5 Critical Success Factors for Effective Change Management

Working within companies implementing process optimization, operational improvements and strategy deployment has taught us that change is not just about shifting culture, it’s the way culture is shifted towards personal purpose and aligned with values that makes the fundamental difference.

Many companies create a strategy all around tools and mechanisms but forget to realize that organizations are comprised of people with purpose and value. By tapping into those individual values and purposes, companies can motivate employees to foster an environment of excellence and sustain it over the long term.

When implementing a large transformational change, many companies say they need “change management” without really knowing exactly what that means. Change management is often thought of as a tactical add-on to a project or a packaged separate product to sell. To many, it is thought of as a “Change management step” that is stapled to the rest of the project documents and gets a check mark once it’s finished.

In reality, managing the change of a transformational project is an ever-evolving component of maintaining growth and competitive advantage in a company throughout the entire project and after the project has been completed. The real thing we are after is achieving the goals and objectives of the project charter in a sustainable manner. 

Not just the soft stuff

We are not ignoring the fact that real change is accomplished through implementing tools, technologies, programs, structures, and team skillsets to create results, and bringing on the resources to support these mechanisms. However, we are arguing that neither one of these aspects can work independently – one needs a continuous balance of all of them to be successful. The intention comes in when organizations hire the right people that best exhibit and are attracted to values of high performance as well as have relevant external experiences. Leadership also must play a large role in motivating the team to work toward the agreed upon change vision; exhibiting the values themselves; and adequately preparing the team for the change that is about to happen. Listed below are five critical factors that we have found must exist in the organization to achieve effective, sustainable change management.

The Five Critical Success Factors

Successful change management depends on the following five critical success factors.

1)      Continuity of Leadership—It sounds paradoxical, I know, but effective change demands underlying stability. Building consensus at the executive level helps ensure alignment of people, policies and projects. Employees will get the sense that, even in the midst of change, the course is clear and unwavering.

2)      Constancy of Purpose—Organizations really struggle to align people, groups, functions etc. with the goals of their change management initiatives; to align with a clear vision of what “done” looks like. This alignment is needed to ensure everyone is pulling at the oars and moving in the same direction. Big initiatives get translated to long “To Do” lists that lack context. Processes and procedures that have been followed unquestioned for years don’t jibe with corporate strategy. Problems are pushed downstream to more junior levels or avoided altogether and pushed upstream to senior levels.

3)      Consistency of Method—By now you’re probably detecting a pattern here: continuity, constancy, now consistency. Stability is everything. Change and adaptation are easier when methods and processes are consistent. These can be disrupted, for example, when new hires use new and unfamiliar terminology or new supervisors give directions that are contrary to a predecessor.

4)      Clarity through Communication—This critical success factor speaks for itself. Communications that are clear, frequent, consultative (as appropriate) and directive (as appropriate)—this is change management glue. Organizations need to be clear on what needs to be said to each group or department when, and communicated often.

5)     Commitment—Change of any kind takes human beings and organizations alike out of their comfort zone. The gravitation pull will always be back to the familiar. Unconsciously or otherwise, some managers and employees will try to return to the way things were and leadership’s resolve will be tested. Successful change, then, requires a commitment to noticing when the wheels are wobbly and making the necessary