How Change Management Shapes Your Success… or Failure


By Maria Geokezas, Chief Operating Officer at Heinz Marketing

Change is undeniable. Consider the fate of business mammoths like Kodak that tried and failed to ignore it, and you’ll understand why you must master change management. Whether it’s an operational improvement or organizational-level change – like pivoting from lead-based to account-based marketing – success comes from knowing when and how to adapt.

According to Gartner, the average organization underwent five significant changes in just the past three years. What’s even more shocking though, is that only 34% of changes were an apparent success. That means roughly two-thirds of all changes either fail or don’t make much of a difference – wasting valuable resources in the process.

We have to ask, “is there a missing piece to change management?” Arguably, in many cases, yes. So here, we look at how you can create a process that increases the chance of meaningful change.

Establish a Process for Change

Change management planning has two stages – a readiness assessment and an implementation strategy. To find success, you need to tackle both with diligence.

Change Assessment

Change management looks different depending on the organization. Some organizations thrive on change and actively seek it out. Other organizations resist until change cannot be avoided – like in the recent demand for an increased online presence.

At this juncture, you’ve already decided something isn’t working. Now, you’ll need to identify what changes. Where are you currently? and where do you want to go? What steps are between points A and B?

A readiness assessment helps you identify potential challenges you’ll encounter and how to overcome them. You can use a change management model, such as the McKinsey 7s, to better understand the internal elements to consider when you build your implementation strategy.

Change Management Strategy

A change management strategy outlines the critical components – the leader, technology, timeline, training requirements, and target KPIs. The changes that find the greatest success start with a well-laid plan and clearly defined stretch targets.

To boost buy-in, leadership needs to rally the team around the decision. The person leading the charge doesn’t have to be an executive, but they need to influence the teams involved. For more minor changes, a manager might be a good choice, but a higher position like a department head is the better option for organizational-level changes.

It’s crucial to engage all team members impacted by the change from the planning phase. That way, you can address concerns promptly. Once a negative perception of the change takes hold, it’s challenging to reverse, so you want to identify concerns early.

Similarly to engagement, communication should happen early and often. Leadership should provide resources and periodic updates targeted to each impacted team so your team isn’t left with more questions than answers.

More than that, change leaders need to reinforce why the change is necessary. People are naturally resistant to change, so when hiccups occur, confidence is what pulls them through. Keep in mind the rule of seven when it comes to change communication – people need to hear a message at least seven times to stick.

Finally, your change management plan needs to include ample training. Training readies your team for the day-to-day switch.

For example, if you’re introducing a new CRM, the impacted teams should have weeks to test the software before the changeover. You want to share knowledge bases, demo videos, and facilitate hands-on training. Training participation lets you see where your team is and spot knowledge gaps you need to fill.

After establishing a change management process, you need to nail down how you’ll measure success.

Define Success Metrics

Change is an investment, and to track your investment, you need data. Therefore, you’ll want to define quantitative and qualitative metrics that help you measure the impact of your change and map your next steps.

Quantitative Metrics of Change Management

The most accessible metrics are generally quantitative. This is because quantitative metrics are easy to interpret, and if the change wasn’t effective, it’s immediately evident. A few of the main quantitative metrics you’ll want to focus on are:

  • Project KPIs – It’s time to find out if you have reached your predetermined KPIs. Maybe the goal was to increase sales leads by 20% – a quantitative metric tells you whether that occurred, and if not, how much you missed the mark.
  • Timeline adherence – Unforeseen roadblocks can throw off your timeline by a few days or months. If the change took six months instead of four, you need to figure out where it went off course to improve your process next time.
  • Speed of adoption – A fast adoption indicates well-executed communication and training. On the other hand, a slow adoption might mean your team needs additional guidance.
  • Support requests – In instances where the change involves a shift in technology – which is common – you want to record support requests. You know your team needs more preparation if you see a metric like 2x the support requests after the change.

Ultimately, the pinnacle for change success is often return on investment. The more complex the change, the more difficult it is to calculate a clear ROI. That’s why it’s essential to establish the metrics for success from the beginning – even if it isn’t the highest return.

Qualitative Metrics of Change Management

Quantitative metrics let you track concrete data from the change, but qualitative measures provide insight into how managers and employees adjusted. How the team perceives the change has lasting effects ranging from a temporary shift in morale to employee turnover rates.

The qualitative data can also tell you what’s happening behind the scenes if you’re not seeing the metrics you’d hoped so you can troubleshoot and navigate path corrections.

You’ll want to employ multiple methods of tracking qualitative data. Some of the most popular methods include:

  • Team satisfaction surveys – Ongoing surveys let you gather continuous input from all impacted teams in the change process. You should monitor the surveys to look for shifting satisfaction.
  • Behavioral observations – Sometimes, what’s said might not match what’s happening. Behavioral observations allow managers to gauge how people acclimated to the change based on actions. You’ll want to look for signs of change fatigue. For example, has absenteeism been rising after a new process implementation?
  • 1:1 follow-up feedback – Follow-up feedback lets leadership gain in-depth insights to build on responses and data from other measures, including quantitative metrics. You should use this feedback strategically to boost support and influence change culture in your organization.

Whether your change is a success or not largely depends on how well it was managed. Trying to force a change without a plan or buy-in from your team is like adding gas to a fire – it could blow up in your face.