Effective change management: A step-by-step guide

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Mark Sanborn once said: "Your success in life isn’t based on your ability to simply change. It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers, and business."

In the agency world, how you implement change is just as vital as the specific changes you make. It's a classic case of the journey being as important as the final destination. And at a time when the market is changing as fast as the latest fashion trends, organizational change is a journey that every agency should master.

This step-by-step guide explores successful change management processes, including the key phases of an effective process. We’ll also give you four types of change management models your agency can use as frameworks for navigating a change initiative.

Key phases of an effective change management process

According to McKinsey, less than a third of organizations that have successfully improved organizational performance have been able to sustain it over time.

But you shouldn't take this as evidence that organizational change isn't helpful or necessary — it's really a reflection of poor change management processes and the roadblocks they create.

If you want a proposed change to live up to its potential, you have to approach it the right way. Here are the five key steps to effective change management that achieve lasting results.

1. Identify areas that require a change

You don’t want to make changes in your agency just for the sake of mixing things up. If your agency is going to undergo a significant change, you need to have a solid reason for the changes you are making. This means taking a close look at your operations to identify areas that are in need of change.

This could mean implementing new technology, or adjusting your organizational structure. Maybe it means improving morale, company culture, or the way you train and develop employees. 

Whatever the case may be, the first step in the change management process is identifying the areas of your agency where change will be beneficial.

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2. Brainstorm ideas for implementing change

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Just because you realize something needs to change doesn't mean you automatically know exactly what to change. Once you identify the areas in need of a change, it's time to put your thinking cap on and start brainstorming ideas.

This involves coming up with ideas for the changes you’re going to make and considering how your change management team plans to implement them. Once again, determining how you’ll get there is just as important as figuring out where you're going.

3. Build your change management workflow

Organizational change isn't as easy as just pinpointing what needs to happen and snapping your fingers. Usually, implementing a major change requires a lot of work.

Once you know what needs to be changed and how you plan to do it, it's time to build the change management workflow. Think of it as a contractor providing instructions to their crew once all the blueprints have been finalized and it's time to break ground.

A thorough change management workflow details all the steps needed for the change. With it, you can keep everyone on the same page and ensure everyone is following the same processes.

4. Implement the change process and monitor its success

Now that the stage is set, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get cracking! Implement the change management workflow that you built, and don't be afraid to make adjustments along the way if needed.

Speaking of making adjustments, it's important to monitor the success of your implementation process at every phase. A change management strategy that doesn't include room for flexibility is going to be more of a shackle than a roadmap to success. But in order to know how your change management process needs to be adapted, you’ll need to keep a watchful eye on the results it produces.

5. Measure and optimize processes over time

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Successful organizational change isn't something that happens in the blink of an eye. Even after a change has been successfully implemented, it's still essential to measure its results and strive for continual improvement. Likewise, effective work management following a change will be just as important as it's always been.

Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) over time helps you measure and optimize business processes. This way, you can take a data-driven approach to fine-tune any process adjustments so your results live up to expectations.

Types of change management processes

Like potato chips and ice cream, change management processes can come in a lot of flavors. Let’s look at four popular models so you can determine which best suits your agency.

Lewin's change model

Lewin's change model breaks the change management process down into three stages: unfreeze, change, and refreeze. 

While this may sound like instructions for storing leftover takeout, Lewin's change model is one that countless agencies have used to successfully implement major changes.

During the "unfreeze" stage, you identify the need for change and develop a sense of urgency. The "change" stage is when you actually implement the proposed change. Finally, in the "refreeze" stage, you lock in those changes and make them your new norm.

The ADKAR model

The ADKAR model focuses on facilitating individual change — meaning that agencies can only change when their individual team members are willing and able to do so.

ADKAR stands for "Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement" — the five phases of the process. Prosci also offers tools for using the ADKAR model, including a Blueprint template and an ADKAR Assessment for evaluating your own change management process.

Individual change management

Individual change management emphasizes providing employees with support and training throughout the process to help them adapt and reduce their resistance to change. This helps create the ground-up buy-in that agencies need to roll out major changes (and to do so in a way that doesn't rock the boat).

Enterprise change management

This model is built around the idea that transformation is constant in the business world and that agencies must be ready to manage change at any given point.

The enterprise change management model has three main elements: establishing a standard set of processes and tools for managing change, ensuring leadership competency at all levels of the agency, and creating strategies that allow the agency to adapt to market changes.

Change management case studies

Learning from others’ successes and failures is something humans have done since the dawn of time. Like our ancestors before us, business leaders creating a change management strategy can learn a lot from looking at agencies that have had significant changes in the past.

With that in mind, let's take a look at a couple of change management case studies to give you a good idea of what success could look like for your agency.

Case study: Agency A — Implementing Agile methodologies

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Agency A, a software development firm, decided to adopt Agile methodologies to improve project management and collaboration. The change management process involved extensive training for employees on Agile principles and practices.

The firm formed a cross-functional team to guide the transition, providing support and addressing concerns throughout the process, and they focused on maintaining regular communication, feedback loops, and transparency to ensure a smooth transition.

As a result, Agency A saw greater productivity, faster project delivery, and higher client satisfaction.

Case study: Agency B — Restructuring and cultural transformation

Agency B, a large manufacturing consultancy, underwent restructuring to streamline operations and foster a more innovative culture. The change management process included defining the new organizational structure, roles, and responsibilities.

The agency conducted multiple communication and engagement sessions to ensure team members understood the reasons for the changes and had opportunities to provide input. They also implemented training programs to equip employees with the necessary skills for their new roles.

Through effective change management, Agency B successfully shifted its culture to one that embraced collaboration, innovation, and continuous improvement.

Find out how Teamwork can help your organization change today

Creating and executing a change management plan can be an intense undertaking. But if you want to successfully implement any major change in your agency, you need to use the right tools. 

Teamwork's industry-leading project management platform takes the hassle out of managing change initiatives. With Teamwork, you can break your change management process into bite-sized tasks and workflows, assign tasks, track their progress, and communicate effortlessly with stakeholders and team members every step of the way.

Get started with Teamwork today to get on track toward a better, more streamlined change management process!

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