Starting this change management post off with a promise: we’ll hold ourselves back from working in a bunch of quotes, cliches and song lyrics about change. (Just know we’ve officially got David Bowie stuck in our heads.)
Of course, there’s a reason why so many change-related quotes, cliches and song lyrics exist: change is hard, change is exciting, change is happening all the time. And in a professional setting, it’s no different.
Since change is constant, and it can have such a profound impact on the performance and morale of your team, it’s imperative that sales managers have a change management process in place. And (like any process) that they’re constantly working to optimize it. Yes, that means even your change management process is subject to...well, change.
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What is change management?
In short, change management is a systematic, strategic approach to handling change within an organization. Some orgs have positions that are specifically dedicated to change management, but it’s probably fair to say that every manager or leadership role requires an ability to manage change, whether or not it’s an explicit part of your job description.
Generally, the goal of change management is to effect change in a controlled way that benefits your business and your employees. It often involves anticipating change, handling change requests, identifying the people or processes that may be impacted, and leveraging the necessary tools or strategies to make change happen successfully, with minimal disruption to the business.
What are change management best practices?
Simply recognizing the need for change management is a huge win for a growing sales org. If you’re just getting started with putting a process in place, here are some key change management methods and techniques to use as you’re implementing change across your org.
1. Define the change
This seems obvious, but in order to implement change, you’ve got to know what change you’re actually implementing. It’s important to document this in a way that’s shareable, providing every stakeholder with 100% visibility. What that actually looks like depends on the scale of change you’re executing. Does it impact multiple departments? Do you need to get buy-in? Defining change could be as simple as creating a brief in a Google doc, or you may find it necessary to put together an entire presentation.
2. Align on vision and goals
This is arguably the most important change management best practice. Wherever you define your change, be sure to include the desired outcomes of that change, as well as the timeline for completing it.
Ultimately, what is this change going to accomplish? What problem will it solve? How will it make your team or organization stronger? Make sure goals and time frame are clearly communicated to every stakeholder.
3. Build your team
Your change management team may consist of the people who are actually doing the work to implement change. Or they could be your champions of change: the people who are modeling change or communicating it to the rest of the company. Your team may also include any sponsors — like members of your leadership or executive team who will ensure you’ve got what you need to make change happen. Which brings us to our next point...
4. Outline required resources
Significant change often requires extra tools or resources that you may not already have access to. Whether it’s new technology, contract help or guidance from an agency or consultant, determine what you’ll need to be successful and have a firm grasp on the budget required. Get approval from your “sponsor” before moving forward.
5. Anticipate challenges or blockers
What could keep you from successfully implementing your change? Are there competing initiatives or programs that may take priority? Is the timeline unrealistic? Do you foresee resistance from team members or leadership? No, you don’t have a crystal ball, but it’s worth trying to think through any issues that could derail your plan, and to address them on the front-end.
6. Identify success metrics
You know what you’re trying to accomplish (see Step 2), but how are you actually measuring success? Tying change management to data positions you to show (objectively) that the change was effectively executed and the desired outcome was achieved.
It’s not just about success, though; use metrics to track progress along the way. Identify KPIs that will help to show you, your team and your stakeholders that you’re on the right track. Try to incorporate target dates and checkpoints for completion of certain tasks to hold everyone accountable.
If you’ve checked the first six change management best practices off your list, you should be well positioned started executing the change. As you’re doing so, be sure to keep lines of communication open between yourself, your change management team, your stakeholders and your sponsor(s). Consider sharing progress reports or holding regular check-ins so that there are no surprises along the way.
Gather everyone involved for a post-mortem. Use data (including the metrics you identified in Step 6) to show success or impact of your change. Provide the opportunity for people to give feedback on what went well and what they would do differently next time from a change management perspective.
How do you improve an existing change management process?
If you’ve already got a change management process in place, it’s still worth taking the time to audit your process and seeing where you can make enhancements. In addition to incorporating the change management best practices listed above, consider:
Talk to peers: Start a dialogue with other managers or industry peers, either in regards to a specific change you’re executing or just to learn more about how other people in a similar position manage change.
Explore technology: There are certain platforms that can support the change management process. Project management tools, while not designed purely for change management, can be incredibly useful as you’re working your way through the steps in your process, and they’re great for keeping teams aligned on tasks and deliverables.
Choose a model: If you need help formalizing your process, there are plenty of change management models to choose from: Kotter’s Model, Adkar Model, and Bridges’ Transition Model are just a few you might consider researching. Even if you don’t follow them entirely, you might find a few change management best practices to work into your own process.