Change Management Plans: what, why, and how
1 November 2022
We analyzed our stunning organizational portal, set up a professional community of practice, built a knowledgebase, wrote a smart procedure… the list goes on. We did everything by the book: defined goals and objectives, target audiences and templates, collected and edited content, uploaded them to the technological platform, and thought the road to success was now paved. We did a great job, so why wouldn't it be? After all, we set up a Knowledge Management solution that addresses a real need. So, what's the problem? Why isn't it being used? Because the world, or at least our organization's workers, have always managed without us. True, inefficiently and with disregard for resources while making many mistakes. Nevertheless, they managed.
It does not matter how successful your Knowledge Management solution may be and how optimally it answers a real need and adds actual value. It still involves, by definition, the need to change current work habits and adopt new ones. This, unfortunately, is famously difficult. Add to this difficulty that this is one of many changes introduced to the organizational reality. We live in a frequently changing reality in which new systems are constantly being implemented, organizational structures are changed, as is management, positions are redefined, and new methodologies are developed at a dizzying pace. This fact enhances suspicion and weariness towards our suggested solution. Therefore, to increase our Knowledge Management process/solution's chances to succeed, we must assist the necessary change to take place. We must plan and manage the change by preparing a management plan for the change process.
There are many change management theories and methodologies, the leading ones being Switch, Nudge, and ADKAR. I recommend reading up on these methods, and learning what is relevant and will be of more help in your organizational context.
I want to discuss the next step, i.e., turning these theories into an operative workplan.
There are several stages to building a change management plan. First, you must prepare the infrastructure:
Defining target audiences: Like in any process or project, the first stage is to understand for whom it is intended and whom it is meant to serve. In most cases, there is more than one answer to this question, and delving into it will reveal that this group is far from homogenous but rather several subgroups with different needs, challenges, and properties, e.g., management, new workers, senior workers, headquarter workers working with worker teams and suppliers, etc.
Defining the change process's objective: Think about what will change once the process is successfully completed for each of the various target audiences. Since these target audiences differ in their needs, so do their expectations accordingly differ regarding this Knowledge Management solution. New workers, for example, are expected to use a Knowledge Management solution quite frequently, senior workers are expected to contribute their knowledge and experience, and management to use their authority to implement new processes.
Charting the challenges regarding the various target audiences: Analyzing the challenges, barriers, and objections that may arise in these different target audiences. Frequently recurring challenges include lack of time, a disdain for technology, weariness or worry from changes, or intra-organizational politics. Others might be less common and depend on the Knowledge Management system, the organization, the unit, or the specific content field they handle.
Key factors for success: After acknowledging the various challenges, it is time to plan and adapt solutions and answers to assist in overcoming them. Some may be technical, such as allocating self-payment kiosks with computers to grant production workers access to the Knowledge Management solution. Some are more abstract, such as encouraging a non-judgmental approach on behalf of management, so workers are open to sharing the knowledge they have accumulated.
Mapping communication channels: The last stage in preparing the infrastructure for a change management plan is mapping the different channels at hand to communicate it. These channels can be technological, such as organizational portals, incorporated into operational systems, newsletters, corporate social networks, etc. They can also be physical: management or team meetings, conventions, and various forums. This stage requires us, as did the previous stages, to ask who is exposed to each channel, which channel suits which target audience, and what message and frequency are best for it.
Building a change management plan: Once we've mapped and defined the plan's different components, it is time to plan the actions, breaking them down into clear and concrete tasks, appointing someone in charge of their execution, and setting their schedule: approximately a month before the change, then the change's launch/introduction, and finally its immediate and long-term aftermath.
Finally, let's remember that change management is not a sprint but a marathon. To be manageable and noticed in the light of workers' other tasks, we must set a clear and structured plan detailing which action is required, for whom and when.