How to Handle Changes in Your Projects: Change Management Process Explained

Compass with arrows pointing multiple directions, symbolizing new direction a business may take during the change process

In any business, change is inevitable. If you fail to keep up with this dynamic environment, if you don’t strive to continuously improve organizational processes, stagnation will ensue, which is never good for business. 

Now, suppose you ARE flexible and open to changes, whatever they are: from changing who’s assigned to tasks and extending project deadlines to global ones like changing company procedures and top management. Great! However, admitting the need for a change is only half the story. 

When your company recognizes this need, you don’t want the change to happen haphazardly. This is where change management comes in. What is it, how to improve change management process, what are the change management best practices? The Goals team has answers to these questions, as well as other questions you’ll find in this piece. Check it out and improve your change management skills!

 

What is change management?

 

Change management is a blanket term that covers various processes to prepare and support organizational change. The change may include transformation of an organization’s goals, technologies, or processes.  

New direction gives New Result. Manage changes effectively and make your business succeed

The goal of change management is to work out and implement strategies to effectively execute and control the change, as well as help people to adapt to it. These strategies include the procedure of change request and mechanisms of response to such requests

Organizational change management is difficult. The research by McKinsey & Company proves this, stating that 70% of large-scale change initiatives never meet their goals. What’s more, people’s response may vary, which makes the process even more complicated.

This doesn’t mean you should give up before you even begin, but to succeed, the process should be managed very carefully. Change management strategies and methods help to tackle these difficulties, avoid the chaos, and keep everything under complete control.  

 

Types of change management

 

To make the complex subject of change more manageable, it can be broken into smaller sets. The change can happen in three distinct levels:

Individual change management. People are the drivers of any changes. You may alter procedures, but if you don’t pay attention to the people involved, the whole process may not be effective. Think about what information your employees need to get to become more open to the new initiatives, when and which training to offer, how to help them with the transition. 

Unity and teamwork is what drives organizational changes

Organizational change management. This category includes organizational issues you must address to make alterations in a project. For example, you need to identify the groups and departments that require changes and figure out the way to do it. You also should craft a plan to address the specific parts of the project, make everyone aware of it, execute it via training, and drive the change within the management of the whole project. 

Enterprise change management. Here you need to take a step up and address the entire enterprise, encompassing all aspects of an organization, like structure, roles, process, leadership, projects, etc. You need to ensure these elements in your organization are interconnected. With such macro-level approach, you boost your chances to do the transformation on the micro-level.

 

Choosing a change management tool to record the change

 

When you identify the changes required for your organization, it is important to choose the right tools to manage and document the process. The typical points tracked when you manage a change control process are: 

  • Description of the change request
  • Who made the request
  • The request priority
  • Who is in charge of implementing the change
  • Implementation date

Some software tools for project managers help to record and manage the process as part of your project management process. For example, the project management software by KeepSolid, Goals, will include the change management feature in the near future releases. 

It will let you track any alterations in the project budget, goals, KPIs, deadlines, etc., as well as have a quick access to the change control points listed above. Everything will then be stored in the archive, so you can easily trace back the changes in your project and do a retrospective analysis.

Business control concept symbolizing businessman that controls change management process

 

Change management models 

 

Let’s say you’ve identified and documented the required change, or received a request from your employees. What’s next? How to handle change management? 

In order to conduct an effective change management process, organizations rely on various methods and models. Change management models represent the best strategies and approaches to execute changes. See some of the frequently used models for carrying out change management below. 

 

Lewin’s change management model

 

Created by a physicist and social scientist Kurt Lewin in the 1950s, the model is still widely popular. Lewin explained the organizational change through the different states of a block of ice. Lewin’s change management model consists of three main stages: unfreeze, change, and freeze.

Lewin’s change management model - unfreeze, change, freeze

  • Unfreeze. The first stage of a change process involves understanding the need and preparation. Quite often, transformations face resistance, so the key here is to explain why the current ways or processes need to be altered and how it can bring a profit.  
  • Change. This is where the transition takes place. Good leadership and constant communication are crucial at this stage for the organization to move in the right direction and to make the change process easier for the staff. 
  • Freeze. When the change has been accepted and implemented, the company starts to become stable again. This is why this stage is called freeze. Everything goes back to the normal routine and pace, and employees get comfortable with the new state. 

 

Kotter’s change management model

 

John P. Kotter is a Harvard Business School Professor and author of several books on change management. His model is among the most adopted ones in the world. 

Kotter’s model consists of 8 steps that help organizations successfully implement a change. The first three steps are about creating a favorable climate. The next three steps imply engagement of the whole organization. The last two steps are aimed at carrying out and sustaining the change.  

Kotter's 8 Step Change Model for successful change management process

  1. Create a sense of urgency. There should be a compelling case for a change. And the leader’s task is to clearly explain the reason and make it understandable and inspiring for the others.
  2. Build the change team. Usually, a change cannot be shouldered by a single person. So at this stage, a special team of key people, able to guide the change, is gathered. This team will put it into practice.
  3. Formulate the vision for the change. This step requires a clear, relevant, and short vision statement. It should be easy to understand for the people involved.
  4. Communicate the vision. As the name implies, now the vision should be communicated to the affected departments.
  5. Remove barriers. Obstacles on the way are almost inevitable. What are these obstacles? You can find this out by seeking feedback from your team and listening to their concerns.
  6. Create short-term wins. Demonstration of the benefits at the early stages can help you get buy-in and speed up the overall process.
  7. Build on the change. Repeat the previous steps for some time to let the change settle in. 
  8. Anchor the change. Make sure what you’ve implemented sticks. Embed the change in your organizational procedures, models, and staff’s everyday work. 

The people-focused approach of Kotter’s model helps leaders tackle a common barrier that blocks from implementing changes – employee resistance. Handle it effectively, bring about the required changes, and with them - the new opportunities for your business!

Wooden cubes with word change to chance, implying that successful change process opens up new opportunities

 

Bottom line on the effective change management process

Changes may not come easy, especially when they affect the key aspects of your project or the entire organization. However, implementing the best methods and  practices, you can make your change management process smooth and successful. 

Also, make sure to arm yourself with the right tool to simplify and accurately record the process. Try out our project management software Goals to boost your project management and achieve goals with ease. 

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