8 steps for effective change management

by Katy Beloof

Change is a constant in any organization looking to stay profitable and competitive today. Managing that change poses a constant challenge for companies of any size. 


A team has a stand up meeting in front of a whiteboard.

Whether you’re looking to implement new technology, update business processes, improve customer service, or undertake a digital transformation, a consistent change management process can help facilitate change and make the transition easier for your organization. 

Here are eight steps to take to make your next change initiative more successful:

1. Identify what will change

The first step to successful change management is to clearly define the desired outcome of the change. Identify the specific change that’s coming and clarify goals around the outcomes of that change. Defining why a change is necessary and what you’re looking to improve can help you create a solid foundation for a successful implementation. 


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2. Present a solid business case to gain buy-in

Buy-in at the executive level is critical for pushing through any successful change, whether you need support financing the endeavor, are looking for champions of the process, or are working directly with those charged with facilitating change. For any significant change in your organization, take the time to define your stakeholders, build your business case, and get buy-in on your plan around what needs to change and how it will improve your organization.  

3. Create a roadmap 


A female office worker points at papers on a table.

Once you’ve established buy-in with your stakeholders, articulate your plan for change by creating a roadmap. This is your documented strategy for implementing change and should identify where you’re starting from, the steps you will take to arrive at your destination, and how you’ll know you’ve been successful in facilitating change. 

As part of your roadmap, identify the scope and objective of the project, the resources and individuals required to execute your plan, and the budget needed for a successful rollout. Then outline a process with clear steps and measurable targets, well-defined incentives, and information on how you plan to measure progress and analyze success. 

Use a work management platform to build out your roadmap, so you can easily share your plan and enlist others in key steps of your change management plan. Think about what parts of the plan can be delegated or shared with others in your organization to make the transition as smooth as possible.

4. Gather data for evaluation


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As you begin to implement your change management plan, consider the benefits of gathering and analyzing data to measure and monitor your progress. Some changes will be easier to measure than others, but clear reports on progress can facilitate better communication, the appropriate distribution of incentives, and measures of success.


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5. Communicate


A businesswoman speaks to her colleagues at a table.

Open communication is the golden thread that runs through the entire exercise of change management. A good change management plan depends on solid communication that doesn’t just to broadcast your plans for change, but seeks to understand the needs to be addressed as your organization undergoes the change. 

Providing clear and open lines of communication over the entire course of the transition, for people to voice concerns, vent frustrations, share what is working, and make suggestions about what isn’t working so well, can do a lot to smooth the transition.


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6. Monitor and manage risk

One of the major risks to change management is resistance to change. Often resistance occurs due to a fear of the unknown. People may also resist change because of the risks associated with a new process or product.

Resistance is a normal reaction to change, but it can threaten the success of a project if not dealt with directly. Anticipating and preparing for resistance by arming leadership with the training and tools they need to address the concerns of reluctant participants, keep the lines of communication open, and be as transparent as possible, can mitigate this risk and aid in a smooth transition. 

7. Celebrate success


Office workers high-five each other.

Take time to recognize and celebrate the successes of teams and individuals involved in driving change at each key milestone. Not only does celebrating milestones encourage and motivate those undertaking the change, it also helps them associate the changes with positive feelings. Acknowledging successes along the way can also help drive adoption of your change management process, as well as of the change itself.

8. Continuously review and improve your process

Managing change is an ongoing process. In addition to having a plan in place to address changes within your organization, creating a feedback loop where you can continue to review and improve the steps you’re taking toward change can help you identify challenges, remove obstacles, and adjust your roadmap as needed.  

Change doesn’t happen in a vacuum

Even when we expect and plan for change, roadblocks and setbacks can arise, making it difficult to move forward with a new endeavor. But having a plan that involves people early on, defines the process and outcomes of implementing change, and allows for flexibility as needed, is a powerful tool to give you the framework you need to help to ensure success for your change initiative. 

For an easy-to-grasp visual timeline for you and your team, build out your change management plan in Smartsheet. Set milestones, manage dependencies, track progress, and store any files and information related to the change, all in one sheet. You can download a basic project template with Gantt chart and built-in dependencies here