Getting Change Management Right

Strategic initiative failure rates remain high but working with the right partner can yield success. As such, executives put tremendous resources into planning and implementing their transformative projects.

However, seasoned executives also know that the success of those projects rests on getting users to adapt to new technologies, new processes, and new ways of working as much as – if not even more so – than any other element of the endeavor.

Unfortunately, successful change remains elusive. The failure rate for all change initiatives has been stuck around 70% for the past two decades and remains there today. 1

Consider figures from Gartner, the tech advisory firm: Its research shows that only 34% of all organizational change initiatives are a clear success, while half are out-and-out failures. 2

Those figures tell only part of the story, though. Here at Strive Consulting, we’ve found that companies without internal Change Management teams generally experience even higher failure rates. Why? Because they have neither the deep knowledge, nor the experience and tools, to enable change.

As a result, these companies often use online tutorials that offer only highlights on the topic, or they rely on overly complex white papers that don’t provide guidance on tailoring a program to the organizations’ own unique needs.

Neither option delivers information on the concrete tools and techniques needed to effectively teach people how to work in new and different ways. Rather, they tend to focus on the psychology – how the end user feels about the changes – and share some generic guiding principles, such as the ‘importance of communication’.

In reality, Change Management is a specialized skill, and it is one that needs to be expertly adapted to each initiative and tailored to every organization to ensure success. Strive’s Change Management framework acknowledges that reality and brings together four critical elements that must be addressed for an organization to successfully navigate transformation.

Those four elements are:

  • Alignment and Engagement
  • Change Impact and Analytics
  • Communication
  • Readiness and Training

Our extensive experience in helping a broad range of clients steer their companies through change has allowed us to hone in on these key areas and build a Change Management framework that leverages each of them to the maximum effect. We’ll focus on five critical tools across three elements of our framework

Let’s look at the first element: Alignment and Engagement. This element ensures that we’re collaborating with the right people in the plan and that their goals and priorities are well understood. With our ‘Story for Change’ we ask five important questions: What is happening, why now, so what, how are we going to achieve this, and now what? Asking these questions and listening to responses from project leaders gives us and, more importantly, the organization a clear, precise understanding on where it wants to be at the end of the transformation. While collaborating with these same leaders, we group and assess different stakeholder cohorts on a 2×2 grid measuring one’s level of influence on success and one’s impact imposed. The Stakeholder Assessment is the backbone to tailoring change, considering that all cohorts are coming from very different starting points and have different roles within the broader future state.

Next, we’re looking at Change Impacts and Analytics. For this, Strive evaluates how someone’s responsibilities will change and by how much. With Change Analysis we document all unique impacts and map against the stakeholder cohorts, identifying whether groups will perceive the impact as positive, negative, or neutral. This lets us understand what users will feel about the changes they’re facing and develop the various engagement, communication, and training activities needed to build understanding, knowledge, and commitment. We also develop metrics that track adoption, so we can confirm success, as well as identify those cohorts who may need additional support.

In tandem, we’re planning necessary Communications. This is all about informing key stakeholders through integrated, targeted, and timely program messaging. It’s also about understanding how communication flows within an organization. We believe there must be a communication cascade strategy within any program undergoing change for it to successfully transform. So, top-level sponsors need to effectively communicate with their direct reports, and in turn those managers need to effectively convey messages to their teams. Moreover, a communication plan compliments this cascade of information for each audience. Communication timed appropriately, focused on the right message, and delivered via the right vehicle helps all parties understand the importance of transformation for the organization as a whole.

On top of all this, we evaluate Readiness and Training. While training is hyper-focused and can be niche, we’ll focus on readiness. Quantitative metrics showing before and after results tell a clear part of the story, but it is one-sided. Qualitative surveying helps leadership understand if, and by how much, do stakeholder cohorts and users understand why the change is taking place, are aware of the impacts to their day-to-day responsibilities, know where they go for resources, and believe the change is overall positive.

Now, none of these four framework elements works in isolation. Rather, we consider them all together. In fact, we factor them into the lifecycle of a broader Change Management approach, creating a timeline from start to go-live that includes markers along the way. This means planning, for example, what milestones should be achieved counting down from 90, 60, 30, 15, 7, and 1 day out.

The payoff for having a structured Change Management workstream is significant, with This alone shows the value of having a solid Change Management strategy in place and the importance of having a partner who can deliver such results.

Looking for sample deliverables? Or maybe a bit more information? Let’s Talk!  

Here at Strive, we take pride in our Management Consulting practice, where we can assist you in your initial digital product development needs, all the way through to completion. Our subject matter experts’ team up with you to understand your core business needs, while taking a deeper dive into your company’s growth strategy.

Footnotes

  1. https://hbr.org/2000/05/cracking-the-code-of-change#:~:text=The%20brutal%20fact%20is%20that,an%20alphabet%20soup%20of%20initiatives
  2. https://www.gartner.com/en/human-resources/insights/organizational-change-management.