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Change Management Plan: Phases, Process, Templates & Example

19th Feb, 2024
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    Change Management Plan: Phases, Process, Templates & Example

    Every project undergoes changes which become an inevitable part of the project management life cycle irrespective of the level of planning that may have happened to plan and manage the project. Effective planning can often be marred not only by internal actions but also by factors that may be beyond the control of the project manager or organization. Such changes are often cascading and do not stick at one level or to a single area of business. In such cases, effective change management planning, communication, and managing steps of the change implementation become a key and integral part of the project management discipline - formulating the change management planning process or lifecycle. 

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    What is Change Management Planning?

    Change management is defined as the set of processes and procedures to accept implement and monitor changes and this often involves communicating about the change, understanding the impacts of the change, and monitoring the steps before and posts the change to ensure smooth and synchronized acceptance across the project/program. Change management primarily involves helping the organization adapt to changes and lay down the plan or roadmap based on the mentioned changes. To summarize, a change management communication plan lays down the steps to define a structured approach to implement business transformation across the project/organization to ensure a positive transition with minimal disruptions to not overwhelm the ways of working across the organization.

    Documenting these steps to adapt to change, and defining a solid structure to respond to change is what is defined in the project management process of change management planning. Larger changes or changes in larger projects require a more focused approach to minimize their impact or disruption across the board, while smaller changes demand a less defined approach to maintain business continuity and consistency of delivery. In all of these cases and the required checks and balances, and protocols are clearly outlined in the organization's change management plan template.

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    How to Create a Change Management Plan?

    Drafting a change management plan involves thinking through a series of steps following the organization's governance model and general practices. A generic change management plan example involves at the minimum, the following steps: 

    1. Goal Creation

    The first step in defining the change management process is to define the goals expected from the process. Goals provide the baselines or benchmark Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which become quantifiable criteria for evaluating the progress towards these defined goals. Goal setting is also important to accept changes, and transition processes, and understand the impacts of changes that may affect the project/organization.

    2. Establishment of a Change Team

    Establishing a change management team is a direct step to getting buy-in on the changes from the stakeholders. A diverse team representing different organizational functions and working groups will just help disseminate the information related to the change effectively, thereby making it easier to accept changes and minimize resistance to change. 

    3. Plan Development

    At this step of the change management process, a roadmap is outlined to showcase how the change will be accommodated in the existing plan and gives a view of the changes that may cascade further in the organization. The change management document or plan may be created following the organization's project management processes and can also be visually represented via a Gantt chart or several other project management tools. 

    4. Plan Execution

    Once the plan has been established, it is time to implement the plan thereby expending resources and efforts on the change to accomplish the objectives. It is important to continue the momentum to execute the change with an end in mind to achieve the desired outcomes and objectives. 

    5. Reinforcement

    Every change management process goes through significant resistance and this resistance can be in any form at any time throughout the project lifecycle. It is important that the process outlined provides an impetus for reinforcing the objectives of the change to ensure carrying out the change effectively without derailing progress at any point in time. As a general measure, continuously monitoring progress and adapting to the change established is what yields effective change implementation.

    What are the Phases in Planning for Change? 

    The 5 phases in planning for any change also formulate the cycle of change management and can be briefly described as follows: 

    1. Precontemplation: This is the first stage in the change planning process and is characterized by denial i.e. not acknowledging the change or the problem around which the change is needed. 
    2. Contemplation: At this stage, there is an acknowledgment of the problem but there is no readiness or planning to be sure of making the change. 
    3. Preparation: This is the stage of determining or getting ready to make/accept the change. 
    4. Action: This stage is characterized by the changing behavior and actual acceptance of the established change. 
    5. Maintenance: As a final stage, this involves maintaining the change i.e. inclusion of the updated/altered model in regular work and not allowing it to deteriorate backward. 

    These 5 stages formulate an essential part of any change management strategy for any kind of change - big or small usually transitions through these five stages to be effective. An effective planned change example aims to move through from the first stage (pre-contemplation) as fast as possible to the final stage (maintenance). 

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    How Does Change Management Work? 

    At the outset, the objective of any change management process is to effectively handle changes and raise awareness among participating parties on the changes as well as keep leadership informed on adaptability as well as resistance to changes. Change management focuses on the following disciplines in the organization: 

    • Establishes liaison among project stakeholders 
    • Constantly monitors and evaluates the project baselines
    • Prepares organization and stakeholders for the changes 
    • Manages change processes to smoothly transition the change 
    • Coordinates key project management activities

    Apart from these, change management aims to establish best practices, effectively transition processes and weed out loopholes in carrying out any form of changes - big or small within the organization. All of these are usually documented and maintained in the organization’s change management strategy template or the communication plan template to be taken up and implemented across any of the organization’s projects or initiatives. 

    Change Management for Project Management

    Change management is an important area for project managers as changes not handled efficiently can directly affect project baselines thereby derailing project progress and performance.

    • Scope: Change requests must be evaluated against the project scope to assess impact and come up with plans to get stakeholders' sign-off on the updated scope. This needs to be done for all change requests - minor ones, ones that reduce scope, and ones that reduce scope but do not alter efforts, practically any and every change request (CR as it is popularly known) should be evaluated against the scope baseline. 
    • Schedule: All changes must be assessed against the determined project schedule to come up with actual start/end dates of activities, assess critical path, and determine updated project timelines for activities to flow as per plan or with minimal variances.
    • Costs: CRs must be thoroughly assessed against project cost baselines to validate and keep the cost metrics up to date throughout the project lifecycle. CRs impacting costs can have a larger impact later in the project lifecycle vis-a-vis earlier. 
    • Quality: CRs must be evaluated to ensure there are no impacts to quality due to any of the baselines getting updated due to changes. Also, it is very important to note that quality forms an integral part of the project management iron triangle which has the above 3 processes viz. Scope, schedule, and cost on either side. 
    • Human Capital: Human resources are impacted by changes and this may be direct or indirect as per business decisions. Hence any change happening across the board even outside of the project can potentially impact this process of project management. 
    • Communications: Communication forms the indomitable area of focus for any and every change management process. Changes communicated and save escalations, costs, and other potential project problems. CR communication is the key for any project manager to maintain the stronghold of the project and run it effectively. 
    • Risk: Changes carry inherent risks by default and to effectively manage risks in the project, the project manager must be able to exploit risks to the advantage of the project for effective risk management in the project lifecycle.
    • Procurement: CR or changes in the organization can affect procurement decisions for the project and hence any change needs to be assessed for its impact on project procurement processes. 

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    What are the Steps in Change Management Planning?

    Change management planning refers to implementing the outlined approach in the event of a change and it briefly involves following through the below steps: 

    Step 1: Preparing the Organization for Change

    First, the organization needs to be prepared for the change and the communication for that change needs to be socialized with all stakeholders. The project manager should be able to handle all questions related to the change and support the team through the implementation of this change along with a resolution of all issues encountered when planning or strategizing the implementation of the mentioned change. 

    Step 2: Crafting Vision and Plan for Change

    Envisioning the change right from the initial CR process through implementation and maintenance of the change is important to ensure the transition due to the change is positive and effective across the organization.

    Step 3: Implementing Changes

    The actual implementation of the change involves putting the first two steps into action. It is the key step where the actual work of including the change in existing processes is carried out and requires sufficient time and effort from the project manager to coordinate, communicate and collaborate with the team and stakeholders to make the transition as smooth as possible 

    Step 4: Reviewing Progress and Analyzing Results

    Once the changes have been implemented, it is essential to keep a track of the changes, evaluate processes efficiencies, get rid of any challenges or issues, and maintain changes in the merged ecosystem. Analysis of results is what brings the benefits realization to the project/organization in alignment with the cost-benefit analysis done for taking up the change. 

    Change Management Plan Template

    A Change Management Plan Template is a pre-designed document that provides a structured format for creating a Change Management Plan. It includes sections for documenting the purpose, scope, process, roles and responsibilities, timelines, and communication plans. Using a template can save time and ensure consistency in the documentation of change management processes. 

    1. Change Management Plan Template - Doc (Download here) 
    2. Change Management Plan Template - Excel (Download here)

    What Does a Change Management Plan Compose?

    As outlined in this article so far, change is inevitable and project managers who prepare for change management or transformation effectively are the ones that can take advantage of the changes or exploit them to the advantage of the project/organization. To do this, a PM needs to have a solid understanding of the key components that a plan must include: 

    • Goals - Goals are the KPIs or objectives against which changes will be planned, assessed, and implemented. Goals relating to the change should be clear, effective, and easily implementable. 
    • Communication - Communication forms the backbone of the change management process just like any other project management process and forms an integral part of the plan. The project manager taking charge of implementing the change must keep all stakeholders informed and aligned at every stage of the change management lifecycle. 
    • Training - Training the team members and required stakeholders is important to implement the change effectively and bring the impacted parties on board to the plan. Without training, the transition may not be smooth and the project can suffer great damage and escalation of baselines due to change resistance. 
    • Resistance Management - Resistance management is a skill project managers must master to handle changes effectively. At the sight of resistance, the managers must look for workarounds mentioned in the plan to effectively carry out the change. Steps to identify barriers and overcome resistance must be clearly defined in the plan. 

    Are You Ready for Change?

    Whatever industry you are engaged in, changes are inevitable and will be a part of the project lifecycle even if the projects are well planned as changes can occur due to external or internal factors. Defining a thorough change management process, and outlining a detailed plan can be most helpful in overcoming challenges, reducing disruptions, and effectively engaging stakeholders in the change process. 

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1What is change management planning?

    Change management planning is an essential part of project management that focuses on creating a structured and methodical approach to smoothly implementing and deriving benefits from those changes. It focuses on transforming and transitioning teams, individuals and organizations to accept, adapt and maintain changes warranted by a business. 

    2What are the phases in planning for change?

    There are five broad phases in planning for a change at any level - viz. 

    • Preparing the team/organization for the change 
    • Formulating strategy and communicating about the change 
    • Providing training to the stakeholders 
    • Implementation of the change 
    • Analysis of implementation and measuring outcomes
    3What are the 5 change management strategies?

    Change management strategies include effective ways of working to implement changes thoroughly and track them post-implementation. These include: 

    • Outlining clear goals and objectives 
    • Detailing an implementation roadmap 
    • Planning risk management and mitigation strategies 
    • Communicating about the change effectively 
    • Providing sufficient information and training around the change 

    Rohit Arjun Sambhwani


    Rohit Arjun Sambhwani is an IT professional having over a decade and half of experience in various roles, domains & organizations, currently playing a leading role with a premier IT services organization. He is a post graduate in Information Technology and enjoys his free time learning new topics, project management, agile coaching, and writing apart from playing with his naughty little one Aryan

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