The best practices for change management success

November 16, 2023

This article was originally published on

Modern business landscapes are evolving at breakneck speed, highlighting the importance of organizational adaptability. Because change management is now a vital asset for teams navigating labor shortages, industry challenges, and accelerated technological advancements, we’re taking a closer look at insights and strategies to help businesses make operational adjustments effectively.

Read on to learn more about the best practices your company can leverage to overcome transformative obstacles, drive sustainable growth, and make successful change management a reality.

What is change management?

Organizational change encompasses all the actions a company takes to modify fundamental aspects of the business — from workplace culture and processes to technology, hierarchy, and more. This systematic approach is integral for successfully navigating changes to organizational goals, core values, processes, and technologies.

The primary objective of organizational adjustments is more than just the successful execution of best practices; it’s also about fostering acceptance, adaptation, and resilience among your team members long-term. In the dynamic landscape of more agile workplaces — where change is a daily occurrence — transition management and communication teams play a critical role in driving company performance.

people working on best practices for change management

When is change management needed? 

Here’s a closer look at a few common scenarios where effective change management strategies are critical:

  • When introducing new technology or digital solutions.
  • Amid mergers and acquisitions.
  • During company-wide restructuring.
  • Throughout leadership transitions (e.g., a new CEO or management team takes the lead).
  • In association with new product or service launches.
  • During expansive organizational cultural shifts.
  • In times of crisis (e.g., financial downturns or unexpected external events).

The main challenges of managing organizational change  

The last few years of high inflation, worker strikes, and the proliferation of hybrid/remote work served as reminders that change comes quickly and can impact industries on multiple levels. This underscores the importance of effective change management as a tool for for teams navigating uncertainty and transformation. However, while research in Sage Journals reveals that 79.7% of businesses need to adapt their procedures every two to five years, only about a quarter of these initiatives succeed.

Research from McKinsey & Company reveals a staggering 70% failure rate for large-scale organizational changes, several common issues are contributing to this:

  • Resistance to change: The most important part of change management is the support and cooperation of your workforce. Without their encouragement, your process transformations and updates won’t succeed. Employees may be resistant due to fear of the unknown, concerns about job security, or even simply an attachment to their present circumstances.
  • Lack of clear communication: A lack of clear, consistent, and honest messaging leads to confusion and disengagement. Organizations that fail to communicate the vision, purpose, and benefits of change can expect skepticism and a much more difficult road to successful implementation.
  • Inadequate leadership support: Employees rely on unwavering support from leadership to manage change effectively. When business leaders don’t actively champion organizational shifts, employees perceive suggested changes as mere directives without real commitment.

Promoting successful change and overcoming resistance requires transparent communication, engagement, and a supportive leadership team. By clearly indicating why changes are necessary and what this means for team members, you can help employees embrace change positively.

Strategies to improve organizational change management  

Explore the following best practices for mastering change management today and how they can help your business thrive amid ever-evolving landscapes:

1. Be transparent, communicate regularly, and encourage conversations 

Open and honest communication is vital in successful change management. Take care to establish the objectives and reasons behind changes and regularly share updates along the way. Encouraging employees to ask questions and express their thoughts and concerns is a powerful way to foster trust and engagement amid transformation.

2. Provide adequate training and support for employees 

According to a report from Gartner, 73% of employees impacted by organizational transformations report suffering from moderate to high stress levels. This underscores the importance of ensuring your workforce has the information, skills, and resources necessary to navigate organizational shifts successfully. Examples of support and training include introducing change management training programs or encouraging cross-functional teams to share their experiences.

3. Employ a structured approach to change management  

Utilize a well-defined change management framework to guide your teams through the process efficiently and systematically. Some of the most popular structures to follow include Kotter’s 8-Step Model or the Prosci ADKAR® model. By clearly outlining your unique goals, roles, and anticipated timelines, your organization will be in the best position to take on change with confidence.

4. Prioritize effective leadership  

Oak Engage’s Change Report for 2023 reveals that the biggest reason for change resistance in employees is a lack of trust in the organization’s leadership. This highlights the importance of strong, visible leadership throughout the change management journey. Make sure organizational leaders not only endorse the shifts taking place but also actively participate in them — setting the tone for the rest of your team members.

5. Introduce comprehensive change management resources 

There’s a virtually limitless number of resources available for teams looking to improve their change management. Research and implement the tools, templates, and guides that support your unique change efforts. Relevant and comprehensive resources help employees understand and adapt to transformations seamlessly, reducing overall resistance.

6. Embrace a company culture of change 

As much as 46% of CIOs indicate company culture as their organization’s largest barrier to successful change management, per Gartner. Foster a culture that champions change as a constant by encouraging innovation, adaptability, and a forward-thinking mindset among employees. Taking the time to recognize and celebrate successes along the way is also critical to reinforcing a culture of resilience.

The four essential elements of successful transformation  

With the practices above in mind, there are a few components of a change management plan that are essential to facilitate the transformation journey:

  • Strategic goals: Ensure you have clearly established objectives when making organizational adjustments, so everyone on the team understands what they’re working toward.
  • Key performance indicators: KPIs are critical to measure the success of your procedures. This might include tracking employee engagement, adoption rates of new processes or technology, and the time it takes to achieve key milestones in the process.
  • Established stakeholders: Consider who is an integral part of implementing and overseeing company changes. Depending on the nature and scope of the transformation, this may include employees, senior leadership, middle management, customers or clients, and external partners or suppliers.
  • Project scope: Determine the goals, steps, and actions required to make proposed organizational modifications effectively.