Navigating change management and digital transformation for modern teams

by | May 20, 2021

Managing change is paramount to the success of any transformation within an organization. Regardless of the level of change, we as humans often struggle to embrace change, and sometimes despite our best efforts, the people we’re trying to lead remain opposed to new ways of doing things. In a business environment, change management and digital transformation aren’t any easier and there are even more things at stake.

Transformations can become disastrous if leaders don’t embrace a change plan.

Effective change management drives a commitment across the organization to ignite true partnership and shared conviction of executives, leadership, and end users for the success of the implementation. A change management plan is necessary to aid in discovering individual concerns, establishing commitment and building awareness, effectually managing conversations to drive adoption, and in the long-term, recognizing and realizing the benefits of the transformation.

What is change management?

We’ll dig into this more as we move on, but first let’s consider an analogy:

Imagine you’re a student joining a class for the first time. After entering the room, you find a seat that will likely remain your seat for the entire duration of the term. If someone were to sit there, it would spark a feeling of uneasiness and disruption to your routine. Why? Because no one prepared you for this change and now you need to navigate the adjustment with no guidance or support. Just when you thought you were getting yourself situated with the change of a the new class, your routine was once again disrupted with the change of a new seat.

As simple as it may sound, this is change management – and it affects people in different ways! Now apply that analogy to the professional world.

A business transformation, no matter the size, needs and deserves the same preparation and thought as all of the key decisions that it took to get there. Regardless of the positive gains on the other side, it will likely introduce a wide variety of emotions and feelings from all parties.

Change management ensures that a transformation is managed not just from a technical perspective, but also focuses on the people. Without employees feeling empowered, informed, trained, and committed, a transformation is going to lose steam and ultimately cause damage to the business.

Approaching digital transformation with change in mind

An effective change management strategy does the following:

  • Builds and maintains momentum
  • Engages stakeholders
  • Trains and develops people
  • Ensures business readiness and stabilization

As Harvard Business Review contributors Tabrizi, Lam, Girard, and Irvin suggest, digital transformation is not about technology. It’s about shifting a mindset and acting on those changes.

As a result, before embarking on a transformation, it’s important to establish a case for change, the overall change management strategy, and the right level of analysis of stakeholders and change impacts.

During this time, it’s also advantageous to carry out an effective change risk diagnostic exercise to ensure that as an executive, you are aware of the potential risks and can plan ahead to mitigate those risks.

Developing a strategy for engagement

An integral part of the change management strategy starts with communications.

Strategic and effective communications help move people into action by getting the right message to the right people at the right time.

Key objectives to engage stakeholders include:

  • define the communication principles that will drive all communication initiatives
  • identify the audiences impacted, determine the appropriate communication channels
  • outline key messages and plans
  • establish the communication approval process.

One critical factor here needs to be remaining focused on the audience you’re talking to.

In the same way we should be segmenting our communications to external audiences in marketing our products and services, in a sense here you’re “marketing a new idea/initiative” to your internal audiences. As a result, the message should be highly tailored and specific to each group of individuals

For example, the messaging for a technical team should be different than the messaging for an executive team and different than the messaging for the broader organization.

Equipping the project team with the right level of guidance upfront will empower clear and effective communications throughout the entire program and, furthermore, drive the long-term adoption of the change.

Determining the message

During each stage of a transformation, consistent messaging is key to clarify the intent, inspire involvement and drive enablement. There are many questions that might arise among your employee base and should be addressed throughout each phase of the implementation.

Phase 1: Design and build

  • What is the vision of this transformation?
  • What is leadership’s commitment?
  • How will I be involved and when?
  • Why are we doing this transformation?
  • How will I be impacted and when?
  • How can I voice my opinion?

Phase 2: Testing and training

  • What have we achieved to date?
  • How will my job change?
  • What new responsibilities will I have?
  • How will end-users have input?
  • How will I learn new skills?
  • What are the training plans?

Phase 3: Deployment and support

  • What will happen to my job?
  • What do I need to do to prepare?
  • How will I be evaluated?
  • Who do I contact for support?
  • What’s next?

Training and developing your change agents

A business transformation that changes roles, processes, or ways of working needs to have a well thought out training strategy and plan.

This strategy will look to outline the curriculum that’s needed, any required material development, the training delivery schedule and plan for employee evaluation.

Think job aids, tutorial videos and FAQs – tools which can be shared across the organization and serve as a reference point for how to embrace the change and answer questions the end-user might have. Often times, key program team members that become subject matter experts in their areas of work, known as change agents, will run the training sessions, but this does not happen effectively without the right level of planning – and that starts with the strategy.

Equipping the change agents with the right level of detail, involvement in the feedback loop and highlighting the value of well documented information, will prove to bring a steady level of awareness and continue to empower the change to grow organically.

Ensuring business readiness and stabilization

Finally, a change management and digital transformation strategy will drive business readiness and stabilization after implementation. Reaching the right level of readiness and stabilization does not happen without the right sequence of change management activities.

Prior to launch, all prior change activities enabled the full program team to be inspired to be a part of the transformation, declare their commitment and understand how they can contribute to its success on behalf of the rollout.

While most roles in a transformation are assigned based on function and skillset, the best change agents are the ones who believe in the goal and use their voice to drive adoption – ask for volunteers to become ambassadors of the change.

Assessing business readiness and ensuring a smooth transition following the rollout of the transformation helps to solidify the following:

  • Executives, key stakeholders and change agents are enrolled and committed to driving change to achieve a successful launch.
  • Employees feel highly satisfied with the ease of the transition and level of support received as they adopt the new solution.
  • Employees fully own the success, support and ongoing improvement of the transformation.
  • A smooth transition into the processes and new ways of working so that the “change” quickly becomes a thing of the past.
  • Future change isn’t a shock and will be embraced based on the success of the past.

Mitigating risks and roadblocks

When businesses begin a transformation without a plan, it typically involves chasing the buy-in of key stakeholders and employees, results in large gaps in communication and an overall unprepared organization that has failed to identify and mitigate the key risks associated with the change.

Executives should consider these factors prior to embarking on a journey that is going to potentially end in an investment that could have been better maximized and more thoughtfully managed from beginning to end. This “chasing” can, instead, turn into enablement, engagement and, ultimately, commitment with the right change management strategy in place.

Effectively navigate change management and digital transformation

Mod Op Strategic Consulting Advisors can help to identify the needs of your transformation from a change perspective and assist in shaping the strategy that you need to drive success. A business transformation is an evolution of your organization and with the right level of planning, analysis and strategy, Mod Op Strategic Consulting is the right partner to help drive your business forward.

Contact us today to discuss your change management and business transformation needs and see how we can help.

Alex Kroytor

Author Spotlight

Mod Op Strategic Consulting


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