How you implement change in the workplace can be a very challenging task. Rest assured that if you go about change in the wrong way, then it will be felt by the people that are impacted by the changes you make. The best way to manage change is for it to be as transparent as possible. While this isn’t always an option, you should still strive to keep the impact as minimal as possible. So what does this mean? Well, just because you should minimize the impact of change doesn’t mean that you can’t make big change happen. For instance, you can change an entire operation and if managed correctly it could be less of an impact than a minor departmental role change.

While I have managed change in my role since I began my career, each one I make is always different from the other, even if the physical portion is the same. I say this because you have to account for so many things when you are wanting to implement change, and you should never take anything for granted. Below is a list of 8 areas that I take in to account when evaluating how to implement the change.

Increase Your Success When You Implement Change

1. Current Environment

Having an understanding of the environment you will implement change in is a large thing to consider, and one that I often start with in my initiatives. The environment shouldn’t be limited to just the physical aspect, but also the climate. The environment in which you are making your change in will dictate your approach and strategy, and should not be taken for a cookie cutter approach. For example, let’s say you implemented change in department ‘x’ before with a different company. The change you need to implement is an exact replica of what you are working on with a new company. Just because it is the same physical function you are changing doesn’t mean you will yield the same results, and this is due to the environment.

The environment consists of several elements, which are actually broken down in the other sections I have in this article. I broke this section out as its own, and start off with it, because you should be considering your environment throughout the course of your initiative. Do your fact finding up front, just like any other project and determine the environment, but if this changes or alters along the way, take strong consideration in to the impact that it might have on it. Change is a very delicate subject and while you need to strive to meet committed dates, but if things aren’t in sync with the environment, pull back and reset the expectations.

2. Anticipated Resistance

This one is always a tricky area because it is mostly subjective to what you think it may be. Ok, so I know that sounds somewhat of a loop, but this area can be boiled down to a “gut” decision. You need to look at things such as how receptive are people to change. Do they like it? Do they hate it? Do they not care? Questions like this are just some of the places to start, and should be further refined based on the environment you are in.

People typically don’t like change, it is just the way things are. People get comfortable, and with this it builds up a sense of security to them as they know what to expect. If you go in to alter this from them, be prepared to run in to some resistance because you are removing that security blanket from them. They suddenly find themselves in an unknown state of what “could be” and it can get frightening to some. Take these things in to consideration during your implementation and make effort to not only show them the future state, but include them in it. If your initiative allows it, include the ones being impacted by change to have a voice in the process. From my experience, this will go a long way.

Unfortunately, you can’t always include them due to sensitivity of the initiative, and in this case act the role out yourself. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it is they will be going through, and be realistic. I manage change on a regular basis, and while I am comfortable with change, I recognize this is not the norm and take on the role of how a typical person resistant to change will react and embrace. The more realistic you are to yourself, the more successful your change will be.

3. Historical Methods & Outcomes

If you have any historical information on how change has been implemented in the environment, take the time to study it and what the outcome was. Now, I’ve been in the real world and while I know you should always have post implementation notes and archives of projects, but this isn’t always the case. If you find yourself not having any archival information, take the time to talk to some of the people either directly impacted or knowledgeable of the impact and get their feedback.

This can be a huge part of knowing what to expect when you are going in to a change initiative. Looking at things such as what the approach was, how it was applied, and what the results were are great things to take in to account. My only caution with this, and some would argue, is while this is great information to have you should take it with a grain of salt. Remember, no environment is the same, and just because ‘X’ actions yielded ‘Y’ results doesn’t mean that it will happen again. Granted, it could, but don’t take it at face value.

4. Communication Plans

Just like any project you may manage, a communication plan is something that you should put a lot of thought in to. And while I won’t go in to what PMBOK describes as a communication plan (which you should follow), the main thing to remember is just having one. Sure, you will yield different results based on how well you communicate, but not communicating at all will most certainly guarantee your failure in the implementation of your change.

So keeping this short, consider your audience for your communication plan. At a minimum, look at who your stakeholders are, direct impacts, and indirect impacts. In addition, look at your communication plan for both the design of your change, and the implementation. Determine an approach that both keeps people updated along the way, from soup to nuts. A good communication plan can reduce or even eliminate many of the struggles you will face, so why not do yourself a favor and set yourself up for success (or at least better your odds) at successfully implement your change.

5. Timing & Sequence

This is one are where I have seen many talented people fail when they try to implement change. It could be the best plan have ever put together and you accounted for everything, but some times the timing just isn’t right. If the timing is wrong, you will know it because the project will fail. Even the best strategy and implementation plan will crumble if the timing for it is just off. Sure, you might get the change put in to place, but the results are what really matters, so keep that in mind.

6. Expected Benefits

Look at what the benefits of the change will be, and take the time to weigh these out both collectively and individually. You should first give an individual review with yourself on what the benefits will be as a result of implementing the change. These should make sense in some fashion, and remember, you don’t have to agree with the benefit but you sure as heck better align to it.

Next up, get a collective decision on the benefit of the change. Just because you think the change is going to be a great idea doesn’t mean that it actually is. Be realistic to yourself and don’t go hand-picking who this audience will be for your collective review, this will only hurt you in the long run. The results will yield themselves no matter what, so if you cheat yourself to a tailored collective review just remember this will hurt in the long run.

7. Trust From Employees

Gaining trust for those that are impacted in the change is very tricky, and ultimately they may never trust you but you have to at least give it the effort to attempt. Having the trust in your employees or those that will be impacted by the change can go a long way, and honestly, they can make or break the success of your project. I say this from experience as I have been on several initiatives where those impacted have simply resisted just because they could. Yea, it may sound crazy and immature, but in some weird way I believe they know in some fashion that they ultimately control the success or failure of your change.

So in order to counteract this, I personally find ways to include those impacted along that way (refer back to my communication section). In addition to this though, I try to get creative as possible and find ways to make them think the change is something they decided on their own. You could already have a plan defined to an extent, but having a meeting and stating “Things are changing and this is how.” is MUCH different than “We are looking to improve and wanted your ideas on how?”. With enough practice and clever steering, you can actually get them to come up with your plan by themselves (or maybe one even better) and have it be “from them”.

8. Implementation Strategy

The strategy in which you plan to implement your change can be another one of those key areas that will greatly swing the way your project unfolds. In other words, it can make it successful or make it a complete train wreck. The strategy should be carefully decided and planned so that you have a solid approach to implement the change.

I’d strongly consider using a project manager for larger initiatives if you have one available, simply because a large change initiative can be a project within itself. If you don’t have a project manager (or don’t need one) ensure that you have clearly defined your deliverables, established milestones, realistic timelines, and a clear communication plan. Take your time and put together a (project) plan in some fashion, even if it is just a check list, and make sure you have accounted for things. Of course, you should strongly consider including these 8 things I’ve talked about in this article to your implementation strategy as well.

There You Have It!

Hopefully these areas I’ve discussed will help you along your way when it comes to implementing change. I hope that you can use these in your practice, and if there is something that you that you would like me to add please let me know in the comments below. Also, if you have been part of change feel free to give me your feedback below. Cheers!