Tools for Your Change Management Toolkit

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In creating an environment for change, tools and technology play a key role alongside controls, people and robust processes. A well-outfitted toolkit for Change Management can provide just the boost Change Managers need today to rise above the “noise” and ensure their project’s success.

Table of Contents

Introducing the Modern Change Manager

In a world shaped by information and its words systematically tracked and presented back to us by search engines and language models, we must pay close attention to the words chosen for communications. As the often-quoted memoirist and poet Maya Angelou put it:

“Someday we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally into you.”

Yet while extremely important, words alone aren’t the only tool at our disposal. As said once by HBR, “managers have a wide variety of tools, such as incentives, speeches, training and outright threats” to influence cooperation. Setting threats aside, let’s get introduced to some of the more common tools in the Change Manager’s arsenal.

Change Manager's Toolkit

The tools used during a change program can drive cost savings and sustainable improvements while also driving the change itself. Individually, these could be templates, assessment questionnaires, review checklists, metric dashboards, etc. Nevertheless, those tools need to work hand in hand with best practices like Lean, Six Sigma and Agile as well as existing governance structures in order to be both efficient and effective.

A Change Management toolkit enables the change team to assess the need for change and build a strong case for adoption. There are several types of Change Management tools that you’ll come across during a program. Each is appropriate for managing the transition at given stages in the change lifecycle.

7 Key Change Management Tools

Change Readiness Assessments

Throughout the initiative, Change Readiness Assessments allow one to perform a “health check” to determine organizational readiness to move forward in the change journey.

The assessment is basically a change-related questionnaire that evaluates various stakeholder groups and their readiness levels with respect to change. It does this by clustering the questions into categories, mapped to the various roles, allowing for the identification of change focus areas for a particular stakeholder pool.

Dashboard of a Change Readiness Assessment
Change Readiness Assessment Survey Results

Cultural Assessments

Cultural Assessments focus on creating an understanding of the employee’s perception of their organizational culture. Its purpose is to indicate to company leaders what’s working well for the organization and where there are opportunities for improvement.

As the perception of company culture can vary widely from stakeholder to stakeholder, a well-run Cultural Assessment will tease out and isolate any of these different perceptions. Areas assessed include roles and responsibilities, ways of working and questions around people’s behaviours and traits that could impact organizational outcomes.

Without proper attention to the environment in which your stakeholders operate in, you may not have the insight needed to combat low adoption. Without a good understanding of the underlying culture, you may not be as effective in anticipating key pain points and managing resistance.

Stakeholder Assessments

The Stakeholder Assessment tool is used as part of the communications planning process for effective stakeholder management. This tool is employed right from the beginning stages of change and maintained throughout its execution.

Change Managers profile and prioritize the individual stakeholders involved and affected by change through interviewing sessions. Capturing and collating stakeholder characteristics, such as stakeholder interest, influence and change impact, can be then used to plan and manage communications with the stakeholder audiences more effectively. Building a stakeholder map will highlight the stakeholders you need to manage more closely.

Stakeholder Assessment Map - Influence vs Interest

Communications Plan

Stakeholder profiling then feeds into the Communication Plan. Your comms plan constitutes specific actions for stakeholder engagement. These may include daily updates for a particular stakeholder group. They may include monthly webinars for another group and quarterly monthly milestone reports with financials for yet another. You get the point.

The Communications Plan includes the target stakeholder groups, the key messages to be conveyed, timing and channels of communication, and the intended results. It’s an extremely powerful tool when aligned with the Stakeholder Engagement Strategy.

While built during the beginning stages of the change journey, it too should be regularly referenced throughout the program. We recommend conducting a communication audit at the end of each stage or milestone gateway to assess the effectiveness of the communications and channels used. This allows you to quickly see what worked and tailor your communications plan for future iterations.

Risk Assessments

Frequently, change comes about by external forces, such as regulatory mandates. This requires bringing people on board and creating an environment that receives, responds, and adapts effectively to regulatory change. Other times, the change could be the result of a business opportunity, or it could be inevitable because of external circumstances.

Whatever the reason, it is important to measure the risks resulting from the change. Therefore, a Risk Assessment should be carried out to help measure the identified risks along with mitigation actions, driving a more informed decision-making process.

While risks are usually associated with negative outcomes, it’s worth noting that sometimes they are actually opportunities. In a Risk Assessment, it can be useful to identify these opportunities as well to accurately weigh the costs and benefits.

Change Impact Assessments

Organizations are large multi-faceted beasts, full of different moving parts each with their own culture, hierarchy and priorities. It can, therefore, be quite hard to identify the impact of change on the overall business. The potential effect of not identifying all of those impacted are roadblocks further on down the change continuum. 

As those affected belatedly realize how the change impacts them, they raise painful issues that delay and even sometimes derail your project. Change Impact Assessments give an early insight into these potential issues, both with the change program and the desired future state.

Stakeholder Assurance Assessments

Finally as change activities are deployed, it’s important to have a mechanism for collecting and collating feedback to detect gaps and manage adoption. A Stakeholder Assurance Assessment is an effective tool to interview and elicit feedback from your various stakeholder groups.

Key metrics that you should measure include:

  • Whether change adoption has sustained or increased
  • If the change has stabilized and is now part of day-to-day business activity – a reduction in new change issues
  • If the benefits of the delivered change are visible – varies by initiative.

Visualizing the above metrics in a Change Dashboard highlights to your senior sponsors where key pain points are, allowing them to agree and execute on remedial actions.

Selecting the Right Tool

How can change practitioners select the right tool to enable people to more effectively respond to change? Here are three quick tips for completing your analysis:

1) First, understand why a Change Management tool is needed during the specific stage(s) and the risk of not using the tool.

2) Second, think holistically about the user experience with the Change Management tool. For instance, entering data in two different places or different stages will annoy users rather than encourage buy-in for your change.

3) And finally, it is important to measure how effectively in terms of cost and efficiency does the tool’s technology help achieve the purpose of the change delivery stage. The use of desktop applications for in-person interviews versus cloud-based surveys for mass feedback are important considerations for applying and selecting your change tools.

The Challenge

In a recent engagement, a MIGSO-PCUBED Change Manager was tasked with supporting the implementation of a new knowledge management system. There were two trains of thought surrounding the application of the communication strategy and plan. The client sponsor advocated for a broad one-time communication, prioritizing speed in support of the organization’s transition to the new solution. The Change Manager in comparison was looking to innovate on the communication approach prior to roll-out.

The Solution

Leveraging the results of a recent stakeholder mapping exercise the team identified the group most impacted by the change. The Change Manager then structured a plan to convey the message using different representational systems and information sharing models. Two versions of the Communications Plan were then created. The idea was that the team would hold 2 workshops with 2 subsets of the same stakeholder group to see which form (or forms) of communication worked better.

One workshop used the first version of the comms plan – a 1 to many information-sharing model. It was a lecture-mode session with a ‘show and tell’ of the system followed by handouts of the solution’s function and providing useful guidance. The second workshop was an interactive session where people were encouraged to come forward with their specific pain points in transitioning to the new tool. These were captured on post-it notes, visible to everyone. These pain points were then clustered and addressed in turn with each of the users.

Next, 5 pre-defined use cases were presented during a walk-through. In closing, a pilot of the knowledge management solution was kicked off for use by the test stakeholder group with links to online user guides for future reference. 

Following two weeks’ use of the solution, a survey was conducted. It was found that the second subset of the stakeholder group was using the tool twice as frequently compared to the first stakeholder group. The first stakeholder group had also raised more issue queries and generally struggled more with the roll-out of the new system.

The Benefits

With the A/B testing experiment completed, the client sponsor was in full support of an enhanced communications strategy and plan. Having the collective buy-in of both the sponsor and the stakeholder group most impacted by the change paved the way to better adoption across the board. This was not only critical to communicating and delivering the change, but also in sustaining the change.

This innovative use of the change management toolkit enabled the effective implementation and adoption of the organization’s knowledge management solution. This in turn led to a more consistent way of working across the organization.

In closing, a Change Manager’s toolkit is not static. One must also set aside time to encourage innovative thinking around the tools used to deliver the change.

This article was written by Sharath Kumar and the MIGSO-PCUBED Change Management Community of Practice.

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