Navigating periods of transition is always difficult—especially large-scale change with serious business implications. In today’s rapidly changing business environment, effective change management is a critical competency for organizations that want to drive progress and achieve success.
Learn about the five change management trends on the horizon for this coming year to better prepare yourself for your next technology implementation or organizational change.
Trend 1: Resistance Management
One major trend I see approaching in the new year is resistance management: the act of ensuring that, in a timely fashion, you address and plan for all areas of potential pushback that might occur during your change implementation. This mitigates the impact resistance may have on the project or the adoption.
Why people resist change is simple: people resist change when they are heavily invested in the current state, regardless of how helpful a change might be; they likely have had to deal with negative outcomes from a change in the past and are therefore wary of all substantial change; or they fear the uncertainty that change inevitably brings.
We can mitigate resistance both proactively and reactively. While reactively responding to resistance is most common, proactively responding to resistance will garner the best results and is gaining more traction. Identifying possible areas of resistance before a change is implemented is critical. How do you plan to react to both passive and active behaviors that people might display, like disengagement, refusal to interact in or attend training sessions, breeding resistance, or the creation of ways to work around the new system? If you can plan for, assess, and determine why a certain form of resistance is popping up, you can preemptively intervene and hopefully mitigate that behavior.
Trend 2: More Simplified, Tactical Communications
The next trend—more simplified, tactical communications—is about creating the best end-user experience. Many change practitioners tend to pull together grand, large-scale communication plans that are very dynamic but are so heavy with content and several communication types that the client becomes overwhelmed or believes end users will be overwhelmed.
Recently, I put together one of these very detailed and robust change communication plans, but the client came back and offered a much leaner and more tactical, digestible approach they thought their organization would favor and respond best to. We must be mindful of how inundated people are with information nowadays; focusing on more targeted communications will more effectively get our message across to stakeholders and end users.
To create leaner, more agile change communication plans, go ahead and work up the large-scale plan you’re used to, but distance yourself emotionally from it and then revisit it. What can be pared down? What can be omitted or streamlined? Where can you turn communications into engagement opportunities instead? Be willing to adjust away from your standard way of doing things, especially if clients show a desire for a more simplified approach.
Trend 3: Change Adoption Accelerators
The next trend I’m seeing on the horizon is a dedication to change adoption accelerators with particular attention to the analysis phase of change management. Three specific areas of the analysis phase require special attention and can accelerate your change adoption process:
- Change Complexity Assessments. These assessments shape the overall deployment of your change execution, and if you spend ample time analyzing the complexity of the change you’re championing, you can better choose your approach for it. It’s like getting dressed in the morning with a closet full of clothes that fit you perfectly—you don’t need to overthink or make too many decisions about what to wear in the morning. You have simplified the decision-making process through the virtue of having already created a system that sets you up to make great choices. Pay deep attention to your change complexity assessment, thoroughly meet the client where they are, and eliminate the need to deconstruct and overthink in the future.
- Stakeholder Group Change Impact Analysis. One of the most important aspects of change management is getting buy-in from stakeholders. A complete analysis of who stakeholders are, how they are connected to the change, and what their impact, cultural perspectives, and resistance points are will allow you to determine how to create that buy-in and even how to quell any concerns that might pop up for them in the future. Change management is all about uncovering those pockets of resistance early.
- Intent clarity. Like uncovering pockets of resistance, we want to identify alignment and misalignment at the leadership level as early as possible. Having a clear picture of the intent for a change is critical to leverage alignment that already exists and helps to drive change adoption and involvement in the process early to close any alignment gaps that might exist. Leadership needs to be in sync with the change effort. They are drivers of the change, and their employees sometimes mimic their perceptions or behaviors. As the leaders go, so go their employees.
Trend 4: Change Management Centers of Excellence
The fourth trend coming through for change management is the emergence of Change Management Offices (CMOs) or Centers of Excellence (COEs). These internal offices are dedicated to facilitating change management at a variety of levels for an organization. They are set up to provide a standardized approach to managing change among a wide portfolio of projects. The goal for these offices is to establish governance over change—to develop and maintain standard, repeatable processes for managing change, from the rules of engagement and the scope of projects to roles and responsibilities and success criteria. These organizations can be involved in change management from project conception to post-go-live activities.
Developing a CMO or COE is a display of commitment to change management and an understanding of how valuable it is. Having an internal resource like this is putting change management on the front burner, on high!
Trend 5: Change Management on the Back Burner
Despite the four positive trends that are emerging in the field, some organizations are certainly still reluctant to move forward with change management activities. This is particularly true when a project still has a lot of uncertainty. If a final solution isn’t fully defined, many choose to avoid change management efforts until they reach a level of comfort that may or may not ever materialize.
The problem with waiting and putting change management on the back burner until there’s something like a final solution design is that it often gets set aside until it’s just too late. There is so much messaging you can push out to your end users and stakeholders during even the ideation phase that can help facilitate a change much farther down the line.
You want to keep people engaged enough throughout the development process so that when you get to the final solution, they are where you need them to be. People readiness is a great asset for any change, and we can’t get people ready for a change if they don’t know it’s going to happen until right before it goes live.
Another challenge here is that the longer you go without change management, the longer you think you can go without change management. Don’t wait until the last minute and take advantage of your greatest resource: time!
The Outlook for Change Management in 2023
Despite the fifth and final, ever-present trend of putting change management on the back burner, 2023 will be a promising year for change management. If we can focus on resistance management, more simplified communications, change accelerators, and the emergence of CMOs or COEs, we’ll be well on our way to blunting the effects of trend five.
For more information on how to develop a successful change management plan that ensures positive talent transformation, check out our article, Mitigate the Three Common Pitfalls of Organizational Change Management.