As outlined on our homepage, there many tools that can help teams plan, execute and measure the impact, implementation and success of a specific initiative. And while there may be a logical sequence in working through these tools, the process, when executed properly, is far from linear.
The work of change management can be broken down into three general phases – preparation, transition and sustainment. Those phases are more or less distinct and somewhat sequential, as you track progress into and through implementation.
Nonetheless, within each phase, it’s hard to say what must come first. It’s up to the change manager to understand the tools at his/her disposal and pull the proper arrow from the quiver, as needed. Especially once an initiative has been launched and change is underway, the change manager must listen what he/she is hearing from sponsors, stakeholders and change agents, then work in the moment to help the project team and stakeholders navigate through the change. Specific responses could be:
- Deploying change agents to help employees understand the context and rationale for change in greater depth
- Fielding a survey to get data indicating what’s sticking with which stakeholders and what’s not
- Partnering with a training manager to re-deliver training if there’s still a gap in understanding the new processes or systems that are being implemented or the behavior change that’s being requested
- Holding “open office hours” to answer questions and provide “easy access” support to the impacted teams
- Coaching highly influential stakeholders who may affect how the whole organization experiences and adapts to the proposed change – helping them examine what’s getting in their way of understanding or adopting the change and helping them see the broader benefits of the change, either for themselves personally or the organization overall
- Asking executive sponsors to reiterate publicly their support for the change
And just because the change manager has completed a stakeholder analysis, change impact assessment and launched a communication plan, it doesn’t mean that work is done. Effective change management strategies need to be tended throughout implementation. The work is iterative… two steps forward, one step back is often the case… so the change manager will often find himself/herself updating a communication plan, adding elements to the change management plan or revisiting individual or group coaching sessions to keep the initiative on track.
Change management, especially when actually in transition, is highly iterative. A skilled change manager needs to have a well-developed sense of the “organization’s pulse” and cultural norms and use his/her intuition to know specifically “what’s needed now.” The operative word is now – in the moment, no matter what the pre-defined plans call for. Are the prescribed methods working or is it time to adjust to accommodate what people are experiencing, thinking and feeling as they go through this particular phase of the change?