Best Practices | Read Time: 6 Minutes

How to Lead Change Management: 6 Guiding Principles

February 15, 2018

Kristin Hackney Headshot By: Kristin Hackney


Today, it’s critical for agencies to evolve business operations and adopt technology to keep pace with consumer demands. But with adopting the latest innovation comes change, and there’s no way around it – change can sometimes be difficult. No matter if it’s a big or small change, change must be managed with strategy and proper direction. In fact, about 70% of all change initiatives fail because of inadequate planning. Don’t let your business be a part of that statistic.

Why do so many change initiatives fail?

Many leaders fail to recognize that change takes time. Instead of preparing their culture for change, most leaders believe it’s best to move quickly and jump right into it. Unfortunately, about a week in, they realize they should have prepared their culture because they don’t have any support. You can change technologies very quickly in the right circumstances, but altering the way employees think about their roles, the business, and your culture doesn’t happen overnight. The time required to transform hearts and minds must be built into your change management plan.

Key principles to change management

Change management is the discipline of leading individuals, teams and entire organizations through organizational change via a combination of behavioral and social sciences, information technology and business solutions. By understanding the basic phases of change and valuing your staff, you can prepare your culture for change and avoid common pitfalls of failed change efforts.

To successfully navigate change requires an explicit focus on 3 core principles:

  1. People
    The people who make up your organization are one of the most crucial elements for change management success. People must acknowledge and buy into the need to change at the most basic level. Once buy-in is established, employee engagement at each stage needs to be closely monitored to address any resistance and create a shared sense of urgency for change. Continual, transparent communications will foster listening and provide a sounding board for issues and concerns. To help create a more receptive environment, include employees in the planning process then clearly define goals, roles and processes.
  1. Process
    Processes detail how the work gets done, providing a plan for introducing and systemizing your technology strategy. Risk can be managed by putting a robust governance structure in place, where processes are documented to establish a foundation for ongoing growth. Finally, processes should be continuously updated based on best practices and lessons learned.
  1. Technology
    Technology investment must encompass all aspects of your business, from managing internal staff to connecting to customers and insurer partners. It must integrate all applications to deliver a consistent user experience and create a single view of your business. Agencies will not succeed managing separate, disparate systems that create multiple sources of data. When selecting the technology right for the business, it must also be flexible and scalable enough to support current and future growth.

6 ways to successfully navigate change

Before diving in head first, it’s important to have a clear conception of what you’re trying to achieve. With this vision in hand and the 3 core principles in mind, agencies can better strategize initiatives that deliver value.

Here are 6 guiding principles to help you map out a successful change management program:

  1. Begin the journey with the end in mind
    First, you need to determine the ideal end state and create a game plan to achieve these goals. That idea can’t be too static — you need to allow for alterations along the way — but you need a clear vision of the end state to get everyone moving in the same direction. People don’t need every tiny detail about the future state, but they do need a rough idea of where we’re going. They need to be able to visualize that there is a better place waiting for them out there and they need to be able to imagine themselves in that place.
  1. Define technology requirements and design
    Once you have set your end goal, begin to identify the areas of deficiency in the agency’s current technology strategy. Rethink how the business leverages its IT investment, weaving digital technology into the fabric of daily operations to become a digital agency. When considering the technology to adopt, be sure to invest in technology that both your customers and staff expect in today’s digital age. Keeping customer experience top of mind throughout this stage will make sure you future-proof your agency for success in the years to come.
  1. Identify and manage key stakeholders
    To succeed with change management, you need to identify the people who will be most affected by your proposed changes. These people will become either the strongest resisters or your most powerful champions for change. Ensure their commitment and enthusiasm by involving them in the creation of your change management vision.
  1. Develop metrics and milestones
    In order to know if the changes you made were successful, you need to define the keys to success and employ necessary tools for tracking your progress. It’s also important to schedule milestones which people will be able to see and celebrate. This will provide proof that efforts are working and add to the motivation to keep going.
  1. Deploy communications and training
    A clear vision of your goal won’t help much if you don’t share it. Do everything in your power to get your vision across and instill a sense of mission in employees. It’s also important to remember that communication isn’t one way. The stakeholders that are closest to the thing you’re seeking to change often have insights that you don’t. It’s important to encourage their feedback and continuous dialogue throughout this process. As things change, continue to educate your entire organization on how the change will benefit them and offer training on new procedures and systems.
  1. Continually reassess and make adjustments
    You must understand that no change program goes completely as per the plan. As you lead your organization through change, new and unexpected challenges will arise. The success of your change management depends upon adjusting to those challenges.

Why is change management important?

In too many situations, change has resulted in a significant amount of waste and anguish in organizations. Useful change tends to be associated with a multi-step process that creates power and motivation. It requires dedication and must be driven by high-quality leadership who demonstrate their commitment to its success. The rewards for those organizations that manage their change efforts well have improved their competitive standing and positioned themselves for a far better future.

Kristin Hackney Headshot

Kristin Hackney

Kristin Hackney, Former Executive Vice President of Customer Experience, was responsible for Applied's customer delivery strategy and operational execution for the Company's Professional Services, Support and Cloud-based solutions. She is the former vice president of Worldwide Enterprise Solutions & Services for Chicago-based SPSS Inc., a leading global provider of predictive analytics software and solutions, now part of IBM. Hackney drove the strategic transformation of SPSS from a tools/technology-focused vendor to a respected provider of enterprise solutions, building and leading the company's global predictive analytics solutions business. In a previous role at SPSS, Hackney served as vice president of Worldwide Education Services. She holds a bachelor's degree from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn.