It’s no secret that companies that endure must be skilled at absorbing change and adapting direction when things get tough. In theory, an effective change management plan should help you develop a clear roadmap, communicate priorities with involved stakeholders, and execute your change strategy.
So why do so many businesses fail?
According to Boston Consulting Group, roughly half of all change management projects and 3 out of 4 large-scale transformations fail to meet their objectives.
A well-crafted change management plan supported by the right tools and systems can ensure that change is executed effectively. This will help you prevent common pitfalls such as scope creep and lack of oversight.
Read on to find out how to create a change management plan in five easy steps.
We’ve also included tips from business leaders and experts in our network to help you bridge the gap between planning and execution.
And you get a free template that will help you build a plan and adapt with supersonic speed when needed.
Set a Foundation For Your Change Management Process
Before we get to the good stuff, we need to make a public service announcement. Your strategy should inform your planning, not the other way around.
Before starting a change management plan, ask yourself if you can answer these key questions:
- Why does your organization need to undergo this change?
- What triggered the need for change? M&A, new technology, or a supply chain disruption?
- What is the main focus of your change management strategy?
- What will you say no to during your change management process?
- Who will be affected by the change process?
- What do you want to achieve?
Any plan without a clear transformation or change management strategy will only lead to frustration. A proper assessment and understanding of the change will help you choose between different types of change management and define the change scope. It’s crucial to spend some time making sure your strategy is top-notch and execution-ready.
Once you’ve got clear and concise answers to these questions above, you’re ready to create a change management plan.
📚Recommended reading: Why Business Transformation Fails: Learn From An Expert
5 Steps to Build Your Master Change Management Plan
A lot can go wrong with change management initiatives if you don't have a solid foundation. One way to ensure a successful change management process is to take a structured approach to change management planning. This step-by-step guide below is built on a tested and proven strategic planning model used by more than 20,000 Cascade users.
Here are five steps that will help you create a top-notch organizational change management plan:
1. Identify the organization’s vision so your people can rally behind it
A powerful vision will serve as the driving force behind your change management plan. As Ryan Saundry, Group General Manager at Asahi Beverages, states in his talk for Strategy Fest, you need to motivate your people for the journey ahead. You need to be crystal clear about your WHY so people can understand and coalesce behind it.
Your company's vision statement should be simple, concise, compelling, and embody progression from your baseline or current situation.
Here are some examples you can use as inspiration:
- To be the world’s leading automaker of sustainable mobility dedicated to providing distinctive, affordable, and efficient transportation solutions.
- To provide sustainable basic clothing on a global scale.
- To be a leading provider of sustainable infrastructure while leaving a lasting legacy through our work.
👉If you’re using Cascade: You can add a vision statement to the top of your change management plan. This will help your team prioritize initiatives and keep the "why" behind the change at the forefront of their minds as they execute it.
2. Write down the priorities of your change management strategy
Think about how to achieve this vision and what areas of the organization need to change to make it a reality. These will become the focus areas of your change management plan.
Focus areas are the first step to turning your vision into a plan that team members can carry out. Remember, these focus areas should align with the organizational change you need to execute.
In Cascade, focus areas represent carefully-crafted "categories" that communicate your strategic priorities and provide context to your team.
For example, a FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) company that wants to become the best customer-focused store in its region will:
✅ Want to look at logistics, store layout, customer and community relations, procurement, and pricing strategies.
❌ Focus less on branding, mergers, acquisitions, or expanding into international markets.
Focus area examples:
- Communication: Ensure all team members know about the change and its goals and objectives.
- Training and development: Provide employees with the knowledge and skills to support our change initiative.
- Resistance management: Identify and address potential sources of resistance to the change and develop strategies to overcome them.
- Stakeholder engagement: Engage with key stakeholders in the change process and gather feedback and input to help inform the plan.
👉If you’re using Cascade: You can add multiple focus areas to your change management plan. Our tip is to limit them between three to five. Using this structure, you’ll be able to quickly evaluate the health of your strategy and keep track of the performance in each area.
3. Create strategic objectives
Your objectives are the “what” that you want to achieve. Create strategic objectives that provide a clear path from where you are today to your planned outcomes. They should be specific, attainable, and aligned with the focus areas of the change management strategy.
- Provide employees with sufficient skills and knowledge to adapt to change.
- Identify trends and data that correspond with user adoption.
- Introduce a training plan for all employees on the new business processes and systems.
- Reduce the number of resistance incidents by 50% within the first six months of the change.
- Increase customer satisfaction by 10% within the first year of the change.
If you struggle to pinpoint how things need to change, go back to the drawing board and do an internal analysis of the business. Break down each focus area into a “current” and “future” state and get input from your organization on what needs to happen to get from A to B.
👉If you’re using Cascade: You can add objectives underneath each focus area in your change management plan. Adding objectives to each focus area will help stakeholders understand what the change management plan is trying to achieve, give direction for change projects, and make it easier to track progress.
An example of a workspace in Cascade where you have a bird’s-eye view of your plan’s performance.
4. Add projects and streamline your project management to reach objectives
Most business-wide transformation initiatives won’t be a one-action activity that happens within a week. Change initiatives are complex and require a multi-faceted approach that takes time.
Divide strategic initiatives into projects with clear deliverables and assign ownership to project teams to hold them accountable for progress.
Deadlines and due dates must be put in place, job roles assigned, and tasks prioritized to ensure that project plans move the company closer to its long-term goals.
Here are some examples of project ideas:
- Develop a communication campaign to increase awareness of our organizational change and its benefits among employees.
- Design a training program to provide employees with the skills and knowledge they need to execute the change plans.
- Host a stakeholder engagement initiative to gather feedback and input and incorporate it into the change plan.
👉If you’re using Cascade: You can quickly create projects for your change management plan using the "+ Add action" button. Adding projects to your change management plan will help divide strategic objectives into actionable steps, make them more manageable, and help focus team efforts on work that moves the needle.
5. Monitor your progress with KPIs
Your key performance indicators are crucial to measuring success, monitoring performance, and tracking progress.
But this is not as simple as jotting ideas down on a page and sending them out. Great KPIs require a clear understanding of your strategic objectives, your organization’s processes, and the right mix of metrics to measure success accurately.
Here are some examples of change management KPIs:
- Number of positive impacts on employees.
- Employee satisfaction score.
- Number of risks mitigated.
- Number of successful change-related processes.
- Number of new ideas and innovations generated.
👉If you’re using Cascade: You can easily set and customize your KPIs using the "+ Add measure" button. Using Cascade Dashboards, you’ll be able to automate KPI reporting and get real-time insights into performance. This visibility into progress will help to maintain conversations around strategy execution and resist change fatigue.
5 Final Tips for A Successful Organizational Change
Here are some additional tips to consider to make your change management plan and strategy execution the best it can be:
1. Keep the momentum going and execute your plan
Maintain momentum and keep stakeholders engaged and committed. This is vital to maintain support for the change and ensure its successful implementation.
This can involve events, activities, regular check-ins, and updates. But the most crucial part of this is accessing information in real-time and addressing issues as soon as they arise.
“Transformations are hard, they are long, and they tend to burn out the team. Not everybody is a yes-man. People will say: ‘No, I don't want to do that. No, I can't do that.’ And you need to be able to deal with that, engage them, motivate them, and persuade them. The ability to build consensus and to drive engagement is an important skill.” - Melvin Manchau, Director of Digital Strategy, Salesforce
2. Be flexible with your plan (fast adaptability is the name of the game)
If the path to your vision is disrupted, it’s time to adjust the roadmap. How? Introduce regular progress reviews, regularly track change initiatives, and develop a discipline around choices, prioritization, and clear decision-making. Your plan should be a live document of the most important change priorities.
Businesses need to be far more adaptable, agile, and resilient than ever before. A flexible strategic planning tool and the right approach to strategy execution will make responding to unexpected challenges and opportunities easier.
“We've got this great strategy, a very strategic approach. But then all of a sudden overnight, the world changes. So you've got to have a plan B, you've got to be able to pivot quickly. You've got to be able to think on your feet and move in a different direction.”- Ken Miller, General Manager, Azure Intelligent Cloud at Microsoft.
3. Communicate openly and collaboratively with all stakeholders
Engage with stakeholders at all levels of the organization, listen to their concerns and ideas, and provide regular updates and information about plans and progress.
Effective communication will build trust and support for your change management activities. It will also foster shared ownership and responsibility, and keep stakeholders engaged and committed during difficult periods.
“We know, for example, that 70 percent of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and a lack of management support. We also know that when people are truly invested in change, it is 30 percent more likely to stick.” - McKinsey and Company.
4. Don’t forget to build your internal communication strategy and plan
An effective change management communication plan is a key aspect of successful change initiatives. If you want buy-in and support, it’s crucial to have a clear and comprehensive internal communication strategy in place.
Guide communication around change initiatives with key messaging and information, two-way communication channels for feedback, and input throughout the change process.
“Strategy is really an internal communications department. And that, of course, requires communication skills. And we all have them, but we probably need to use them in new and different ways that we never imagined many years ago.”- Matt Ryan, EVP Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer at Disney.
5. Celebrate successes and milestones along the way
Make it a priority to recognize the contributions of your change management team. Actively acknowledge and celebrate successes and contributions. Your organization can foster a sense of pride and accomplishment and build continuous momentum and support.
“Celebrate victories, find a few low-hanging fruits, win them, celebrate them big time. The reason for that is we all want to be a winner. I want to be a winner. You probably want to be a winner. We all want to be part of winning adventures, winning strategies.”- Thibault Mesqui, Managing Director at Heineken.
Drive change with Cascade 🚀
Implementing change isn’t a one-person job. Top-tier execution is about facilitating an outcome-focused mindset for everyone on your team.
The last thing you want is to stall progress because a manager didn’t sign off on an action. Or, miss out on an innovative approach because a box wasn’t checked in the right Excel spreadsheet. There’s a better way to empower strategy execution.
With Cascade, you can:
- Contextualize every action and project within your business strategic objectives.
- Link various contributing projects and objectives to different strategic outcomes.
- Monitor, communicate, and collaborate on execution as it’s happening.
If you’re ready to take your change planning and implementation up a notch, try Cascade’s Change Management Plan Template and start executing with the No. 1 strategy execution tool in the world.
What is included in a change management plan?
A change management plan should include focus areas, goals, key change projects, timelines, KPIs, and assigned owners. You can also include sub-plans such as an internal communications plan or a training plan.
What are the 5 key elements of change management?
The 5 key elements of change management include change assessment, leadership alignment, change planning, change implementation, and monitoring.
What are the 7 principles of change management?
The 7 principles of change management are: (1) Align with the end goal; (2) Understand the organizational culture; (3) Communicate; (4) Figure out who will be affected by the change and how; (5) Enable cross-collaboration and align projects; (6) Have a growth mindset; and (7) Measure.
What are the 3 C's of change management?
The 3C's of the Change Management Model include a mix of three elements—Communication, Collaboration, and Commitment—to help leaders manage resistance to change.
What is one mistake people make when implementing change management?
Leaders usually spend too much time planning rather than executing. By the time you launch your plan, it’ll be outdated because the world will have moved on. Start execution as early as possible. Focus on continuous improvement and adapt your plan as you go. Prioritize progress over perfection.