to engage key stakeholders and build excitement for further improvements.

7. Expect the unexpected

No matter how well you plan or train, you will encounter unforeseen obstacles. You will receive pushback and complaints. In response, you must stay flexible and adapt to situations as they arise. If Plan A doesn’t work, have Plan B ready to go. 

8. Seek feedback from your audience

Solicit feedback from team members to improve your change management processes. Input via surveys and polls helps you address resistance and identify new and recurring pain points.

Benefits of change management

No matter the scope, successful change management makes organizations more efficient, saving time and money. Other benefits of change management include:

  • Development of strategies that systematize change, improving project and initiative success rates

  • Improvements to risk management practices that reduce waste and make work more productive

  • Employees who are empowered to champion change and optimize work

  • A clearer understanding of change initiatives and systems that leads to more accurate assessments and monitoring

  • Increased documentation on systems, protocols, and training materials

Common challenges of change management

Managing change management programs requires you to overcome numerous obstacles. Challenges you may encounter during change management include: 

  • Resistance to change: Not everyone readily accepts change. Team members may even combat attempts to alter the status quo. Some resist change because they think it will create more work or threaten their jobs. Promote transparency, patience, and emotional honesty to soothe people’s reservations and encourage them to adopt change management processes. 

  • Lack of leadership: Even the best change management programs fail without proper leadership. You need buy-in from leaders to implement change and ensure transformations evolve and improve over time. 

  • Inadequate communication: People struggle to get excited about change that operates on vague language or unclear objectives. Clear, concise language helps people understand why change is necessary and how they stand to benefit. 

  • Poor measurement: You can’t declare a change initiative is successful if you don’t know how to measure its success. Identifying metrics, milestones, and KPIs is necessary for managing the change process effectively and achieving your desired result. 

Overcoming resistance to change

From poor communication to outright resistance, many obstacles can hinder lasting change. Overcoming these challenges brings numerous benefits, such as new products and services, an empowered workforce, and better project and initiative success rates. 

Tempo has solutions to overcome your teams’ change management challenges. Jira-enabled tools like Strategic Roadmaps and Timesheets can assist in road mapping, resource management, data visualization, and predictive scheduling.

Try Tempo today and empower your teams with the tools they need to create exceptional products and target strategic priorities.