Change management — also known as change enablement — is an IT practice designed to minimize disruptions to IT services while making changes to critical systems and services.
Change management practices are designed to reduce incidents and meet regulatory standards. The practices ensure efficient and prompt handling of changes to IT infrastructure and code. Whether you’re rolling out new services, managing existing ones, or resolving problems in code, modern change management approaches break down silos, provide context and transparency, avoid bottlenecks, and minimize risk.
Nine Critical Steps in the Change Management Process
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to change management. The factors leading to change may differ among organizations, but the core principles of change management are the same. The following steps will guide you in meeting the unique needs of your organization:
1. Define your objective(s)
The first step in the change management process is to define what you want to achieve in the end. Having a crystal-clear objective requires an understanding of where your organization currently lies and where you want it to be.
Your change management process is dead on arrival if your objective contradicts your company’s vision. Your organization may evolve but staying true to its vision will help you retain your identity and originality.
2. Get your management team to buy-in
Single-handedly diving into the change management process is a no-no. You cannot implement change all by yourself, even with all the knowledge and technical know-how. You need the support of your management team to set the ball rolling.
Start by presenting the problems that the change you seek will solve in your organization. By doing this, you make it about the organization and not yourself.
3. Appoint your change management process champions
Although everyone’s support in your organization is invaluable, you need some key players that will lead the change management process in different areas. Think of them as your managers — they will help you coordinate activities at micro-levels. Have a heart-to-heart discussion with your change champions about the project and outline their responsibilities.
4. Communicate your vision to the entire team
The next step is to get everyone in your organization to buy-in. Mandating everyone to buy into the change plan simply because you are the boss is not the best approach. You will get the best results when they buy-in because they share your vision.
Share your vision passionately. Be open to contributions as team members might have valuable input that you did not think of earlier.
5. Get rid of roadblocks
Now that you have gotten everyone on the same page as you, you need to ensure that there are no roadblocks in your way; otherwise, your team will not function optimally.
- What old procedures or systems need to make way for new ones?
- Do you need to acquire new tools to execute the system you are putting in place?
- Do your team members need to be trained on new skills to perform tasks in the new system?
- Do you need to reassign responsibilities and duties to team members?
6. Break your goal into milestones
If your change goal is big, achieving it all at once may seem impossible. Save yourself the trouble of feeling discouraged by setting small milestones. You and your team will get a sense of accomplishment for your successes at the milestones.
Milestones also help with accountability.
7. Gun for early wins
Nothing gets people pumped up more than early wins; employees are encouraged to work harder, seeing that their efforts are paying off. The reverse is the case when their early efforts look like a waste of time.
Be intentional about early wins by setting targets that are more achievable than others. Engage with team members who play vital roles in achieving those targets to get their maximum inputs.
8. Track your progress
Change management involves a lot of planning, coordinating, controlling, and evaluating. These factors have to be in sync to achieve your objective.
Keep track of how things are unfolding. Are you taking too long to achieve your milestones? If that is the case, what is causing the delay? Are there still roadblocks in your organization?
There is a tendency for your zeal and your team members’ to wear off after a few weeks or months. Hold regular meetings with your team to keep them motivated.
9. Improve continuously
Change is a continuous process. Do not become complacent after you have achieved your objective. Review your current business processes continuously for improvement. By doing this, you will identify roadblocks that may arise from the new system you implemented.
Incorporate the change you have achieved in your organizational culture for uniformity and consistency across the entire organization.
Change management best practices
Here are some best practices for modern change management:
- Understand your organization’s risk tolerance and regulatory obligations
- Simplify and automate change management processes wherever possible
- Give CABs a more strategic focus
- Embrace practices that make standard change the new normal change
- Look to various frameworks like ITIL and DevOps to find guidelines that work best for your organization
- Prioritize collaboration
- Use chaos engineering to reduce your risk
- Streamline change request intake for IT and developer teams
- Unlock learning with change metrics and KPIs
- Embrace a DevOps-driven approach to release management