What is change management? 6 steps to build a successful change management process

Porträtt av medarbetare Julia MartinsJulia Martins27 januari 20218 min. läsning
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Change is an essential ingredient to help your organization succeed. As you grow, you’ll invariably need to implement new tools, try new strategies, or break into new markets—just to name a few. Small changes or ones that don’t impact many people are easy to implement—but what do you do when you need to implement a sweeping, organizational change?

Without proper planning, trying to implement organizational change can lead to chaos, confusion, and reduced company velocity. Instead, you need to roll changes out carefully—with planning and support in place before the change goes live—to make the transition as seamless as possible.

Simply put, you need change management.

If you’ve ever struggled to roll out an organizational change or you’re approaching a change and trying to think of how best to bring your company onboard—this article is for you.

What is change management?

Change management is the process of preparing for and managing any new organizational change. Typically during the change management process, you will prepare for the transition to a new change, gain organizational support for whatever the change is, and deploy the change thoughtfully over time.

The most important thing for change management is to approach the change deliberately and from several angles. Before you make an organizational change, think about how that change will impact members of your organization at different levels and on different teams. For that reason, change management methodologies often include strategies to help teams introduce an organizational change slowly over time, pilot the change with a subset of the company, or ensure buy-in from the right stakeholders before rolling out a new initiative.

Change management is a process, as well as a methodology. You may never have spent this much time thinking about how to roll out a change initiative. That’s ok. By following a change management process, you can best equip your team and your company to benefit from a new change.

Create a change management plan template

The benefits of change management

With effective change management, you can introduce new processes without disrupting your team or organization. We tend to be pretty attached to the “old way” of doing things, even if the new way is, objectively, better. A change management plan helps your team realize the value of the new change, by making it as minimally disruptive as possible.

Effective change management processes can help you:

  • Build momentum at your company

  • Reduce resistance to change

  • Increase the likelihood of successful change

  • Reduce any potential negative impact of the change

Traditional change management models

Change management processes go back to the early 1960s, and there have been several models of change management over the years. In this article, we’ll cover three traditional models for general change management.

Lewin’s change model

Kurt Lewin, a German-American psychologist, is best known for his contributions of applied research to communication practices. Lewin’s change model breaks change management into a three-stage process:

  1. Unfreeze. During the Unfreeze phase, you will help your team or company overcome their initial change aversion. Not only will you analyze any aversion to the change, but you’ll also begin convincing your team why you need the change. At this point in Lewin’s change model, your focus is on preparing your team for something new.

  2. Change. The Change step is when you roll out the organizational change. Keep in mind that Change may be a multi-step process as you run into unforeseen obstacles and work to slowly onboard everyone onto the new system, whatever it may be.

  3. Freeze. You’ve implemented the Change—now it’s time to freeze it in place so the “new” way of doing things becomes the standard.

The ADKAR model

The ADKAR model was created by Jeff Hiatt. ADKAR is an acronym, which stands for:

  • Awareness of the need for change

  • Desire to participate and support the change

  • Knowledge of what to do to ensure successful change

  • Ability to implement the change

  • Reinforcement to ensure the change continues to be implemented in the long term

The 8-step process for leading change

Dr. John Kotter invented this method, which he outlined in his book, Leading Change. According to Kotter, the eight steps are:

  1. Create a sense of urgency to emphasize the importance of acting immediately

  2. Build a guiding coalition to guide, coordinate, and communicate the organizational change

  3. Form a strategic vision and initiatives to clarify how the future will be different from the past

  4. Enlist a volunteer army to rally around the change

  5. Enable action by removing barriers in order to provide the freedom your organization needs to generate real impact

  6. Generate short-term wins to energize the organization to persist

  7. Sustain acceleration and be relentless about initiating change until your vision is a reality

  8. Institute change until it’s strong enough to replace old habits

When to use change management

You shouldn’t roll out the full change management process for every organizational change. Change management is only important when the potential pushback is going to be large or company-wide. Remember that, as humans, we can be averse to change—we tend to like the current system (even if it’s not the best process), and it can be hard for people or teams to imagine working in a new way.

Here are a few examples of organizational changes you’d roll out with a change management process:

  • New company-wide tool or technology

  • Change in leadership or organizational structure

  • Work culture or values updates

  • Updated company policies, HR programs, or benefits

  • Merger or acquisition

The most important thing to keep in mind when implementing a change management process is to be thoughtful about when and how you’re rolling out this change to your organization.

At Asana, our Professional Services and Customer Success teams frequently help teams build a change management strategy to roll out a new company-wide tool or technology. With Asana, teams don’t just have a tool to organize and execute work—they’re also rolling out a new approach to team collaboration through work management. Using a change management process can help ensure success and adoption.

Read: Change order template: How to modify project scope (with examples)

The Asana Way of Change: 6 steps to roll out a new tool or technology with change management

To help new teams adopt Asana, our Professional Services and Customer Success teams built a change management process inspired by Dr. Kotter’s 8-step process for leading change and informed by best practices from customers who successfully implemented Asana at their organizations. The resulting methodology, the Asana Way of Change, helps teams roll out new tools or technologies at an organizational level.

There are six steps to the Asana Way of Change:

  1. Define your why

  2. Discover your now

  3. Design your first workflow

  4. Enable your team and celebrate wins

  5. Get setup for future success

  6. Measure and expand your use

Whether you’re adopting Asana or rolling out a different new tool, here’s how you can use the Asana Way of Change to roll out a new tool or technology at your company.

Course: 6 steps to rolling out Asana sustainably

Using the Asana Way of Change: A case study

Let’s say your team is going to transition onto a centralized work management platform in order to work more effectively and collaboratively. Here’s how you’d use the Asana Way of Change to implement that organizational change:

1. Define your why

Before you roll this change out to your organization, you first need to know: why are you doing this? What pain points is this change solving? Though not every member of your organization will be thrilled with the change—because we’re all pretty change averse—having a concrete reason for why you’re doing this will help.

There are three different elements to defining your “why:”

First, craft your “why statement”

To start, document why you’re implementing this organizational change. This “why statement” will be your compass for all of the work to come.

“[Team/Organization name] is implementing this new work management tool in order to [manage these projects and processes]. In doing so, we hope to [alleviate these pain points] and [accomplish these goals].”

For example, if you’re rolling out a work management tool, you might write:

“Our company is implementing this new work management tool in order to improve cross-functional collaboration and visibility. In doing so, we hope to increase company productivity and complete more projects on schedule.”

Then, define success metrics

You’ll also want to define what success looks like for your change management process. Sit down with the team leading the change to set metrics. Some metrics include:

  • By when this change should be rolled out

  • Adoption or training percentages across the company

  • Utilization rate across the company by a certain date

For example, to roll out a work management tool, you might have some of the following metrics:

  • We will start rolling out this tool to a small group on March 3rd. Employees will have the opportunity to opt-in in mid-June. Then, everyone at our company should be onboarded and familiar with the tool by July 17th.

  • Teams should send weekly project status reports in the work management tool, and work should be managed exclusively in the tool.

  • 100% of employees should be active on the tool by July 30th.

Finally, assemble your Adoption Alliance

Rolling out an organizational change isn’t a one-person job. You need a team of people, and your Adoption Alliance is that team. There are three types of Adoption Alliance members:

  • The convention setter. This is a workplace influencer. Your convention setter or setters will help you define how you’ll use your new work management tool across the company. They might lead trainings or answer questions team members have along the way.

  • The awareness builder. This is a member (or members) of the leadership team. Your awareness builders may not be as close to the change being implemented, but they’ll be the voice of support. The awareness builder should communicate your “why statement” in order to increase team buy-in

  • The product advocate. These are individual contributors or early adopters who are excited to help build momentum for this change.

What is change management in-text image 1

2. Discover your now

In order to implement broad-scale change, you first need to start small. Choose one workflow to implement in the new system first, so your Adoption Alliance can build practices and examples before you roll it out completely. Ideally, choose a workflow that is collaborative and broad, so you can work out any kinks before you implement change.

For example, to roll out a new work management tool, you might select a team or department, like the Marketing department. Before introducing the Marketing department to your new tool, consider building out demo environments of how they might use it. For example, you might show them how they can run more collaborative marketing campaigns with the new tool.

3. Design your first workflow

This is your chance to test out your new change on one workflow or process. Your convention setter should hold a training for the selected team or workflow. Make sure your product advocate is also on hand to help celebrate wins and document the process working effectively.

At this point, you’ll likely run into questions you haven’t thought of before. Make sure to document frequently asked questions (and their answers) so you can implement them in your documentation when you roll this change out more broadly.

For example, in the rollout of your new work management tool, you’ve already built demo environments for the marketing team. All that’s left is to hold training sessions with the team to show them how the tool works. Encourage them to plan cross-functional initiatives, like the marketing campaign you demoed, in this tool. Check in frequently to see how the roll out is going and answer any questions the team might have. Throughout, document their successes as well, so you can use these moments to inspire other teams to adopt the tool.

4. Enable your team and celebrate wins

Your team is getting set up in your chosen workflow. Make sure to check in with them frequently about how it’s going, and celebrate any wins—even small ones. Getting this momentum up front will not only help your change gain steam—it’ll also build an entire cohort of pro-change people who can become product advocates in their own right when you roll this change out more broadly.

5. Get set up for future success

At this point, your team should be up and running in the new way of operating. Use this time to celebrate your team’s early victories, collect regular feedback, monitor tool adoption, and build upon best practices. Including FAQ documentation, help sessions, and a plan for continuous onboarding of new teammates in a central place will ensure long-term success.

6. Measure and expand use

Once you feel like you’ve worked out the issues in the first change, it’s time to roll it out more broadly. Use the training sessions, FAQ documentation, and prep you’ve done with your first workflow to help guide other teams. Depending on the size of your company, plan to hold office hours with your Adoption Alliance to answer any questions. Encourage your product advocate(s) to check in and celebrate wins frequently, in order to help your new work management tool gain momentum.

Before you know it, you’ve successfully completed a change management plan!

The key to organizational change is change management

No matter what organizational change you’re rolling out or which change management methodology you use, a thoughtful, measured rollout is the key to change management. Help your team successfully adapt to any change by using change management.

If you’re rolling out a new technology or tool, try the Asana Way of Change. To learn more, read our guide about how you can use this change management process to help your team adopt Asana.

Create a change management plan template

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