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Change Management Series: How to Plan for Change

October 10, 2022

By Brenda Crosby   |   Lean Six Sigma Black Belt

You’ve identified the problem. You’ve assessed your team’s readiness and identified your stakeholders. You’ve set your scope and established a timeline. Now, what do you need to do to make the solution—that is, the change—become a reality?

The next phase of the change journey is to prepare and plan for the change to happen. In this second part of our series on change management, we’ll take you through the activities this requires.

Here are five steps to follow when planning for change.

1. Dream big, “what if…”

This is the fun part. Think about the problem you’re trying to solve. Now, envision what it would look like if this problem were to disappear. What is your dream solution? Describe the ideal state.

When you’re describing the dream, don’t think about the constraints. Drop your tendencies (biases) on why you think an idea will or won’t work. This will allow you to think about all the possibilities, maximize your creativity, and be open to innovative solutions.

Once you can envision your dream solution, the ideal state, describe its impacts. Quantify them if you can. For example, what would be the gains or savings in time and money? Would you increase capacity or lay the groundwork for future growth and opportunities?

2. Now the “yea, but…”

Now it’s time to think through, what we call, the “yea, buts.” Yea, that ideal state sounds amazing, but we don’t have the [fill in the blank] to make that happen? True; the time, resources, staffing, money, effort, etc. to work towards the dream do need to be consider. Before we strike down the dream solution because of these constraints, ask the counter questions. What is the cost or consequence if the problem is not fixed? What will happen to the problem or issue if it is allowed to continue in its current state? What if we do nothing?

Going through these two exercises is often where the change meets its initial challenges. In many cases, the change, the dream, goes no further. However, this is exactly where change readiness meets preparing and planning for change.

3. Design, prioritize and drive your change.

Armed with the vision, you’re ready to collaborate with stakeholders to identify solutions, initiatives, or specific actions that will move you towards achieving that vision. Your next step is to come up with criteria to objectively measure each one against the other. Then evaluate each solution to the criteria.

A good way to do this is to use a solution evaluation and prioritization matrix. This involves weighting each solution against your criteria. Use a gradient scale, a weight of 0 could indicate “none,” whereas a weight of 9 could mean “strong.”

Here’s an example of how you might evaluate a solution:

  • Will improve customer experience – 3
  • Will improve employee experience – 8
  • Will increase efficiency – 4
  • Will lower cost of service – 2
  • Supports our organization’s culture – 9
  • Likelihood of success – 6
  • Likelihood of timely completion – 7
  • Rapid realization of benefits – 8
  • Ease of implementation – 5
  • Aligns with the organization’s strategic plan – 8

This type of matrix allows your stakeholder team to critically evaluate solutions. It also enables you to support your change and solution story, which is essential to getting buy-in and support from stakeholders and organizational leaders.

4. Assess risks

The best way to approach a solution is with eyes wide open: assume nothing and plan for everything. This means putting a spotlight on the possible risks of a solution. When assessing these risks, be sure to include the stakeholders who are immediately affected by the change, as well as those from supporting or receiving areas within the organization.

Some of the questions to ask during the assessment include: If you implement the change, what could go wrong? What are the specific risks? What is the probability that the risk will occur? What could the impact be if the risk was realized? How can the risk be proactively identified, minimized, or avoided? What is your contingency plan if the risk does occur?

Assessing risks also helps you advocate to stakeholders the readiness for the change and support for the solution.

5. Communicate constantly

As you plan for any change, be sure to keep leaders and vested staff aware of your planning and progress. Share the vision (the dream) and opportunities that may be realized if the problem is reduced or even eliminated. Present the risks you’ve identified. Ask them—particularly the skeptics within the group—to share their concerns, questions, or risks that you might have overlooked. Invite them to help you create a plan for monitoring and minimizing risk. These skeptical thinkers can become your biggest change advocates.

Change is a journey

The change journey can be daunting, but don’t get discouraged. Keep your dream front and center and keep moving toward it. Even a small step is worth celebrating!

In our next article—our third piece of this change management series—we’ll talk you through implementation. In the meantime, if you have questions or would like support through your change journey, our Abdo team is here to help. Contact us today.


Meet the Expert

Brenda Crosby, Process Optimization Manager

With a passion for processes, Brenda guides clients through change management, operational evaluation, and provides creative solutions for process improvement.

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