Change management process

Even the Greek philosopher Heraclitus knew: "The only constant in the universe is change". That there is some truth in this statement is evident in times of change management, more than 2000 years after Heraklits' lifetime: Our world has never been as fast-paced as it is today. Changes, and with them the change management process, are simply part of every day (working) life.

Accordingly, the ability to "keep a cool head" in times of change is more important today than ever before. This applies not only to individuals, but also and especially to companies: The willingness of companies to change and continually reposition themselves determines whether they will remain efficient and competitive in the future. With the help of "change management", planned change in companies can be controlled and regulated.

However, it is noticeable that most change processes and transformations fail. This is often due to the fact that employees are not sufficiently "picked up" and therefore react skeptically or even dismissively towards change proposals concerning the work process, the work structures or the work strategies. In this article, we will show you how managers should deal with this and how they can motivate employees to cooperate. You will also learn what role business coaching plays in this regard.

What is Change Management?

What is Change Management? Put simply, change management, as the name suggests, means successfully managing change. More concretely, it encompasses all measures, activities and tasks that are undertaken to adapt and align a company's strategies, structures, processes, values and behaviors to new requirements.

The desired goal of such a change process is always to make the company more efficient and fit for the future. Because one thing is certain: change is a constant part of our lives and can neither be stopped nor ignored. Companies must therefore be able to react flexibly and adapt to the rapid developments in our world.

Change management is not only a relevant topic for large corporations, but also for medium-sized and small companies. The reason for this is that the factors that make change and adaptation necessary are the same for everyone. From digitalization, globalization, new technical developments and insights to new employee expectations of how things should be done - all companies face this.

Change management is not a one-size-fits-all process, but rather a series of flexible, interconnected steps that can be customized to fit the unique needs of an organization.

Tim Creasey, Chief Innovation Officer at Prosci

It is important that change management does not become relevant only in a crisis, but that companies learn to recognize upheavals early on and respond quickly and flexibly. Otherwise, they risk losing the competition to those companies that have taken it as an incentive to constantly develop and improve.

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Influential Change Management Models

There are numerous models that companies can use as a guide for designing change processes. Two models have proven to be particularly suitable. They are briefly explained below.

Kurt Lewin's 3-phase model is considered the first concept that was developed to systematically plan and manage change in companies. It describes 3 different phases that a company goes through when implementing change:

  1. Unfreezing: The realization is made that the status quo is outdated and change is necessary.
  2. Moving: The status quo is actively reshaped to a target state.
  3. Refreezing: The new target state is stabilized and anchored.

In Anlehnung an dieses erste Change Management Modell sind zahlreiche weitere entstanden. Eins der einflussreichsten ist wohl das 8 Stufenmodell von John P. Kotter – ein deutlich präziseres und differenzierteres Modell. Change Management Prozesse laufen nach diesem folgendermaßen ab:

  1. There must be an awareness throughout the organization that change is urgently needed.
  2. A change coalition, consisting of authorities, must be formed and motivate employees to change.
  3. A concrete goal and a strategy for change must be developed.
  4. Both the objective and the strategy are communicated throughout the organization at all levels to gain understanding and acceptance.
  5. Difficulties, concerns, worries are named and eliminated as quickly as possible.
  6. The first successes achieved are made visible.
  7. Changes are driven forward.
  8. Achieved changes are stabilized and anchored in the company.

Why the change Management process is difficult

Leaving the comfort zone and tackling change can be difficult. Whether it's merging and reorganization of companies, restructuring of processes or streamlining of systems, changes of this kind present numerous challenges throughout the company.

Ernst schauender Geschäftsmann vor einem Laptop
There are numerous change management models that companies can use as a basis for designing change processes.

It is not uncommon for employees to react skeptically and dismissively to proposals for change. This may be due, for example, to the fact that they cannot comprehend change themselves. They may lack the knowledge of the necessity of change. Insufficient skills may also be the cause of employees' "resistance". They may feel overwhelmed by new tasks that now fall within their area of responsibility. Certainly, the skeptical attitude of employees is not infrequently related to a lack of will. They often lack the motivation to change habits that may have become ingrained over several years.

How Change Management succeeds

For change management to succeed, it is important that all employees are won over to the process so that they can then work together toward a common goal. For this to be successful, attention must be paid to the following:

1. Communicate changes at an early stage

Employees should be informed about planned changes as early as possible. But it is not only important to inform them; they should also be given the opportunity to express their ideas, comments, concerns, etc. and thus actively participate in the process. If, instead, employees are merely presented with a "fait accompli" it is to be expected that they will react with rejection and resistance.

2. Give explanations for decisions

Wenn Sie Entscheidungen über Veränderungen öffentlich machen, dann begründen Sie diese auch ausreichend. Eine transparente Führung wird es Mitarbeitende erleichtern, die Entscheidungen für Veränderungen nachzuvollziehen und zu akzeptieren. Auch hier gilt wieder: Mitarbeitende einfach vor „vollendete Tatsachen zu stellen“ ist keine Art, Change Management zu betreiben.

3. Avoid unclear and vague formulations

Achten Sie stets darauf, dass Sie Veränderungsvorhaben klar und deutlich formulieren. So geben Sie Mitarbeitenden das Gefühl, sich „in guten Händen“ zu befinden. Dies steigert ihr Vertrauen in Sie und regt sie zur Mitarbeit an. Unklare und schwammige Formulierungen auf der anderen Seite sorgen für mehr Kritik und Skepsis.

4. Stand behind the planned changes

Always make sure that you formulate plans clearly and unambiguously. In this way, you give employees the feeling that they are "in good hands". This increases their trust in you and encourages them to cooperate. On the other hand, unclear and vague formulations lead to more criticism and skepticism.

5. Establish a learning culture

Both managers and employees should be provided with information and training measures, especially during change processes. Managers, for example, can benefit from business coaching sessions that strengthen their social skills, especially their ability to empathize. This will help them in the future to respond even better to the concerns, fears and general resistance of employees. Business coaching can also be helpful in that it helps managers to present themselves more convincingly and confidently, which is particularly necessary in change processes. For employees, business coaching can help to recognize their inner resistance to change and finally to overcome it. The goal would be to gain a positive and open attitude towards change.

Eine Gruppe von Arbeitskollegen im Konferenzraum diskutieren über Change Management
It is important that the change management process does not become relevant only in a crisis, but that companies learn to recognize upheavals early on and to respond quickly and flexibly.
Banner pointing to a whitepaper download for the eBook "Improve business performance with Sparrks coaching."

FAQ: Change management process

When does change management fail?

According to an article from Harvard University by Mary Sharp Emerson, change management fails when starting with a poorly-defined or incomplete strategy, following a plan that is inflexible and too rigid, lacking effective communication, failing to identify and address resistance, disconnecting between culture and planning, setting unrealistic expectations, and not creating short term wins.

What is the success rate of change management?

Change management success rate varies from 30% (Kotter’s research) to 90% (Deloitte).

Why is change management challenging?

Change management is challenging because most people are hesitant about any change.

Leading the change process to success with business coaching

If you would like to take advantage of Business Coaching yourself or if you would like to enable your employees to do so: Simply book a Demo Call and learn more about our range of coaching services on the topic of "Shaping Change". You will notice: Sparrks Business Coaching is an effective way to professionally support and accompany your change management.

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