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How to Manage a Business Change


To the finish line and beyond.

by Brent Morgan

With all the best of intentions, most companies launch themselves into a change project with the expectation of accomplishing great results. There is initial fanfare and huge excitement that all too often can turn on its head when project budgets explode, timelines seem eternal, and that initial enthusiasm begins to fizzle. Why does this happen you ask, even at companies or with teams that are typically very “successful?” There are a few pitfalls that can be avoided as well as clear pathways that can be followed that will allow you to stack the change management deck in your favor.

Complicated is not a phrase that we want to use when talking about change management. Simple is best since employees frequently wear many hats and have a full plate of work to accomplish. Start with a solid change methodology that is adoptable and consistent for your organization. Anytime that business and/or technology change is considered at your company, you should be able to engage a standardized methodology used to help insure a successful transition.

The key to effective change management is in helping employees understand and accept that positive change is part of our continuous improvement plan. Writing down the process or action the team needs to change is the first step. This way it is formalized and agreed upon, and the team appointed to manage the initiative can keep track of actions and outcomes. You don’t need to have a highly complex paperwork trail to get the work done. You just need to document it in a sharable format, and have a way to easily reference the plans, goals, and key performance indicators put together for the project.

Here is how to get started on formalizing a change management plan:

STEP 01 Initiating Change.
Start by first defining and documenting the purpose of the change. It is key to write out and document a project plan, which should include project goals, tasks that will be taken to complete stages/ phases of the project, the dates for accomplishing the project tasks, assigning realistic timelines and those responsible for the tasks, and then determining key performance indicators for the project. You want to be able to succinctly communicate all this information to your team so they can easily understand the reason for the change, the requirements of the project, and how the change specifically benefits them.

STEP 02 Define the Because and Why.
Employees who understand the “because” and “why” of the recommended change are more likely to have increased levels of adoption and acceptance. Along with the reason behind the need for the change, the reinforcing principle of why the current state of business requires change should also help employees see how the future state will benefit them. By taking the time to articulate the “why” and lay out the vision of the future-state and the accompanying benefits, it will be much easier to align efforts into forward momentum.

STEP 03 Mobilizing Commitment for Change.
Within most change projects, it is easy to identify those that are early adopters of the change. It is a savvy endeavor to cultivate a group of change advocates and use the gravity of “rising stars” to pull those that may be lagging along.

It is crucial, as you are mobilizing commitment, to identify all project stakeholders, evaluate their levels of engagement, and spend your time where it is needed the most. If the early adopter and rising stars are already doing well with the change, your efforts can be focused on those who may need more encouragement to progress forward and/or assist with the change.

A formal but simple stakeholder analysis may be a great tool for project leadership to use in regular evaluation of stakeholder positioning.

STEP 04 Live the Transition.
This is the part of the change process where we are moving from the old to the new, and it is imperative the project leadership demonstrate the continued importance of the project, the value of the change effort, and maintain high levels of confidence and trust with other employees.

Missing deadlines or not addressing issues in a timely manner can erode project progress. Employees might say or think, “If it’s not important to management, then why should it be important to me?” This is the time for energy and motivation. Reinforcing and reminding those involved in the project of the benefits of the change will be vital to help them get the work done.

Be sure to have some fun in this phase to keep up morale and momentum. Have contests regarding project deliverables, bring in unique/special food for training sessions, and reward your teams for meeting or exceeding the project key performance indicators. Change should be welcomed and invigorating and not dreaded.

STEP 05 Creating Good Muscle Memory.
After all the effort and energy of a good change project, we want to ensure that change “sticks.” It can be very easy for project antagonists to softly roll back change efforts to return them to a more “comfortable” way of doing business.

Part of the project plan should include policy changes that reinforce the newly changed procedures or processes. It is imperative to follow up and make sure that individuals and or teams are not sliding back into “the way things used to be done.” This follow-up should be timely and regular until the change is part of the fabric and “muscle memory” of getting business done.

Total and continuous commitment to change starts at the top. Create a shared belief that change is critical and be sure to share a clear vision and buy-in to engage employees.

Celebrate the accomplishment of the change project as it is completed and continue to communicate to your organization so everyone understands what is on the roadmap for future improvements and what the benefits entail.

This communication and engagement helps teams realize that change is not an event only to be done once, but it is a journey of continuous improvement for the company. Cultivate culture, systems, and processes that support change at all levels and be sure to continually monitor progress and share results. Change should be viewed and indeed embraced as an ongoing process – not an ad hoc event.


  • Keep your scope – Scope creep is a real thing that can quickly dilute original change efforts. If there are additional beneficial change options that appear during the project, consider them for a Phase 2 project and complete the goals and tasks you set out to achieve.
  • Leadership Understanding Their Role – Organization leadership should continually reinforce the value of the change project and of its importance in the success of the team. If leadership does not show significance and importance for the project, then it is unlikely that others will give the needed effort to make positive change happen.
  • Address the Human Element – Great companies are made up of great people who get business done. The best projects engage these great people at all levels of the organization to ensure success. Communicate to and get feedback from your people to make sure they are participating for the welfare and benefit of you project.
  • Change is a Positive – Do what is needed to make sure that positive and progressive change is seen as a cultural part of what makes your organization great and a great place to work. Help your organization put practices and policies in place that encourage positive change with rewards for those who innovate and drive productive transformation.

Brent Morgan

Brent Morgan is senior professional services sales architect at Epicor. He can be reached at:

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of 
Industrial Supply magazine. Copyright 2023, Direct Business Media.


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