As we all know, change is a necessary part of organisational growth, however, change can come with its challenges, as transforming behaviours and attitudes may be difficult.

As Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper said: “The most damaging phrase in the language is ‘We’ve always done it this way.”

If your organisation is looking to implement change, having the right knowledge and planning is essential to ensure a smooth transition.

What is a change management plan?

A change management plan serves as the roadmap, which defines the concrete steps an organisation will take to execute the change management process.

When change is going to impact the business operations a change management plan is needed to avoid disrupting workflow and to help support the team through this change.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to decide if a change management plan is required:

  • Will the change affect a large part of the organisation?
  • Will the change affect core business processes or operational workflows?
  • Will the change affect employees or customers?

If you answered yes to one or more of the above, it is likely a change management plan will be needed.

“Start with identifying the critical success factors of the project and align the change management activities together with the project manager and engage the sponsor. Conduct the change readiness assessment with the impacted groups to identify the effort required. Allow more time in the analysis phase in order to plan according to the readiness of the environment verses the size and scope of the change. Create a score card for success measures!”

Joanne Rinaldi, Director Service Delivery, Prosci


Components of a change management plan

When creating a plan to manage change, you should include the following:

  1. Goals: Generally there are two main goals of a change management plan. The first being to help people who are affected by the change adapt and the second to raise organisational awareness of the change. Creating Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is a good way to assess whether you’re meeting your change goals.
  2. Communication: A core component of a change management plan is communication, which should be consistent, clear, and continued throughout the process. In addition to communicating the goals and expectations for future change, it’s also advisable to establish an open dialogue with employees and stakeholders. Remember communication should be a two-way street, so allow for discussion, questions, and feedback.
  3. Resistance management: Typically the biggest challenge that change managers face is a lack of buy-in from the people involved in change. When people get used to an organisation’s environment, it can be difficult for them to adapt to a new way of working. Preparing strategies to address this resistance is a part of any successful change management plan.
  4. Training: In order to help your team transition smoothly to change, some training and education may be needed. Specific meetings to discuss the change and educational sessions will help empower your team or anyone else who is affected by the change and ensure all the information they need is within reach. According to Rinaldi when it comes to training and the application of new skills and knowledge “the training plan alone may fall short at application, so ensure post training support is in the plan.”


Creating a change management plan: step by step

If managing change has been placed in your hands, here are some steps you can follow:

Step 1: Define your goals

Start with the end in mind by determining the goals of the change management plan. Before you set your goals, you should:

  • Understand how the change that is taking place will impact the business, staff and if applicable the organisation’s clients and customers.
  • Create a strategy around how you will get employee buy-in and raise awareness of the changes.
  • Define KPIs to measure the change management plan’s success.

Step 2: Assemble a team

While the change manager or project team oversees managing change, people and resources will be needed for various stages of the plan. Here are some tips on building a team to support your change management initiative:

  • Enlist stakeholders for support: If you have a solid team, this will help increase the likelihood of a successful change initiative. Include subject matter experts, and management who can answer questions about the change and its implications.
  • Perform resource planning: Take the time to plan out who will be doing each of the tasks. Establishing who your resources will be to help support the change initiative will help prevent delays in executing the plan.

3: Start building your plan

As with any plan, documenting scope, resources, and budget will help improve efficiency. Here are some tips on building your plan:

  • Create an action item checklist: Record every task that needs to be completed and include communication and feedback opportunities.
  • Plot a timeline: Give all of your action items a deadline that will ensure the change initiative is completed by the due date.
  • Utilise project management tools: Since there are a lot of moving parts to change management, it helps to use project management software. With this software, you can add your action items and assign them to appropriate team members.

Step 4: Execute the plan

Once you have your well-thought-out plan, dream team, and have input everything into a project management tool, it’s time to put your plan into action. Here are some tips to ease the burden:

  • Create a resistance plan: Some people in your organisation may resist change. So when you’re executing your change management plan, ensure there is training and education from the beginning and continue this education throughout the process. Make sure your KPIs include identifying resistance.
  • Establish a decision-making process: Outline a process to solve issues that may arise, so that employees are empowered and have guidance on what to do.
  • Build confidence in transformation: Present and communicate wins for the team and provide additional incentives and rewards for implementation. Build a culture for the change to exist and grow.

Step 5: Reinforce change

After all the changes have been implemented, make sure you follow up to ensure lasting change. Here are some ways to reinforce change:

  • Positive reinforcement. Instead of introducing repercussions for a lack of enforcement, create a strategy for rewarding change. Rewarding staff for embracing the change will be much more effective. Also make things easy for people to get onboard with the new way of doing things.
  • Leverage your experts. It’s a given that people are going to have questions and issues with the change. Training alone may not satisfy all queries. This is where your subject matter experts can make a huge difference. Identify your SMEs early and train them to respond to any issues and communicate problems up the chain.
  • Iterate. Everything is theoretical until change is live. After your plan is in action, you’ll be able to react in real time to any obstacles that arise. Sometimes things don’t go the way we expect and that is okay. Have a plan to identify these pain points and pivot towards plan B (or C, or D!).

Final thoughts

Remember that although the change management plan is mostly about tasks and processes, people are at the heart of organisational change. Business transformation is no easy task, but with a well thought out change management plan, you can champion impactful change for a better organisation.