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What Is a Change Management Plan?

Every growing organization must learn to embrace change. Change is the blueprint that allows you to leverage new technology and processes for better outcomes like increased revenue, higher profit, and greater efficiency.

To get there, however, you need a plan to help people understand and adopt the change.

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What Is a Change Management Plan and What Should It Include?

A Change Management Plan is a series of strategic steps and actions that execute and guide change while minimizing disruption and unnecessary distraction for the business, team members, customers, and key stakeholders. At the same time, the plan should offer guidance on how to internalize change in a timely way while maximizing awareness, buy-in, and adoption.

With a strategic change management plan, you can successfully maintain productivity and keep your business running both before and after the change event. An effective plan will also reduce the risk of change not sticking due to lack of reinforcement resulting from the failure to realize the desired goals and values of the program.

The key to creating an effective change management plan is translating these goals into actionable insights that make a positive difference. Below we’ve established 6 key components every plan needs to accomplish successful change.

6 Key Components to Accomplish Successful Change

Strong Business Case for Change

Before stakeholders will accept the idea of change, they must understand the what, the why, and the how. To make a strong business case, a change management plan should answer several key questions:

  • What is the change and why is it being made?
  • What are the goals of the change?
  • What are the anticipated areas of impact?
  • What is the cost of not changing?

The business case should also state the benefits of the proposed change and how they will be quantified. These benefits can be expressed as SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely), and need to be explained in terms others will appreciate. For some stakeholders, that could mean showing potential for increased productivity or cost savings. Others may need to understand how a new system or process is better than an older one.


Stakeholder and Change Impact Analysis

Anyone who has a vested or material interest in the change should be considered a stakeholder. Before you develop your change management plan, identify everyone who will be impacted by the change and understand how they will influence the change journey:

Core Stakeholders – This group includes anyone who is impacted or who has critical dependencies related to the change, such as leadership, management, and end users.

Extended Stakeholders – Extended stakeholders are those who should be informed about the change, even if not directly impacted. The change management plan should include strategies to build awareness in this group and could include employees within the company, but not those directly affected by the change.

External Stakeholders – This includes any customers, partners, vendors, suppliers, or other groups who may be impacted by the change.

Knowing who your stakeholders are early in the process will allow you to ensure that their influence, interest, and attitudes relative to the change are positive.

Once you identify stakeholders, you can help them understand what the impacts of the change will be and how they will be affected (What’s In It For Me?). Determine engagement preferences and opportunities to ensure that each group receives adequate communication and interaction.


Communication Strategy

According to Prosci, the number one reason employees resist change is a lack of awareness of why it is needed. Another impactful reason for resistance is fear of the unknown. To address these issues, your change management plan should build out a comprehensive communication strategy that outlines the specific pieces of information that need to be communicated, as well as the vehicles and channels to be used.

Your communication strategy should address the following elements:

The Why: Develop clear, consistent communication to ensure that those impacted have a shared understanding of why the change is being made and how people will be impacted. This information builds a critical foundation for buy-in and sustained awareness.

The What: Outline your communication plan to identify key messages, needs, and the most appropriate and effective communication vehicle(s) to use depending on the organization. These may include email, Teams posts, Slack, SharePoint pages, an internal portal, newsletter, videos, events, or other channels.

The How: Your strategy should also identify how you will communicate most effectively to each segment of your audience, including communication formats and preferences.


Training Needs and Scope

Training is not limited to learning a new skill or process. It also involves a strategic shift in mindset and attitude away from the current way of doing things towards future methods and processes. This could include anything from system and process changes, to corporate rebranding efforts and organizational structure changes, to marketing shifts. Understanding the scope of training needs will inform your decisions around training logistics.

Here’s how you can determine the scope of training required:

Capture training needs and requirements – Spend time talking with stakeholders and leaders to understand where the team is currently and where the knowledge and skills gaps are.

Identify training needs and impacted resources – Determine the goals, approach, tools, methods, timing, sync v async, the content of training, and impacted resources.

Consider role-specific training – Use your change impact analysis to pinpoint role-specific training needs across the organization.

Consider various learning styles and accessibility needs – Include training strategies that support a variety of learning styles, including hybrid training and fully remote environments. In addition, be sure training meets the accessibility needs of every team member.


Risk Mitigation and Resistance Management

With any change management plan, there will be risks that may hinder the acceptance and adoption of change. By identifying these potential pitfalls early, and taking the steps to manage and mitigate risks, you’ll be ahead of the game when it comes to managing and diffusing resistance.

Look for areas of vulnerability that, when not managed properly, could negatively impact the quality of the solution, the employees of the organization, and even their ability to accept and adopt the change. Risks and their appropriate mitigation tactics will vary from program to program, but here are two things to look for:

Change fatigue: Before you engage in change, know what other change initiatives are going on and how stakeholders and resources may be impacted by them.

Unintended consequences: Try to anticipate what the unintended consequences of your change might be for other systems, departments, and user groups. These could be either positive or negative.

Risk identification and mitigation will be a continuous process throughout the life of the change journey, so take time to document lessons learned to ensure ongoing success.


Crafting Your Change Management Plan

Change management is not a one-size fits all endeavor. Effective change requires a lot of preparation and planning to create an appropriate plan that meets the needs of the company as well as the users who are impacted.

Ultimately, a change management plan should help businesses navigate and embrace change as they move toward a desired future state. In the process, the plan should avoid uncertainty, identify and mitigate unintended consequences, and adequately respond to potential challenges while maintaining productivity and positive employee engagement.


Take The Next Step with AXIA

Need support designing and implementing a change management plan that accomplishes these goals? AXIA can help!

Our Prosci-certified consultants have decades of combined experience in managing change initiatives and leading teams. We show you how to align your change management plan with the unique needs of your people and your organization for maximum ROI and comprehensive buy-in.

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