Change management: 5 steps IT leaders must take

Change is never easy, but a process that includes these critical steps will give leaders the best shot at achieving positive, long-term change
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Change is inevitable, as leaders know all too well. To stay relevant, organizations must be able to adapt to the current landscape. For enterprises and their IT leaders, digital transformation is the latest in a long list of disruptions that are impacting business operations.

Whether the change is robust or small, a successful change management process will help minimize risk and disruptions to key services.

What can IT leaders do to ensure successful change management? Consider the five must-do steps below to ensure change is managed cohesively, and that frequent checks and balances are put in place to establish and support the implemented enterprise operational model.

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1. Follow a process

IT leaders who are most successful in implementing change know where their current organization’s infrastructure stands and where they want it to go. These leaders also understand that a well-defined process will help them achieve that goal.

The goal is to not just implement change, but to ensure the change is sustainable over time.

There is an array of change management processes to use, but it’s important to find the process that you believe will work for your organization and for the nature of the change. Make sure it considers the roles of your leaders, managers, and individual contributors. Remember, the goal is to not just implement change, but to ensure the change is sustainable over time, becoming a component of the organization’s structure. Following a structured process will help achieve this.

2. Define what success looks like

Success cannot be defined ambiguously. Before implementing changes, it is essential to clearly define how success will be measured so that the entire team has a clear understanding of what metrics to focus on. When the entire team understands the goals the organization is trying to achieve and how their contributions influence those achievements, they will be more motivated to work towards the desired results. It is important to help the entire team visualize the end goal and to ensure that everyone is on the same page on how to achieve it. As changes begin to roll out, IT leaders should regularly report on progress towards the defined goals.

3. Celebrate early achievements

As IT leaders start to see early success in changes being adopted, it is critical to replicate these early successes quickly, at both an organizational and an individual level, to keep the momentum going. To do this, leaders need to communicate these successes broadly.

Convert the early wins, no matter how small, into success stories people can understand.

Convert the early wins, no matter how small, into success stories people can understand. These stories will let your team know what they have done right and what you want more of in the organization, and they will enable others to reflect on whether they can do something similar.

4. Consider the needs and perceptions of all stakeholders

Before implementing any change, leaders must consider how the change will impact everyone across the business, including fellow leaders, managers, employees, partners, and even customers. Considering the needs and perceptions through the eyes of your stakeholders is valuable for preparing and planning the rollout of these new changes.

Fully understanding the consequences changes will have on all stakeholders will enable better engagement, as this will provide clarity around the outcomes you wish to see for each group.

5. Make small, quick, incremental changes

Change needs to happen fast. If a change takes too long to implement, it could become irrelevant. This is especially true when it comes to technological changes. Leaders need to throw away the “wait and see” approach and instead commit to making small, quick, incremental changes that create momentum so that it’s possible to confront future disruptions on the organization’s terms.

For leaders struggling to adopt this approach, there are numerous tools available that can help implement changes faster as well as assist in user adoption, automation, tracking, and reporting.

Change is never easy, but it is necessary for leaders and organizations that wish to grow and become market leaders. As digital transformation continues to threaten traditional enterprises, the time to change is now. For IT leaders tasked with bringing their organizations up to speed with technological disruptions, the practices listed above will help enable a successful change management process.

[ Do you make thoughtful decisions? Read also: 4 styles of decision-making: A leader's guide. ]

As CTO of Clearbridge Mobile, Sanjay Malhotra has built an agile team of mobile experts who have created award-winning solutions for media, telecom, fintech, healthcare, mobile payments, and QSRs.