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As a manager, you know that change is inevitable – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Your team may not want change or be prepared to change. Technically, employees and teams are not resistant to change itself – they’re resistant to the unknown that is part of change.

What is Change Management?

First, let’s start with the basics. What is change management? Change management is the process of leading a team through an organizational transition. This requires you to eliminate uncertainty, inspire a new vision, and optimize team performance. Sounds simple enough, right? Not exactly.

Change management is a complex process that requires careful planning and execution. There are many parts to Change Management, but for simplicity, I will divide it into four main stages: 1) Planning for Change, 2) Implementing Change, 3) Managing the Change, and 4) Maintaining the Change.

And, to help keep you focused, I’ve got five tips for leading your team through the process:

  1. Define the change and its purpose.
  2. Create a detailed plan.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  4. Be patient and understand that change takes time.
  5. Encourage and support your team along the way.

Planning Change: Get Your Action Plan in Place.

The pre-change stage is all about preparation. This is when you’ll do things like assess the current state of your team, set goals for the transition, and develop a plan for how to achieve those goals.

This is where my first tip comes in, “Define the change and its purpose.” It’s important that you’re clear about what you’re trying to accomplish with the change. What are your goals? Why is this change necessary?

Once you have a good understanding of the “why” behind the change, you can start to develop a plan for how to make it happen. Creating a detailed plan is my second tip. This plan should include things like a timeline, milestones, and specific tasks that need to be completed. Having a plan will help you stay organized and on track as you lead your team through the unknown.

Implementing Change: Time to Make the Switch.

The change stage is when you’ll actually implement the plan you’ve been building. This is often when resistance among your team arises, so it’s important to be as clear and concise as possible when communicating the moving parts (changes in process, priority, or procedure) to your team. You should also provide regular updates and opportunities for feedback during this stage.

chart depicting 5 key questions being answered in effective change communication. 1) why is there a business need? 2) What is the business case for change? 3) What is the vision for change? 4) What is the risk of not changing? 5) When or what is the timeline?
Source Thinkers 360

You can already see why “communicate, communicate, communicate” is one of my tips for successful Change Management. Uncertainty grows in darkness, and people hate uncertainty – so they think they hate change. Your job, as an effective manager, is to bring light to the darkness and eliminate the uncertainty. The more you communicate with your team, the more comfortable they will feel about the changes happening.

Managing Change: What’s Happening!?

The “managing change” stage is when you’ll evaluate the results of your plan and make any necessary adjustments. This is also when you’ll start to establish new norms and routines for your team. It’s at this point where my tip about being patient, and understanding that change takes time, is important.

Remember, change is a process, not an event. Encouraging and supporting your team during the volatility of the change process is also crucial. Things may not have gone exactly as planned, and there may be some bumps along the way. It’s important to give your team the space to adjust to the new reality and to provide tactical, emotional, and managerial support when needed – this can be a stressful time.

Maintaining Momentum: Rinse & Repeat as Needed.

The maintenance stage is when you’ll keep an eye on the changes you’ve made and make sure they’re sticking. Most importantly, you’ll address any lingering issues or challenges that have arisen. This is a great time to remember my final tip – encourage and support your team along the way.

Because change is continuous, the maintenance stage is all about sustaining the momentum you’ve built over time – reinforcing the new norms, systems, processes, and culture. To do this, you’ll need to continue to communicate effectively, provide adequate resources, and monitor progress regularly. This is not a time to “set it and forget it.”

Great managers always look for ways to help their team maintain momentum, improve, and grow.

You are Always Managing Change.

Organizations are ALWAYS changing, so change management is a vital part of any successful leadership. Don’t let the complexity of the transformation discourage you. By understanding the four main stages of change management – 1) Planning for Change, 2) Implementing Change, 3) Managing the Change, and 4) Maintaining the Change – and following my five tips, you can increase your chances of success and make any transition smoother for your team.