How To Develop Proactive Change Management
I’m sure we all have memories of changes that were effectively managed versus poorly managed — and the resulting effects.
Poorly managed change in the work environment leads to burnout, disengagement within the team, and a culture of cynicism around change in general. While change is inevitable, we can minimize frustrations surrounding change by effectively planning for and managing the change. That all hinges on identifying and implementing solid policies and procedures teamwide.
When I was a database administrator, I was tasked with a CRM conversion. I knew the change was needed, and it needed to happen quickly. And, if I wanted the conversion to go smoothly, my team had to understand why the change was needed and the reasons for its urgency. That’s when I began to map out a change management policy for that effort.
I started by considering the five questions that an effective change management policy needs to address:
- What? Defining your conditions for change management is essential. Start here. In my case, what was changing was our fundraising database. It can be a significant change with far-reaching effects. Every procedure related to fundraising data was changing. How our data would be hosted was changing. And the list of what was changing kept changing.
- Why? With all these changes happening, we needed a good reason why the change was important. Our database and protocols needed to advance in order for our mission to advance as well.
- Who? The entire team needed to be prepared, and I needed each team member's buy-in, so it’s helpful to consider who your champions might be — and who might be your detractors. You’ll need to identify influencers who can help the change move forward.
- When? You’ll need to create a timetable for your change. Identify the hard and soft dates. The more you can define, the better. Breaking down what’s changing into more palatable and trackable milestones will make the change more approachable and understandable, which will help your team achieve success. Measurable milestones also mean better analysis is possible, so be sure to include considerations for reporting and next steps in your timeline.
- Where? In my scenario, the location wasn’t a major concern — or so I thought. We were transitioning from an in-house server to the cloud. Our server would be removed, and that space would eventually be reutilized. A newly empty closet can be premium real estate in any office, and this is where my change management plan fell short. Hidden inside the closet were old wounds I wasn’t even aware of. Wounds that could have been avoided if I had considered the “where” aspects as part of my change management plan.
Once you’ve dug into the five Ws and determined a strategy for addressing each consideration, it’s time to run your strategy by key members of the who question. Include all colleagues who will be impacted by your plans. A plan for change doesn’t work without buy-in, and buy-in doesn’t happen without cooperative communication. Your team needs to feel consulted and informed.
It’s very likely that you, by yourself, might not have a broad enough view of the situation to be able to consider all the questions that need to be answered. With my database change, I had data entry administrators, researchers, fundraisers, board members and more who needed to have space and opportunity to ask questions. At the very least, they needed time to acclimate. If I hadn’t considered that, vital reporting needs would have been unmet, and tracking important data points would have required tedious workarounds.
Change is inevitable, and having a consistent approach to change management allows you to track better, which can be extremely beneficial. When you approach change, consider building a change management template that will work for your team and its culture — bullet-pointing the five Ws has always worked for me.
And remember, change always changes, too! I hope my story of change helps you to plan for your next change more strategically and smoothly.
Matt Connell is a Blackbaud University instructor at the principal level, and the lead instructor for nonprofit organizational best practices and fundraising. Matt has been a contributor to sgENGAGE and the Blackbaud community, and has presented at bbcon and AFP events. Prior to joining Blackbaud, Matt’s career was a diverse mix of development operations, research and fundraising.
As an educator to the social good sector, Matt helps to grow the expertise and advance the knowledge of those working to do the most good for the world we share. As an expert in multiple customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, internet communication platforms, and research and analysis tools, Matt makes learning both approachable and lasting.