Resources > Glossary > Product Management > Change Management

Product Management: Change Management

What is change management?

Change management is a systematic approach to supporting employees and teams as an organization transitions to new processes, tools, or initiatives.

Making even a small change in an organization can lead to anxiety, fear, and frustration among the affected staff if these changes are not rolled out properly. A well-thought-out change management process can help a company make needed adjustments smoothly and successfully.

Why do organizations need change management?

Training and consulting firm Prosci describes change management as “the people side of change.”

Regardless of the type change an organization wants to make—switching productivity apps, moving product development from waterfall to agile, prioritizing a new market—that transition will be successful only if employees embrace the changes it creates in their jobs.

This is why companies need a structured approach for implementing change. A business should view any organizational adjustment—even if it is mostly technical in nature, such as migrating to a new software platform—in terms of how that change is going to affect its people. Without a plan for communicating to the team why the change is positive, and supporting them during the transition, implementing any change will have far less chance of success.

Benefits of an effective change management process

Developing an effective change management process, and executing this process when your company needs to undergo an adjustment, can lead to several organizational benefits. For example:

  • It makes a smooth, successful transition more likely.
  • It reduces the amount of costly downtime an organization could face during a sloppy or poorly communicated adjustment.
  • It can lead to better-coordinated teams as well as happier and more secure employees.

How does change management look in practice?

Businesses have developed several successful approaches to developing and implementing a change management plan. One such plan involves the following five steps.

Step 1: List the reasons for the change and its anticipated benefits

You can’t assume your employees will understand your organization needs to make this adjustment. So your first step in developing a change management plan should always be to demonstrate the need for the change and how it will benefit your company.

Step 2: Determine who will be affected by the change, and how it will affect them

Next you’ll want to figure out the scope of the proposed change. Who in the company will be affected? How will it change the way they do their jobs? How disruptive will this transition be, and what can you do to minimize that disruption?

Step 3: Establish a change management team, including stakeholders

Now it’s time to determine who in the company you’ll need to help you implement the change. This could include some of the affected individual employees, heads of departments, an executive sponsor, etc.

Step 4: Develop a change management roadmap

A change management roadmap is a high-level strategic overview of your planned change—not a detailed list of every task involved. This roadmap should include, for example, the change’s major milestones, costs, and possibly a timeline.

Step 5: Draft a change management communication plan

This plan should include meetings with your  core team, regular updates to keep the team informed on progress, and a way for everyone on the team (or any employee affected by the change) to view an updated version of your change management roadmap anytime.

Conclusion

To remain competitive, businesses today must adjust priorities, adopt new processes, and pivot more frequently than ever. Because these adjustments can be highly disruptive to the people within an organization, any business that wants to be able to transition quickly and successfully should make managing change a core competency.