Change management is all about making sure the change you want to make happen in your process or your organisation happens successfully. With successfully I mean that the change is not forced down people’s throats but guided in a humane way and where it sticks for the long-term.

Last week I wrote a blog on the most common steps to successful change management (thanks to John Kotter). This week I will take a look at the most commonly used tools in change management.

Changing the world

1. The Case for Change

One way to create that required sense of urgency in your organization (step 1 in Kotter’s 8 step approach) is to create a powerful Case for Change. This is simply a narrative that explains the required changes and is meant to provide a basic level of awareness in the organization. It sounds simple but is in fact pretty hard to build and communicate in a way that fits your stakeholders.

Sometimes the Case for Change is simply a memo that can be sent out by e-mail, other times you’ll need an extensive Powerpoint to ensure your message comes across. Either way, there are a few elements that should be included (with a little help from Emergent Consultants):

  • Why are these changes needed now and what are the reasons for it?
  • What is going to be the scope for the change? In other words, what is, and what is not going to change?
  • What are the steps to implement the change and who are involved?
  • What are the benefits? Varying from the hard-core business case numbers as well as the increase in quality, customer satisfaction or internal structure if that is the case.
  • What if we don’t do this right now? Clarifying this will help people understand the risk involved for not doing this.
  • What do you expect from the impacted people? What are their roles and what type of behavior is needed from them? Also, let people know in what way they will be involved in the coming future.
  • It needs to be really clear that all managers are committed to this change and to making this change successful. You want to build trust and set an example for everyone.

There is a really simple but handy Case for Change management wizard on!

2. Readiness Assessment

This assessment asks for the opinion/viewpoint of your stakeholders and is there to either reassure or worry you on the state of readiness in the organization. Either way, it’s good to become more aware of that what is going on because you can then act on it properly. You can do the assessment beforehand but also use it gauge the progress in change readiness over time. Practically, this assessment is nothing more than a set of questions asked to relevant people.

There is some really good information on the Strategies for Managing Change website plus you can find 6 templates for readiness assessments.

There are lots of tools out there to do quick and easy assessments but I like using SurveyMonkey as it is free and easy to use.

Take really good care when formulating your assessment though! Often questions or series of questions can be really ‘leading’ which make the results biased. Make sure to check and double-check your assessment on being unbiased and as neutral as possible; you don’t want to create extra resistance!

3. Stakeholder analysis

Super important! First of all, stakeholders are those people who are somehow impacted by your change project. These could be the people in the department, managers from other departments, customers, suppliers etc. There are a few steps to doing your stakeholder analysis:

Stakeholder management

  • First you will need to figure out who these people are and in what way they need to be supporting your project. So place them on a scale of where you want them to be ranging from ‘ambassador’ to ‘neutral’.
  • Then, you will want to figure out where they actually are on this scale. Very likely quite a few of them are not in that same place!
  • As soon as you know this you can create a plan to ‘move’ them in the right direction, i.e. managing the resistance. This can consist of a whole lot of actions varying from general communication to taking them out to a fancy dinner. It really all depends on the person, the situation and the possibilities and is a huge part of managing your project and very likely the most difficult thing to do.
  • Finally you will want to continuously gauge and manage your stakeholders’ position on the scale.

This is a really tricky topic especially when you’re busy with the practical side of the project, don’t know the people or organization that well or when you simply don’t have that much experience in this area. Try to get some help on this! Get a consultant in or someone from HR or perhaps an empathic and trusted manager or employee.

Again check out for some handy tools and pointers.

4. The Communication Plan

Communicating is an art! It’s pretty easy to speak or write words and sentences but that says nothing about it being effective. Communication has 2 parties, namely the sender and the receiver. The sender wants to be sure that the receiver not only gets the message but also understands it and agrees with it. This means that the sender should put some real effort in the creation of the communication.

Building a communication plan helps you with finding the right words to put your message across to the right audience and using the right mediums.

I’ve found a great article on that delves deeper into the communications plan but here are the basic steps:

Communication plan

  • Understanding the objective for the communication; what do you want to achieve, when and why?
  • Who is your audience? There could be different groups of audiences and be sure to use your stakeholder analysis for this.
  • Define per audience group what the communication objective(s) is (are). Think about what these people need from you and what you need from them.
  • Define the channels you’re going to use. This could vary from Tweets, intranet messages, mugs and mousemats, big company events, one-on-one meetings etc.
  • Define the entire list and keep in mind that it’s easier to use existing and well-known channels than to invent new ones.
  • Now start creating the required messages for your audiences. Think about your objective and your audiences, think about what channels work best for what types of audiences and connect the dots from there. Remember that sending out 1 message is usually not enough so instead make a roadmap for communication in which you consistently put your message across.
  • Monitor the effectiveness of the communication constantly (with for example a new readiness assessment) and adapt your communications plan and roadmap accordingly.

5. Celebrating Success

Not so much a tool but definitely a must-do! Getting some awesome results and/or putting in tremendous energy and effort to get something done needs to be celebrated. People need to be thanked and congratulated; change is hard on people and for them to sticking and working in a changing environment is a big feat and needs to be acknowledged.

The trick to a successful celebration though is to do it at the right time and in the right way. This asks for all your tools and skills as a change manager as celebrating too big when there is still resistance will lead to only more resistance. Spending lots of money on a big party and a celebrity speaker is also not a good idea when you’ve just let down people to save on costs. You get the idea!

Of course there are many many more tools to change management but these 5 are the ones that are always on my to do list whenever I manage a project. Keep remembering though that people and organisations will not change by simply using the right tools, it’s all about the thought and empathy you put into it that’s going to make difference!

I’d love to hear from you

Are you in the field of Change Management? What tools do you love? What have you seen go horribly wrong? Share your experiences in the comments below!