Change Management Kick-off


Lead your team through the change management process – from "change approved" to "change completed!"

AND I NEED THIS... WHY?

You've got the approval. Now your goal is a smooth roll-out with minimal disruption.

Whether you're retiring a system, adding a new application to your stack, or modifying an established process, successful change management starts by putting yourself in your customers' shoes. By thinking ahead, you can reduce the disruption the change will cause for them. 

WHO SHOULD BE INVOLVED?

Bring in the core project team responsible for implementing the change.

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A guide to kicking off the change management process.
People

4 - 10

Time

60 min

Difficulty

Medium

Running the play

If your project involves a technical change management plan, make sure everyone has a chance to review it prior to this session. 

MATERIALS
  • Whiteboard or butcher's paper
  • Markers
  • Video conferencing
  • Timer
  • Rubber chicken
Step

Form a problem statement (5 min)

Welcome the group and introduce your goals for the session:

  • Agree on key points to include in your change management communications
  • Identify the communication channels you'll use
  • Sequence all the activities needed for the change
  • Clarify each team member's roles and responsibilities
Step

How did we get here? (10 min)

Ask the change's sponsor to outline the goal and purpose of the change. Specifically, what prompted the change, who approved it, and why. 

After their briefing and a quick Q&A, ask the group to spend 2-5 minutes individually brainstorming what will happen if you don't make the change. Then share and record your thoughts as a group so you can refer to them in the next step. 

Step

Decide on guiding principles (10 min)

This is likely a new team who hasn't worked together in this context. Grab a piece of butcher paper or Confluence page and take turns sharing ideas for the team's guiding principles. For example, "communicate early and often to each other and our customers" or "even when we don't agree on specifics we will support decisions made in our team meetings." 

Once you have a set of principles you agree on record them in a place where you can reference them during team meetings. 

STEP 4

Draft your messaging to customers (10 min)

Anyone affected by a change wants to know why it's happening, whether they are internal or external customers.  As a group, answer the following questions on a whiteboard or shared document. These key points will serve as the backbone for all your customer communications. 

  • What is changing?
  • When can they expect the change to happen?
  • Who is affected and how? 
  • How will this change affect them and their team?

You'll probably think of more questions customers may have as you are brainstorming answers to these. That's great! Record those questions (and their answers!) as well.

STEP 5

Prioritize your communication channels (10 min)

As a group, brainstorm all the channels you can use to communicate with customers affected by this change. Slack channels, e-mail blasts, company and department town halls, website FAQs, focus groups, etc. 

For each communication channel, rate it on the following scales:

  • Number of customers it will reach (many, some, or few)
  • Level of effort required to deliver (high, medium, or low)

With any luck, you'll identify communication channels that reach lots of customers without a lot of effort. However, there will be some exceptions that justify prioritizing high-effort channels that only impact a few customers, especially when a customer set is critical for the success of the change. 

TIP

For high-impact changes consider try forming a network of champions embedded in key teams throughout the organization to help your message spread and the positive vibes flow. 

STEP 6

Sequence the change management process (20 min)

Now that you've prioritized your communication channels and know which messages you want to deliver, you need to figure out when you'll do it all. Many changes have a deadline – you can either work backward from that date or take a more agile approach and estimate the team's level of effort to deliver each step of the change to determine the milestone dates. 

Start by recording anything relevant already on the calendar (e.g., company events, holidays, vendor commitments).

Next pick dates, owners, and the high-level messages for the communications in your "reaches many customers" category. (Ideally, prioritize the low-effort channels.) Plan to send those comms twice: once to announce the change is coming, and a second time to inform them that the change is underway or has just happened.

Once you know the dates of your broadest communications, determine who needs to be communicated with and/or trained BEFORE the broader comms. For example, a small group of very vocal detractors can derail your plan. We've found that anticipating who those people will be and bringing them in for focus groups or soliciting feedback from them very early in the process helps turn their objections into constructive suggestions. 

Last, review the sequence of activities and ensure you have built-in feedback loops and time to incorporate the feedback. Don't forget to establish milestones so you can celebrate the little victories along the way  👍

STEP

Agree on roles, responsibilities, and the way forward (15 min)

You're 80% done with your change management plan, but don't stop here! The last 20% is what will ensure the successful execution of your well-thought-out plan. 

Review each activity in the timeline you've just created. For each activity, assign a driver (responsible for collecting input and staying on schedule), contributors (subject matter experts), and an approver who has the final say on the completion and quality of the activity. 

For comms that will reach broad audiences, we like to have 1-2 contributors from the core project team and 1-2 contributors from outside the team weigh in. This gives us a variety of perspectives that helps us make sure we're covering all the bases. 

Don't forget to assign roles and responsibilities for your feedback loops. Our IT teams use a private Slack channel to review and coordinate on feedback as they come in after each communication. This ensures everyone knows who is responding to what and that all responses are consistent. It also allows a follow-the-sun hand-off of the feedback responses for globally distributed companies. 

TIP

The change management process often involves a cross-functional team whose members report to different leaders. Make sure you have had a discussion with each person's manager beforehand. You may need a good amount of their time!

Nailed it?

Be sure to run a full Health Monitor session or checkpoint with your team to see if you're improving.

Find your Health Monitor

Follow-ups

  1. Turn your sequence of activities into a change management roadmap with Confluence's Roadmap Planner macro. It'll help you visualize key dates, owners, milestones in an easy-to-digest swimlane visualization. 
  2. Develop an FAQ that answers common questions that various customers will have about the change. 
  3. Does your change require any approvals, reviews, or policy updates? If so, get in touch with your security and compliance team right away. 
  4. A clear picture of success will help alignment among stakeholders. Start by running the Goals, Signals, and Measures play to identify what success looks like. Then use the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) play to build a document that communicates your priorities and success measures to your stakeholders. 

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