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It's Never Too Early to Start Change Management

When is the best time to start change management?

In a word:  Early.  

Prosci Inc. recently asked over 600 practitioners what they would do differently on their next change management project. 

“Start the process sooner" was one of the top answers.

Respondents also said the best time to start change management was during the initiation phase of a proposed change. In other words, as soon as an organization commits to a significant change, management of that change will ideally get off the ground.    

This makes logical sense. After all, people throughout an organization will start drawing their own conclusions and asking questions as soon as they hear a change is coming. Wouldn’t it be better to be prepared?      

People in charge of change projects don’t always want to do this. We often don’t have all the information about what the solution will be at the start of a project.  We don’t know what kinds of training will be needed or exactly what to tell employees to expect. It can be tempting to wait for more information before we start a formal change management process.  

But there are also consequences to starting later. Employees are less likely to embrace the change if management of it begins halfway through. It’s expensive to try to play catch-up later on. Change managers may lose a place at the table if they wait too long to sit down. These issues can be painful, and they’re worth avoiding.

The tennis legend Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.”

I think this is a great way to look at the change management process.  It’s better to start early even if the details aren’t filled in yet. And there’s a lot that can be done even during the initial stage of a change. For instance, you can:

  • Design a communications plan that describes the need for change.
  • Assess the level of resistance in the organization and where it’s coming from.
  • Invite key stakeholders to be part of the solution.
  • Draft a flexible, preliminary change management plan.
  • Ensure that change management is built into the project management plan. 
  • Gain early support from change sponsors.

Change management works best when it goes hand in hand with the change project, and the earlier the better.

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