What Is A Change Management Strategy?
Change management strategy is defined as the response plan an organization will use to address change.
It’s a mechanism that aims to minimize any negative effects the changing events bring about, while capitalizing on the transformation.
All right, so this sounds good in theory, but what is it really?
In simple terms, it's a 'better safe than sorry' approach that organizations can use when change comes about (and trust us... it ALWAYS comes about!).
You can do this in a variety of formats, and there are a multitude of models you can follow to better help guide you through the process.
Some of the common change management methods include Lewin’s Change Management Model, McKinsey’s 7-S model, Kotter’s Theory, Nudge Theory, the ADKAR Model, Bridges’ Transition Model, Kubler-Ross’ Change Curve, and the Satir Change Model.
We're not trying to change the wheel here (see what we did there?), and create yet another model but we will give you two things: a solid guideline on what a change management strategy is and how you can apply it in your organization.
Why You Need Change Management Strategies
Having a change management strategy means you can better pre-empt how change(s) can affect your organization.
Benjamin Franklin famously wrote "nothing can be certain but death and taxes" which is true to this day. Change will happen, so you may as well be ready.
If you think your organization can't be easily affected by change, you might want to look up companies that failed to evolve when it happened to them... There are quite a few!
Even when you think you are a massive, untouchable organization, change can undermine you real fast if you don't have a strategy for it.
Blockbuster didn't understand the potential of streaming services and the impact it would have on their business. As a result, they lost market share to competitors and eventually went bankrupt. This is a cautionary tale of the importance of adapting to change.
Probably the perfect example of the worst change management strategies.
Types Of Change Management Strategies
There are three main types of change management strategies: developmental, transitional, and transformational change. Each of these strategies serves a different purpose and can be used to achieve different goals.
Developmental change is an incremental change management strategy that focuses on improving an existing process, product, or service. This approach involves making minor adjustments to improve efficiency or effectiveness.
- Upgraded software to improve functionality.
- Implementation of a new training program to improve employee skills.
- Implementation of minor changes to a product to increase sales.
This type of change management strategy is focused on moving from one state to another. It’s more significant than developmental change and often involves a shift in processes, structures, or systems. The purpose of transitional change is to prepare the organization or business for the future state.
- Introduction of a new product line or services.
- Movement to a new location.
Transformational change involves a complete overhaul of an organization's processes, culture, and strategy. This approach can be disruptive but can lead to long-term benefits. The purpose of transformational change is to fundamentally change the organization or business and its way of operating.
- New business model or strategy.
- Mergers and acquisitions.
- Implementation of a new technology or digital transformation.
Key Steps In A Change Management Strategy
As mentioned before, this is not a NEW approach to creating an effective change management strategy, as there are plenty out there.
Below you'll find a few key elements to consider along the way when building your very own strategy (using our Free Change Management Strategy Template of course!)
1. Create an execution-ready plan
Being creators of strategy execution software, we know that planning is a big deal. Before introducing any change or even announcing it, you need to have a clear idea about what you want to achieve and how you’re going to introduce it among your employees.
Document the changes and things to do to achieve them, craft a detailed timeline, and have a clear response to the potential concerns of your staff.
👉 How Cascade can help:
✨More templates related to change management:
- Business Change Strategy Template
- Change Communication Template
- Culture Change Plan Template
- Organizational Change Plan Template
- Merger Integration Plan Template
2. Ensure transparency
It makes total sense, particularly in larger organizations, to keep things relatively quiet when change lurks in the background… Not everyone is comfortable with it, and it can create a feeling of uncertainty, so initially, it can help to keep the conversation within top management.
Having said this, failing to announce change can make it very difficult to encourage the wider team to embrace the transformation. They’ll start to make up their minds on how the change will affect them based on their fragmented perception.
This is why communication will be integral to the planning stage. This way you can announce the change and promote discussion rather than being on the back foot with rumors lurking…
You never want to be in a position where you need to ‘sugarcoat’ facts or be overly optimistic, as this will usually result in more confusion, mixed messages, and suspicion.
If there are short-term negative outcomes because of the transformation, discuss them. Embrace and acknowledge the potential drawbacks and encourage a conversation with the wider team.
Transparency will win in most situations and will ultimately lift everyone’s confidence that the right decisions are being made.
3. Prioritize communication
This is an obvious one and with good reason. It’s really important to communicate the entire process well.
Communicating that ‘change is coming’ is not enough. You need to explain WHY the change is important and what benefits the organization expects from it (as well as any setbacks - don’t try to dodge tough questions around the change).
Be open to questions and suggestions, and hold OPEN team meetings to discuss the changes so that there is a clear understanding from everyone about what’s changing when it's changing, and how that will affect them (if at all).
4. Involve key stakeholders in the process
We’ll talk a little more about who needs to be involved in the change management strategy development later on, but this is a key element in general throughout the process.
Those who will be affected (or people representing them), should be involved so that they can help shape the change. Even if the way forward is not the one they would necessarily choose, having their involvement will go a long way toward getting buy-in and support.
The reality is that this applies to ANY type of change, in ANY situation. You’d be surprised to see how many large organizations waste time and resources in their change initiatives simply because they fail to involve the right people in the process.
5. Build a roadmap
This is a key element, particularly in larger organizations, as it helps the wider team not only recognize the current situation (sometimes they may not be as aware of the challenges or need for a change), but also get a good sense of what the next steps and the final destination are.
This will also solidify the process for the management team and ensure that there are no gaps moving forward.
👉How Cascade can help:
Cascade provides different ways for you to visualize your strategic plan. One of these is the roadmap/timeline view which gives a bird’s eye view of where the plan is headed.
Looking at this view will help you identify if your team is on track and determine business processes that are becoming bottlenecks and can cause potential future issues. For team members, looking at a timeline view will also help them see the bigger picture and how their specific roles fit into the grand scheme of things.
6. Train your organization
This may be more appropriate for certain scenarios. If you are looking to introduce new technology, for example, it makes sense to set up a training process.
Announce that the training will be available and ensure that the process caters to the level of knowledge and experience within a team.
Don’t make assumptions or expectations for the training to magically transform the organization, as this is only part of the process and we all learn new things at differing speeds. Maybe you need to revisit the training periodically.
7. Propose incentives
This one is not a must-have, but again in larger organizations, it could help. Introducing some incentives through the process of change can be beneficial and encourage team members to engage with the new plan ahead, increasing agility.
This doesn’t necessarily refer to monetary incentives. There are many ways to encourage team members, and studies have shown time and time again that money is not the ultimate incentive for many.
Depending on the type of change you are driving, there may be significant shifts at the core of the organizational strategic plan, so the steps below could be appropriate to your change management strategy.
When an organization is pivoting dramatically, it may be necessary to revisit the core vision (the "why") to ensure that it aligns with the proposed change.
This is the least common scenario given that typically an organization sticks to a core vision from inception, but it’s not unheard of.
Apple is a poster child for this. When Steve Jobs stepped back into the lead role (after previously being asked to leave), the company’s approach changed dramatically, and the vision was cleverly redefined, even through their marketing.
📚Recommended reading: How To Write A Vision Statement (With Examples, Tips, And Formulas)
Redefine organizational values
This particularly applies to older organizations that may have to update their values to reflect what the market is focused on, or as a way to differentiate themselves from competitors (banks can be a great example of this).
Organizational values can also encourage certain talent to join the organization, so this can also sometimes be a push for change.
Another example would be when there is a merger between organizations and their organizational values need to be amalgamated.
Employees would be ready to adapt and fit in with the organizational values. So, introduce a change in the cultural values of the organization and make it a culture of continuous improvement. The employees may respond positively to a new way of working if you introduce the new organizational value of continuous improvement.
📚Recommended reading: How To Create Company Values
Redefine organizational focus areas
Focus areas are more common in the change management process since this can often be the source of the change.
The shift in organizational focus areas will often dictate the level of change management required and set the pace therein. This will then have a domino effect on the organizational goals.
📚Recommended reading:Strategic Focus Areas: How To Create Them + Examples
Who Develops A Change Management Strategy Process?
As a general rule of thumb, change management starts at the top. This is a very broad response though, since in reality 'the top' might not necessarily refer to senior management.
The kind of change will determine who is involved in the strategy. As an example, if the change is significant across the organization, then it makes sense for senior management to be leading the change management strategy.
If the change is within a business function though, the strategy could be developed further down.
Let's say the design department is moving to a new suite of design software. Senior management would not need involvement and the head of the team + their supervisor might suffice. They would also want IT involved and maybe even HR for training.
3 Tips To Ensure A Smooth Transition For Employees
Any amount of change can be stressful for employees and, when not properly handled, can be met with resistance. If you initiate change but fail to follow it through, team members can feel frustrated with the lack of direction and feedback.
Even when the change will benefit them in the long run, the knee-jerk reaction of any employee is to resist it. After all, doing things the same way is more comfortable than pursuing change.
Here are three tips to help you smoothly transition employees and ensure they don’t experience organizational burnout.
1. Encourage employees to share their insights and opinions
During a transition, it's common for employees to feel anxious or uncertain about what's going on. Encouraging them to share their insights and opinions can help them feel more engaged in the change management process and give them a sense of ownership over the transition. Remember, you hired highly qualified people to do the job, so their opinion also matters.
Employees can voice their feedback through various channels, such as town hall meetings, one-on-one meetings, or online forums. By giving employees a voice and listening to them, you can also identify potential problems or roadblocks before they become bigger issues.
2. Reward employees for their commitment to change
Change can be difficult, and it's important to recognize and reward employees who are committed to making it work. This can be done through various ways, such as bonuses, promotions, or simply acknowledging their hard work and dedication.
By showing employees that their efforts are valued and appreciated, you can also help to maintain morale and motivation during the transition. This will also encourage employees to help each other during the transition leading to a successful change management strategy.
3. Celebrate successes
Change management involves celebrating milestones and successes during the transition process. This can help to build momentum and keep team members motivated. Celebrations can be as simple as a team lunch or as elaborate as an awards ceremony.
When you celebrate successes, you are reinforcing the importance of change initiatives and the positive impact it's having on the organization. This will help team members keep going even when the change initiatives are challenging.
How To Measure Your Change Management Strategy
Measuring the results of the strategy you take around change management will heavily depend on the type of organization you are.
Cascade is a strategy execution platform that can help you implement and measure the effectiveness of your change initiatives in a painless and efficient manner.
With Cascade, you’ll have access to strategy dashboards, accurate reports, and multiple integrations to help you keep track of all the important KPIs in one organized platform. While change management can be complicated, Cascade can make the implementation of new business processes and organizational changes easier.
We have an article on Change Management KPIs available for you to explore, to give you food for thought—your situation will dictate the way you measure.
Having said that, like any good strategic plan, your change management strategy should follow the familiar process we talk about in the “How To Write A Strategic Plan: The Cascade Model."
You want to, at the very least, aim to develop a format where you have clear objectives, projects, and KPIs that will allow you to track the progress throughout the change.
Here are some helpful links:
Is your change management strategy in need of a tool that gives you complete visibility into its progress? Check out our list where we’ve gathered and analyzed the 7 best options for change and transformation leaders in 2023.
Execute Your Change Management Strategy With Cascade 🚀
Change is a big thing, whatever your organization's size or business. So don’t expect people to want change overnight (this is where the old saying “a change is as good as a holiday” doesn't apply!).
You have to help them (and yourself) prepare for the change and to deal with it. Ensuring their participation in every stage of the change is the best way to be transparent and to convince them that the change will bring a positive outcome to them as well as the organization.
If you follow the outline above, you’ll be ahead of most in terms of having a strategic approach to the change management process. This will enable you and your organization to adapt with agility and positivity. Apply this approach to your organization with our Free Change Management Strategy Template!