Business Basics
How to develop a change management strategy for your business

How to develop a change management strategy for your business

illustrated button and cursor with the words business basicsHeader imageHeader imageHeader imageHeader image

Does your organization have a change management strategy? If not, it may be time to think about adapting to shifting conditions and embracing a successful change process. Here are some of the best practices for leading, implementing, and maintaining transformational change in your business.

What is a change management strategy?

A change management strategy is a structured, systematic approach to handling changes in your business or organization. These changes may relate to your corporate goals, processes, or resource access.

A successful change management strategy will help you overcome resistance to change and align your company's culture to changing economic or world conditions. A change management strategy can provide key stakeholders with a decision-making process that identifies the need for change and then approves, executes, and monitors the proposed changes to ensure long-term success.

Why change management strategies are essential

Change is constant — and inevitable. During the 2020 pandemic, many businesses had to adapt to conditions they could never have predicted. 

According to Census data, nearly half (45%) of businesses with employees saw changes in how they handled payroll. Meanwhile, 39% of companies saw a reduction in headcount. Organizational change management strategies became essential to adjust to "the new normal."

Companies must also learn to adapt to changing market conditions. 

You must embrace change to avoid being left behind. Consider the cautionary tale of Blockbuster Video. As one tech journalist put it, "Blockbuster was too slow to adapt to the shifting customer needs and preferences. They got comfortable with their business model and ignored new technologies changing the entertainment industry." By focusing on the status quo, it's possible to lose sight of industry trends or changes in your core market.

It's not just your customers who may be changing. Your team members may be eager for a change to your business processes. Managing change throughout your business can positively impact your company's culture. An effective change management strategy can improve your workplace by:

  • Reducing potential resistance to change
  • Improving understanding of a proposed change
  • Encouraging participation in the change process

Listening to your employees throughout the process creates an environment where your team members feel heard and valued.

Key components of a change management strategy

While every organization faces different types of change, a change management process typically consists of a basic set of components. Attention to these key elements can help you manage change more effectively and help your organization adjust.

A strategic plan

First, it's essential to define your goals clearly. Why are you pursuing this change initiative? Are you reacting to an external source of pressure, like the supply chain crisis, or are you seeking organizational changes to adapt to changing market or industry conditions?

Defining these goals will help you create an outline of your change management initiatives and how they'll lead to the desired outcome. Later, you can use this list to measure the success of your change management process by determining if you achieved these goals. You can also develop this into a change management strategy template, allowing you to use your plan for future projects and improvements.

A commitment to transparency

Implement strategies for change management in full view of your organization, not just discussed among your senior management team. Otherwise, you could face the threat of rumors that undermine the success of your change initiative.

Instead, communicate the need for change early. Since the process is ongoing, you don't need to provide your team members with all the details. But offer as many details as possible so that everyone has time to adjust.

A communication strategy

Transparency likewise demands that you keep the lines of communication open. Effective communication will ensure that your workforce understands the need to implement change in your workplace, and it can also ensure a smooth transition once your plan is ready for execution.

Being honest about potential challenges that may come with your change efforts is essential. Avoid overly optimistic language—otherwise, your workers could find the new changes jarring. Instead, clearly communicate the timeline for the shift, possible hurdles, and what your organization hopes to gain from these change initiatives.

A call for involvement

Your communication plan can also include an invitation for greater employee involvement. Depending on the size of your organization, you may want to invite key team members to evaluate elements of your plan and provide feedback.

Listen to your employees. They may identify potential concerns that could impact your project scope. The more you can involve your team in your change strategy, the more you can work to minimize resistance and embrace a culture of resilience.

3 types of change management strategies

There are three main types of change management strategies. The type of change management methodology you employ depends on your organization's goals and your readiness to adopt a new strategy. The method you choose will majorly impact your company's mission and culture.

1. Developmental change

The developmental change management strategy involves incremental changes to your existing processes, goods, and services. The goal is to make manageable organizational changes and pursue continuous improvement of what's already there.

Examples of this change management strategy can include:

  • Digital transformation initiatives, such as new software
  • Training programs that upskill your workforce
  • Marketing strategies that improve sales

A developmental approach allows you to introduce change without encountering much resistance, though your change process will proceed much more slowly than other change initiatives.

2. Transitional change

A transitional change management strategy involves moving from one set of business processes to another. This tends to be a bit more complex than a developmental process, and it can involve the following:

  • Moving to a new geographic location
  • Introducing a new product line or business service
  • Using new technology to alter business processes or systems

This systematic approach allows organizations to implement the change more comprehensively than a developmental approach alone. This also means you may need to provide training to assist with the technology used in the change implementation process.

3. Transformational change

The most comprehensive form of change is transformational change. This type of change management strategy involves a complete overhaul of your core business processes and your business model, goals, and strategy. With this approach, you'll change almost everything about your business.

Transformational change management strategy examples can include:

  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Introducing a new business model or corporate strategy
  • Embracing new key performance indicators (KPIs)

This type of change is also the most invasive, and it'll completely alter your company culture. Workers may have concerns regarding their job security, and you may need to provide additional training or even emotional support as your organization executes your change management strategy.

How to implement effective change management strategies

The most effective change management strategies require careful planning. The following ideas can help you initiate short- and long-term change.

Embrace change with your management team

Change starts at the top. You and your senior management team should be the first to agree on a change management strategy. That means ensuring that all of your leaders are on the same page regarding the scope of your change initiative. Business leaders will then play a critical role in aligning their supervising staff to execute change successfully.

Create a clear plan for the entire process

An effective change management strategy demands thorough planning. This involves setting a clear goal for the change process and a timeline for when and how you roll out your change management strategy. The more you can think through the stages of this process, the more likely you'll see organizational change take root.

Identify stakeholders

Even if you create a change management team at the managerial level, the actual changes will be in the hands of your team members. Make sure to communicate what a coming change involves and invite feedback.

For instance, your customer service team members may have insight into certain aspects of your sales process, and they can offer suggestions that lead to a successful change. Identifying stakeholders such as customer service reps, project management leaders, or production technicians will help you develop a successful change management strategy that accounts for all variables.

Communicate effectively

Create a communication plan. Include your goals, business objectives, and supporting market data. But remember to consider the human side of the equation. Consider how a significant or rapid change might make your team members feel. Acknowledging potential anxiety may help your workers be open to new developments and less likely to resist change.

The same applies to stakeholders outside your company. If you need help communicating change initiatives to your customers, business partners, or other stakeholders, consider inviting your marketing team to give you language to support your change management strategy.

Focus on specific behaviors and processes

While some business goals may be company-wide, others may focus more narrowly on the behavior of individual employees. Effective change management might involve adjustments that improve worker productivity or the quality of your services.

For instance, if your team members have been delivering less-than-stellar customer service, it's time to offer new training to improve customer satisfaction. Or you could provide your workers with new technology that boosts their productivity and allows them to focus on their most essential processes rather than multitasking.

Mobilize your brand ambassadors

Never underestimate the power of brand ambassadors. These individuals influence others about your company's products, services, or reputation. Brand ambassadors can include your own team members but may also include loyal customers or volunteers.

How you use these ambassadors can vary. Consider using them in your social media marketing, providing testimonials and a literal face to your company and the changes on the road ahead. These ambassadors can also squash rumors, misinformation, and other short-term adverse outcomes of your change management strategy.

Use mentors to encourage new changes

Finding ways to incentivize change within an organization is difficult, but one way to improve specific skill sets is to assign mentors to work alongside staff members. For example, if your customer service team is struggling, you might assign a mentor to guide junior staff members and improve these processes.

Senior-level staff can make good mentors—but be mindful of time commitments. Where possible, consider automation that allows your team members to focus on the most crucial business tasks and offers time for training and improvement.

Continually review your change management strategy

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, business leaders must continually evaluate their change management strategy. If you've planned well, this step will be easy. What were your original goals? Were you able to achieve them? What additional hurdles did you encounter during the process?

Don't be afraid to change your change process. As time passes, you may discover ways to improve your original vision—or jettison ideas that simply aren't achieving your goals.

Embrace change with BILL

One of the most important changes you can make in your company is business automation. The right tools can empower your business to perform more efficiently and nurture strong relationships with customers and suppliers.

BILL offers an accounts payable (AP) solution that streamlines your administrative tasks so you can focus on your business. These tools can be part of a successful change management strategy. By optimizing these tools, you'll get more from your workers and your business. 

Learn more today by visiting BILL's AP automation webpage.

The information provided on this page does not, and is not intended to constitute legal or financial advice and is for general informational purposes only. The content is provided "as-is"; no representations are made that the content is error free.