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How to Write a Change Management Plan
Managing the change process in any organisation is critical to success, which is why a change management plan is needed. It sets out the path for change and also controls budget schedule, scope and communication, and sets out how resources are used.
But what should this plan look like? What detail needs to be added?
Perfect in conception, different in reality
According to change management consultants, a change management plan is critical for many reasons, but topping the list is just how different the realities of making far-reaching changes in an organisation actually are compared to initial thoughts and ideas.
In other words, for an organisation to remain agile and responsive during the change process, you need an understanding of what the challenges could be along the way, how to adapt to meet these, as well as monitoring success and what these metrics look like. A plan of this kind will also help the process stay on track, with clear milestones and aspirations to meet.
What should be included in a plan?
There are several steps to writing a change management plan and there are many templates that can help define your thinking, as well as what actions need to be taken and when. As a general outline, change management consultants would expect a detailed plan to consist of:
Step 1 – An outline for the reasons for change
The first step is not to assume that everyone knows why changes need to be made. A short statement to demonstrate the reasons for change should be clearly made at the start of the plan so that everyone, from staff to stakeholders, understands why this process is happening.
Change is not an easy or light undertaking, even when it affects only a small proportion of a business. Demonstrating why this needs to happen is key to pulling people onboard.
Step 2 – A scoping statement
An organisational change management expert will suggest that the second step is to scope the project – in other words, setting who will be affected by the changes being made. There could be an impact on organisational structure, for example, as well as policies, processes and job roles. When this is the case, people will rightfully feel concerned and so it is no wonder that change is viewed with suspicion. With a clear demonstration of what and how the change will impact the company and its people, people’s concerns can often be allayed.
Step 3 – Introducing the change management team
The next step is to introduce who will manage the process and implement the changes. Every organisational change expert will tell you that there are two main factors that drive the success of this kind of project:
- How the change management team is composed and who is part of it
- How strong, agile and responsive the team leader is and remains throughout the project
As with all team structures, there need to be clearly defined roles and responsibilities for members too and the group also need to be empowered to drive the process.
Step 4 – Clarity as to the expected benefits
Change happens for a reason and in most cases, it is to improve something, whether that is streamlining the company to make it more responsive in difficult trading conditions or to ready the company for expansion or merger. Spelling out the expected benefits is key to people buying-in to the project and supporting it.
Step 5 – An outline of milestones
For any project to be driven to its endpoint successfully, there need to be milestones along the way to measures success and to keep it on track. Change management consultants bring a wealth of experience to a project of this kind but will highlight how the majority fail not because of lack of effort but because the perceived effort is too much compared to the benefits of progress that wasn’t tracked and measured.
Milestones become symbols to employees, stakeholders and others that change is both happening and working, and that the effort is worth it.
Step 6 – A clear communication plan
It’s been hinted at in the previous five steps – communication underpins the success of this kind of project.
It can also be one of the reasons why a change management project fails. Poor communication and misinformation can, and has, stopped exciting projects in their tracks. Investors, stakeholders and staff have become disillusioned with the project because that can’t see what is changing or happening, and they are not being kept in the loop either.
Misinformation creates fear and tension. In a project that is driving change in an organisation, whether this is a small project or one with far-reaching consequences, people are nervous about what could happen and how it will affect them.
It is important to stop this from happening. Making changes in an organisation happens because it has to but that doesn’t mean people should be kept in the dark or not receive the information they need.
Organisational change management experts suggest that there are three basic steps to communications in the context of change management:
Identifying who is impacted by the change
Secondly, regular face-to-face or online meetings need to be scheduled to maintain a steady flow of information, including updates on progress
And thirdly, communications should be:
Communication in change management projects needs to reiterate why change is happening, the benefits and so on. It should also include contact details and how people can feedback into the process too.
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Change is positive and beneficial for companies most of the time. It is the driver that moves the business on to bigger and better things, whether that is exploring new cost-efficient production processes or entering a new marketplace.
But it is also a time of uncertainty. Staff and stakeholders are affected by organisational change both directly and indirectly when a change management project is successful and when it fails. And that’s why a detailed change management plan is needed.
About the Author
Michelle Gillam has written extensively, over many years, about a wide range of topics related to project management and change management. She is a PRINCE2 qualified project manager with a special interest in improving facilitation skills and communication skills.