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Best Practices for Leading Change

Very few organizations lead change well and as a result, 70% of these projects fail...leaving a ton of money, time, and energy on the table. There are many approaches to change, but here are a few best practices to get you started.

Understand the organizational landscape and embed the change within it to ensure cohesiveness

  • What are the organization‘s strategic priorities and initiatives?

  • What is the culture like (top-down, peer to peer, networked, flat, etc.)?

  • How agile are people when it comes to changes?

  • What other changes are/have recently taken place?

  • How have previous technology implementations gone for the team/organization? 

  • What are some lessons learned from previous changes?


Vision and Business Case  

  • Develop a compelling future state vision and business case that highlights the ‘Why’, clear end-user benefits and how the change aligns with the organizational and team strategy

  • Share this with end-users and managers to see if it resonates, get their feedback and iterate if needed



  • Determine the specific impacts, benefits and challenges of the change for each persona/user group

  • Determine exactly what you need each group to do differently to actualize the real value of the change


Stakeholder Analysis

  • Identify anyone touched by the change (even beyond end-users)

  • Ask yourself, what you need from them to make this change successful

  • Ask yourself, what they need from you in order to do so

  • Build these items into your change/comms plan



  • Establish and communicate exactly what you need leaders and end-users to do (including specific behaviors) in order to actualize the real value of the change or technology platform, as well as firm expectations and mechanisms to ensure accountability.




  • Identify measurable outcomes and metrics that are tied to behaviors and actions that will produce a clear ROI


Quick Wins

  • What are the quick wins and keystone behaviors we can focus on to show success and move the needle quickly?




  • Ensure there is a visible senior leader(s) willing to sponsor/message/lead the change

  • Have him/her share the vision, the “Why”, benefits, what’s changing, how it fits into the larger organizational strategy, what it means to people’s day to day, expectations, how people can get involved and how they will be supported. 



  • Enable managers to co-create and drive the change 

  • You may hold a session where you share the vision, the “Why”, benefits, what’s changing, how it fits into the larger organizational strategy, what it means to people’s day to day, expectations, and accountability and ask them:

    • What’s meaningful about the change to you? What will be meaningful to your people?

    • How would you roll it out? 

    • What questions or concerns do you expect from your team? 

    • How will your team receive this? What potential scenarios might we encounter?

    • What do you need to feel supported?

    • What will your teams need to feel supported?



  • Find  champions you can leverage to build excitement, scale success and provide bidirectional feedback 



  • Engage employees, managers and champions in the design of the implementation by providing feedback on messaging, the change strategy, etc. to increase commitment and a sense of control of the change.

  • Ensure the change management process accounts for the basic human needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness to mitigate resistance:

  • Satisfy the need for autonomy by inviting employees to apply their ingenuity and contribute their ideas to the change. 

  • Validate employees’ competence by asking how you can best do this and provide them with easy access to the skills and tools needed to master the challenges that the change process entails.

  • Nourish the need for relatedness by cultivating a work environment in which people feel a sense of belonging, care for each other and perceive their relationship with the organization as reasonably stable.


Friction and Resistance

  • Anticipate potential pain points and sources of friction with the change and have a plan to address it proactively

  • Identify potential resistors / non-adopters and listen to their concerns (via focus group, survey, 1:1s, etc.) to understand what hurdles they have to the change and what it would take to get them onboard

  • Identify the mindset/identity/emotional baggage they have attached to the current state that needs to be shifted to the future state

  • Invite end users to cocreate with you to increase commitment and a sense of control of the change



  • Determine how people be held to account

    • Self-accountability (behaviors and metrics tied to performance/comp)

    • Peer-to-peer accountability (team goals/incentives/metrics, leaderboards)

    • Leadership holding them accountable (reporting/dashboards to coach in 1:1s, mentioning it in meetings to keep top of mind)

    • Systems to hold them accountable (nudges, rituals, etc.) 


Feedback Loops  

  • Ensure ongoing active and passive feedback mechanisms are in place to gather feedback, sentiment, pain points, success stories, etc. pre, during and post launch. For example:

    • Collect and share wins, tips/tricks, lessons learned and success stories  

    • Survey to collect pain points and feedback

    • Team meetings to collect success stories, tips/tricks

    • Slack/other channels to collect questions, tips/tricks, success stories




  • Build competition and fun around wins and demonstrating the right behaviors

  • Leaderboards

  • Incentives / recognition



Reinforcement and Behavioral Science  

  • Status - In what way can you show them an increase in status or affiliation by being part of this change...and preventing them from falling behind?

  • Rituals - What habits can you create to automate behaviors or bundle new behaviors with current ones?

  • Nudges - Lattice/Slack/ other nudging software or nudging channels

  • Choice architecture - Where can you architect/steer their choices? 

  • Organizational Fabric - How else can you bake the new ways of working and ways of being held accountable into the organizational policies and processes (performance, rewards, )?

  • Support Model - What type of support model can you put in place to minimize friction post launch (Apple’s Genius Bar)?



  • Ensure there is a targeted change/comms plan and ongoing communication via the most effective channels to stakeholders and end users that highlight the vision, why, who, what, when, how,  expectations, how they will be held accountable, etc. 


Sustainability Plan

  • Ensure there is a clear owner of the change post-launch

  • Ensure there is an ongoing bidirectional communication plan post-launch that incorporates tips/tricks/ pain points, wins, etc. into communications

  • How else can you bake the change into the organizational fabric (performance management, other ways of working, processes, etc.?)

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