10 Steps to Defining a Change Management Strategy

Define a Change Management Strategy – Describing and Documenting the change desired

It’s sometimes much clearer to understand that change is necessary than it is to actually define it, and these 10 critical steps will help you define a change management strategy, to get to that point, and beyond. It is necessary to understand a few fundamentals, describe them and discuss widely to get a consensus, without which the change will never get off the ground. A business case for the change must be created to put the change in terms that show where the problem lies, why the change is required and why there not just a favourable but compelling business case. The objective of following these 10 steps is to get to a point where this business case can be signed off and the change is accepted as not just necessary but committed to as part of your defining your change management strategy. 


1) Define, delineate and agree on the business case for the change that you believe is needed. Your business case must clearly state the drivers of the change.

In order to this, we must arrive at clarity as to what it is that needs to change or that would be changing if the business case were to be signed off. To do this, clarity needs to exist as to what the current state is, what the gaps are in the status quo and the impact of those gaps. It should be possible to answer why these create disadvantages, pain and constraints plus explain what opportunities are to be gained from their remediation.

2) Terms of Reference

In defining these problems, gaps and deficits there should be a common understanding of what the problem is, its dimensions in terms of impact, risk and opportunity cost. There should be clarity amongst all those who are affected by it, what the problem statement is and the terms in which this is stated should be recognised and agreed to by all relevant parties.

For this to be as useful as it can, it must fulsomely explain why the change is sought and why the business needs to change in this way. A good change manager can help you position the answers to this questions in terms of benefits for the impacted classes of stakeholders and help to adequately communicate what the change will mean for people’s day to day job, which will be a primary concern, and if not communicated properly, can lead to a high level of resistance to change. People tend to resist change and so a big part of the 10 steps to define a change management strategy ensures this message is considered fully from the outset to facilitate the right conversations and get participation from everyone.


3) Target Operating Model Ambition

The third step of the 10 steps to defining your change management strategy is one of the most challenging. It’s easier to say what you don’t want but is it enough to say you want something that does not do what your current state does? It’s obviously not. The definition is driven by what you need to be able to do and how and defines the target operating model.

Almost as much as a problem statement needs to have a common language of expression, the future desired statement should have a common language of hope and ambition. This requires detailed discussion, clarity and documentation on what success would be, from the outset, tracking changes and deviations from it minutely, as well as the reason for the variation. This will change often as the project advances but as the way clears, so the solution clarifies. As the solution clarifies, it should be easier to know and express what successful change would look like.

Defining a change managemet strategy and Culture as part of Ecosystems


The dimensions of change will tend to describe metrics most people will recognise as project parameters but only a few can be defined at the outset because the others, like budget, necessarily depend on the other dimensions of change, and then, of course, the scope, which will be discussed further below. 

  • Business Change = The objectives derived from the problem statement and desired state statements.
    • The business change objectives may lead to clarity on the technology, IT and tools + architecture and other technical changes that are needed to support the business change
    • Technology Architecture Model Change
    • Structural Objectives
    • Physical Change objectives
  • Human Change – attitudes, processes, operations, relationships, layers, functional lines of business, roles and responsibilities, communications and handoffs
    • Human change objectives and the change strategy
    • Behaviours to be modified, in which areas and why, and what it will mean for functional architecture, lines of business, leadership, process designs and roles and responsibilities. Attitudinal changes require a clear core strategy to achieve these changes, especially if restructuring is involved, because as discussed in this blog, people resist change, and quite understandably so.
  • Organisational Change – Business Model, supplier, stakeholder, communication channels

At the early stages it is possible that pragmatically time and budget objectives may be set provisionally but without clarity and agreement and cost estimates on the agreed objectives, it is certainly very difficult to define the other dimensions of change but they will need to be at some point. 

  • Time Objectives
  • Budget Objectives
  • Quality Objectives defined by agreed KPIs. 

Key Performance Metrics (KPIs) will be established to measure these objectives, which must be tracked and monitored with issues raised when any of these falls short.

Required or Desired

As the 10 steps to defining your change management strategy progress, it is necessary to ask frequently and repeatedly as the changes are whether the change is required, i.e. absolutely necessary, pivotal and a is a priority or desired – strong reasons to have it but is not a deal-breaker. Change requirements, when built should be annotated in this respect and should keep this assignment as the high-level changes are decomposed. This question considers the implications and risks of not changing from both the business and human change perspectives.

As the change is being defined, and the operating model ambitions are conceived, it is necessary to understand if and where there is a need for behavioural, attitudinal and capability change with relation to the current state.  These gaps must be clearly identified and described under the human/people change element of defining the change. If you would like some help with defining a change management strategy at pace, get in contact.

4) Scope of Change

With clarity on the objectives, it may be time to prioritise them and create an outline of what needs to change. Even in large scale transformations, some things do not stay the same, not least for continuity but also because sometimes it is judged more pragmatic to maintain the status quo if it can continue to function in the to-be state. This will be the scope of change.

It will need to be defined against the following elements:

    • Business Architecture
    • System and Technical Architecture
    • Organisational Change Design and Functional Operational and People

5) Dependencies

Once there is clarity on all the objectives, and they are prioritised, It’s now possible to flesh out the dependencies and conflicts from the objectives. This refers to trying to understand and visualise the order of works, critical to workstreams and phasing and prioritising the works within phases too.

6) Risks and Assumptions 

These latter conflicts, as well as the dependencies, will drive the initial risks and assumptions of the change program and it is very important to be as detailed as possible as these stages and also extremely diligent in capturing them.

7) Pre- Business Case sign off Time Estimates and Initial Resourcing Estimates

The estimates worked out prior to the business case being signed off and the plan encountering the enemy – reality – can be subject to wild levels of change and adjustment. The time and cost metrics can be extremely unstable at this phase of the process. It makes sense to get professional help to get these and set a reasonable and realistic degree of tolerance. The more teams and specialities are required, and the more complex and in depth the transformation, the greater the order of magnitude by which the time and cost may increase.

8) Implementation Team Plan and Methodology Considerations

It is absolutely necessary to consider which change models might be employed. The more human/people change objectives and organisation transformation objectives, the more important it will be to not only have a clear methodology view for planning, implementation and delivery from a project perspective but also from a change perspectives. Two very effective and popular change methodologies are:

PM methodologies are Prince 2 and PMI models. Delivery Methodologies vary but Agile methodologies are extremely effective, although waterfall models have remained popular.

9) Sponsor and Governance Model Proposals

Change sponsors are crucial and large scale transformations are likely to have several sponsors. If the business case is signed off, the program will require stringent governance by people who will be accountable for the program and will appoint the program manager or project manager to have responsibility for delivering the project.

10) Business Case Sign Off

If you have gotten to this stage without help,  it is now time to decide the ‘who’ on the implementation side – will you use inhouse resources or partner with a coach or Program management/ implementation partners? 

Now is the time to decide the best way to proceed and who will help to realise the vision of the change that was enshrined in the business case, right at the start. On the basis of the above, it can then be decided if there is the risk appetite, budget and bandwidth in the organisation to undertake this change. 

If the business case has been produced for defining a change management strategy, then it will be a very well-articulated case for the change that explains all that needs to be changed, the drivers and the reasons why the change is required and there is a common language describing both the problem and the required solution, along with the KPIs. It is very important that the sponsors are identified with the impact of the change on them and their role in bringing forth the change is.

If the sign off is received, it will be time to validate the estimates and create formal change artefacts to get things moving.

The Project Management Structure for Change Management

Project Management Structure for Change Management

Change is delivered through a change project or programme of works, so that project management provides a structure for change management. It’s managed through project or programme management structure but tends to require additional protocols to manage the people side of change if the risks and impacts to people are high. There are many good reasons to undertake business change and you will know better than anybody as a leader in your business how urgent the need for change is.

Whatever approaches are used to manage the project, whether Agile or Waterfall models, each of which has their esteemed places in the process, project or programme management are a change management methodology that enables change leaders and business leaders to implement their change agenda in a way that is open, transparent, measurable and trackable.

Change management is about finding the best way to guide your organisation and put it into the best state to predispose it to drive and realise value through its activities. 

Organisational change is the backdrop to change management and a Project management structure allows us to define parallel and phased workstreams that let us create a parcel of deliveries that constitute the relevant change. There is an overarching piece about what the change strategy is. 

The Business Case for Change and how a Project Management Structure helps

Business cases and organisational objectives must be linked to both the project management methods and the change management strategy at as granular a level as can be managed. Isolating the state changes and transitions required to go from the as-is organisation to the to-be or target organisation is the work of Target Operating Models and Business Transition workstreams and very often the people management processes remit end up here. What’s true is that Change Management seeks to find the most effective way to get to the most satisfactory and sustainable outcome for people and cannot always just focus on the efficiency of that process because it is can be like asymmetrical warfare. A Project Management structure for change management is an attempt to streamline the process and create a measure of efficiency.

So what are all the different things that may need to be different? Well, people, process, operations, technology, tools, functions, organisation design, ways of working, roles and responsibilities, relationships with internal and external suppliers and vendors – any and all of these and more may need to change. All while the organisation and its activities cannot stand still! It’s clear that change will affect ways and modes of working, terms of reference and most challenging of all, behaviours.

If change management provides the vision for reframing the organisation, Project Management must focus on building on the components of that change, however, the main characteristic of change management is that people are central to success. How these two are aligned and reconciled is through the Business Transition Function. It’s necessary to define and measure milestones. The objectives of the change define the milestones and the project management process helps to propel, align and measure it but will tend to be focused on the technicalities of meeting the milestones. This is why Business Transition as a discipline is the absolute linchpin of both successful change management and project management. Business Transition recognises the people change element of the change landscape and endeavours to put people change at the center of the process. A Business Transition PM can focus and champion the people and participation side of change and should be an integral piece of the change management puzzle.   

Project Management structure to Change Management


The effective integration of change management principles into project management protocols depends on reconciling the human element of the change through every step of the project.  

For Change to Succeed, it Must be People-oriented

A top tip for change and project management success is to start with people and prioritise activities related to them and plan around selling and persuasive behaviour to encourage the adoption of the change. Have dedicated processes across the workstream that provides a touchpoint for the user and other impacted stakeholders community. Given the sums spent on business transformation, it is rash not to do so. But I can tell you companies make this mistake every day. 

They make this mistake and they miss valuable inputs and lessons, and engagement that ultimately leads to small errors and faults or colossal failures. Failures are like fault lines; they may not show up on the day the project is delivered or even closed but you start getting people taking time off with illness or stress, or they leave, and brand reputation is impacted. New changes, and there are always more, end up having a multiplier effect on these existing issues.

Mergers and Acquisitions or new technology or regulatory requirements, drive changes in the banking sector for example, but regardless of the sector, these types of changes will throw up significant people challenges. Sustainable Benefits realisation is dependent on people-oriented change, notwithstanding the project management structure adopted. Sustainability is relevant the project may seem to be a success if you deliver the new tech for example but if you then face low levels of adoptions, face the expense of keeping legacy systems and ineffective people as a result, not having breached budget and time does not make it any less a failure than if you had. And the costs are not negligible, not just in the terms outlined above but in cold hard cash.

Leading Organisational Change Management

Successfully Leading Organisation Change Management

Successfully leading organisational change management is about vision and blending strategic brand imperatives with business objectives and benefits realisation. In order to improve performance competitive positioning and benefit from technological advancements with the potential to transform the business opportunities, behaviours, capabilities and innovation attitudes and enablement in the organisation that is to be changed.

Leading organisational transformation as an entrepreneur, CEO/COO or Director must focus on finding a team of external partners who can take the vision and run with it so that the transformation answers a customer-focused, brand-aligned, people-centred objectives, that would be in line with technology and the best fit for the organisational purpose and business’ short to long term objectives.

Successfully Leading Organisational Change

Challenges of Leading Organisational Change

There are many risks and challenges in starting, running and embedding change as in house project. Leading organisational change management does require many moving parts. A few challenges are listed below.

–  Sadly, sometimes, even leaders with vision and the drive to bring the requisite change to bear on the business’s fortunes lack methodology, structure and the systems thinking required to implement change successfully.

–  It’s often very difficult to run transformation programmes within the organisation itself with no independent and outside teams to bring industry best practice and ideas to what is a hefty problem, in an area potentially fraught with conflict and plenty of opportunities to fail.

–  The truth is that the risk appetite necessary to lead organisational change management programmes to help achieve the business’s urgent objectives is quite tough to gain consensus for. It’s also a challenge to maintain motivation over the time it actually takes to implement the requisite change.

– Leading organisational change is dependent on the ability to re-envision several different parts of the organisation in parallel and the business change and planning skills to bring those changes to fruition. Every manager, dependent on their operational discipline, will hold vastly different views on the content, process and structure of an effective change strategy to lead organisational change.

–  A common problem is recognising that managing change is fundamentally different from just managing a project and requires knowledge of and mastery of a range of skills specifically around managing people change, team dynamics; while risk management is built-in, it does not always extend to readiness and embedding new process practices and roles and responsibilities.

– HR might focus on compensation and perhaps training but not necessarily what it takes to make staff feel empowered to lead innovations and part of the transformation which regards to what will make their jobs easier, faster and more effective, especially in the absence of knowledge of industry trends or best practice. Heads of operations and finance may argue the toss about adjusting financial metrics versus new productivity tools with little consideration of what these might mean for the overall operating models.

It’s clear to see that leading organisational change would be fraught with difficulty for the leaders of business because too many different levels of vision planning, strategy, implementation and processes for measurement need to be considered. This is why it makes sense to get help in translating and implementing the vision while the leader remains the final arbiter and guardian of that vision.


Project Management and Business Change Delivery

Change Partners can help lead organisational change management

External partners can help to realise clarity and determine the art of the possible with the objectives and requirements while identifying logical sequences and synergies that can be found, and address and remediate the problems outlined above.

Somebody needs to sustain the love and purpose of the organisation and use that to galvanise things when the going gets tough and snarled up during he transformation and the conflict in priorities threaten to halt things, with the chaos caused by the conflicting priorities of different leaders who want what is best for their department, functions and line of business. Only the leader can sustain a holistic across-the-board view of how things need to fit and work together for the sake of the business, its customers and its investors, all at the same time.

If as a leader, you have a strong, bold view of what the transformation should be and do, systemically and sustainably, its necessary that this remains intact and things are not allowed to descend into chaos. To achieve this, a story needs to be told, consistently, constantly, indefatigably and clearly. The CEO or directors leading organisational change have to be the storyteller, They need to keep that story going to get the transformation done and most importantly to know when the goal has been achieved or be able to tell when there are gaps in the planned implementation and its impact o lack thereof.

The job of the leader of the transformation within an organisation is to empower people to go away and make that story real and breathe, keep the faith and focus to realise the transformative benefits envisaged at the start.

You, leader, recognise the necessity of transformative action, systemic change and reinventing the business, its people and its processes. Translating these into a business transformation strategy and plan and portfolio of changes is a job a separate team should do under your direction. The world’s largest organisations recognise this and there is a need for small to medium size businesses not already in this mindset to adopt it. Make it a priority to find delivery and implementation partners who understand and have experience of all the areas that need to be juggled and that can provide a clear and shared framework and methodology for running a transformation programme and who will deliver a roadmap that clearly shows the activities, roles and responsibilities that should be represented in parallel and consecutive sequences to achieve the transformation desired by an ambitious company.

You cannot copy content of this page