Know your change phase

The wheel of change is always rolling.

No matter how things feel in the moment, there is always one thing we have in our control: what we focus on. It is easy to forget this in the moment, and just as easy to get back on track– remind yourself:

“Where your focus goes, your energy goes.”

As we create change in our companies, it helps to know the phase you are in. Because it is a wheel that never really ends- you can setup a framework to help you and the entire company put words to things that are often hard to capture as precisely as we would like. Things such as:

  • Assigning ownership for each phase
  • How we know a new phase is here
  • What tasks are in this phase
  • How we can be prepared for the next phase
  • How we transfer ownership to the next phase members and how we know it is time

While the approach looks a bit different at every company, it is almost always messy. So lets focus on something we can control right now to start planning for future success! The change phases in the framework described here are about being able to easily identify the current change phase of any initiative, as well as the next phase coming up– so everyone can plan the activities needed to fully support phase transitions across the organization.

Every phase must have a clear entry task and exist checklist that can be defined and owned by people/ teams (specific tasks might ultimately look different for your company, but the spirit of the framework should give you a good starting point):

Identifying the entry and exit criteria of each phase and giving clear ownership so specific people for each phase will get you most of the way to implementing structure around these transitions. Creating a Center of Excellence (CoE) or a Change Advisory Board (CAB) is another layer shown here that brings a channel for clarity and collaboration (don’t work in silos!).

Phase: Choosing Change

Focusing on what the new end result looks like can help the entire chain of events move easier through change- because when people understand the vision, they can figure out where they can contribute and how to measure success.

This means, thinking about what defines success if we were measuring results tomorrow. This isn’t “implement Salesforce”, or “give sales people a pipeline that doesn’t live in Excel”… this is about defining the actual benefits to be expected from the effort.

Here are a couple of examples of what a “vivid vision” statement could look like:

  • Our company will have revolutionized the way our sales teams operate, transitioning from the cumbersome and inefficient Excel pipeline management to a seamless, automated process and system. We will have a dynamic, thriving sales environment where every team member is empowered to focus on what they do best: nurturing relationships and closing deals. No longer will our teams waste precious time on finding the right Excel document to update or struggle with fragmented visibility into the sales pipeline. Every step of the sales process will be streamlined and transparent, from lead generation to conversion. Picture our sales teams confidently navigating through a comprehensive dashboard, where real-time insights and analytics guide their every move. Imagine the satisfaction of knowing that every lead is being nurtured effectively, every opportunity is being maximized, and every customer relationship is thriving!
  • The most important outcome in our future as a company is transforming our customer experience operations into a highly efficient, data-driven powerhouse to allow our teams the ability to focus on what truly matters—engaging with our customers strategically and keeping them highly engaged with our products and services. Leveraging predictive analytics, we will anticipate customer needs before they even arise, enhancing satisfaction and deepening loyalty. This vision not only drives operational excellence and reduces costs but also elevates our brand as a leader in customer-centric manufacturing.

While you might not deliver everything right away, these type of future visions can help you plan and work toward measurable progress across every part of your company!

Try this 3-step process to write a Vivid Vision:

1. Imagine what the business looks like 3 years into the future

2. Focus on what it feels like, not how you’ll get there

3. Write down what you come up with for each part of the business as if it’s already happened.

This process is presented in Vivid Vision A Remarkable Tool For Aligning Your Business Around a Shared Vision of the Future by Cameron Herold.

At this point, with a clear vision of the future aligned with specific outcomes the business is looking for, you can go to the appropriate people in your organization to ask them what solutions would be best to explore. Because so much work has been done up to this point, the solution process will be much quicker and you are less likely to get stuck in the wrong solution too fast.

Remember, solutions at this stage are less about “the how” and more about questions like “what problem does this solve”, “what defines success”, “who is impacted” and “what data do you expected to get”– so don’t get too bogged down by the how here and be ready to do a full design phase before beginning to build in order to confirm the solution assumptions are aligned once you get the broader teams involved. You need solutions at this stage just to put structure and assumptions around initial technology, budgeting and resourcing priorities for planning activities.

Choosing Change Phase Actions:

  • Entry Step: Define new desired business outcomes and success metrics
  • Exit Checklist: Vision is clear, ownership assigned, solutions defined and budget allocated

Some good things to consider in this phase: what are desired outcomes, what does success look like in the future, how can we measure success, what is the alignment with company goals, how big of a priority is this and how many resources can we put toward this, how can leadership provide support, what do we need to do to measure our current state in a way so we have a clear baseline to measure against in the new future state.

Choosing Change Phase Stages:

  • Strategize: define the desired outcomes/ results vision, success metrics, identify ownership and authority, initial budget, resource and timeline restraints based on understanding company priorities and initiatives
    • Includes everything from leadership defining the new outcomes and vision, assigning ownership, to managers getting the word and deciding the right folks to talk to about potential solutions that could be needed to move in the right direction
    • There are many conversations and a lot of research needed to understand options and assumptions, because choosing to change and getting down to actually creating change are very different things.
  • Solutions: define which technology and process solutions will be focused on for the budget and resources allocated
    • Data is a key component to consider as part of the solution process (data comes from people, technology and processes). So begin with the end in mind and consider what data you will want to have at the end that determines if you were successful and work backwards from that for the right solutions. Imagine what behavior shifts are required to get that type of data.
    • Achieving different business outcomes requires different behaviors so we have to make sure everyone understands the desired outcomes so they can use their unique skill set to consider potential solutions that could shift a behavior to get what is desired in the end. These hypothesis are critical to success-you want as many to choose from as possible to decide which make the. most sense to try first.

Phase: Creating Change

If you are lucky enough to get to move into this phase, it means leadership has approved the high level budget, prioritized resources, and assigned the ownership needed to move in a direction that will get them the results they are looking for. Now comes the fun really starts!

The first step upon entering this phase is to finalize the scope of work, which means you know the final budget, which resources you are using internally and externally (if hiring consultants or vendors), roles and responsibilities, timeline and have a kickoff date and plan. If this project is part of a larger program (grouping of projects) then this step will need to happen for each project.

Before the project kicks off, be sure to focus your energy on expectation setting and understanding the reality of how involved it is to get all the pieces of the puzzle to a place where build can really get started.

  • Define project management cadence and expectations
  • Identify core project team expectations
  • Identify extended project team expectations

Here is a typical list of typical document outputs:

  • Personas
  • Jobs to be done
  • Business Requirements
    • Results oriented needs
    • User experience needs
    • Data governance needs
    • End reporting needs
  • Functional Requirements
    • Behavior-Oriented
    • Measurable and Testable
    • Specific and Concrete
  • Solution & Process Design
  • Communication Strategy
  • Adoption Strategy
  • Change Management Strategy

Creating Change Phase Actions:

  • Entry Step: Finalize scope of work and project budget, and kickoff (do this for each project lane if this project is part of a larger program)
  • Exit Checklist: Changes/systems/processes are deployed, and adoption & change management strategies finalized and approved

Some good things to consider in this phase: do we all agree with the proposed solutions, does the design consider user experiences, do we have effective project management plan, have we defined our future state clearly, does everyone on the project understand the business outcomes this project should deliver, do we have a plan to measure success/outcomes in future state, do we have a communication plan, what is our full adoption & change management strategy, who owns what tasks and deliverables.

Creating Change Phase Stages:

  • Scope (discovery & design): brainstorming, user interviews, deep dive scoping sessions and requirement gathering, understanding options for resourcing, finalize solutions, finalize cost, timing, complexity, approach.
  • Delivery: manage the project, build solutions, test, implement process updates, train, communicate, collaborate, launch.

Phase: Adopting Change

When people are “in the know” and the work is transparent, the roadblocks come down because there is less fear (people fear the unknown, not change). Tips for starting prep activities before officially entering this stage:

  • Sharing the vision to everyone as soon as you can, and often reminding them with updates as you go will do wonders for moral and general excitement
  • The more understanding there is around the end goals of the company the more they can actively think about their contribution and role in the new world when it comes
  • Including a representative “power user” for each group in the project phase for testing and or gathering requirements so everyone feels they are being included in the process will help people be less resistant when it goes live (again, because when people are fearing the unknown it is a major roadblock that they are always thinking about and building more fear/anger as they make up worse case senarios, etc. as a cycle that is normal for people to go through)

As you enter this phase officially, you will be working to replace the current state with the new future state (so that the new future state becomes the new current state!). This can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Some things to consider for the strategies to deploy in this phase include:

  • Having a plan for how users get support once system/process is live
  • Having the right people in place to support users
  • Understanding just people people saw the new way once in a training it is unlikely to stick immediately until they build experience
  • The more real-time the support is, the better your adoption will be
  • The quicker you can deploy updates based on feedback, the better your adoption will be
  • Make sure people can get answers easily and that they clearly understand the benefits

Adopting Change Phase Actions:

  • Entry Step: Actively engage adoption & change management strategies
  • Exit Checklist: Adoption success metrics are being met

Some good things to consider in this phase: do people know why the change is here and understand the benefits to them and the company, do they know why the business will benefit, do we embrace enablement and training in the company culture, will we support and nurture a group of power users to create a culture people want to work at, are we improving the onboarding process.

Creating Change Phase Stages:

  • Actively Adopt: Highlight the benefits of the new process and technology ongoing and loudly. Key levers impacting adoption are around level of 5 factors: complexity, perceived benefits, system integration, and social influence.
    • Understand stages of adoption and work to empower each group as quickly as possible.
    • Leverage the Innovators and Early Adopters to your advantage, prepare for the success of the Early Majority and ensure Late Adopters have full support from strong power users (identify the Laggards and handle appropriately).

Phase: Monitoring Change

This phase is all about measuring the impact and benefits of your initiatives, and ensuring that they are delivering the desired outcomes! And then using the results to strategize action within the company appropriately.

Monitoring ongoing business needs and the impact to technology is tricky work, but we have to do it!

Having a team designated to own the system can span across business teams and technical teams, but people have to be identified and their job must include supporting the system and the ongoing enhancements as the business needs evolve. The IT team might own any Salesforce deployments to production, but the Sales Operations team owns sales process updates and the Sales organization might have their own Salesforce Admin responsible for building new solutions in a sandbox environment. There are a lot of ways you can slice the cake and assign responsibilities, but the point is to have a plan that works and does not cause major bottlenecks (i.e. you don’t want your Sales team frozen from doing what they need for a new initiative because IT is backed up working on an ERP project that will take 2 years).

Yes, this means different teams and different business units from the business teams to IT are involved. This means not one person “owns it all” and this means not one person/team is impacted. That is why companies doing this phase successfully have a Center of Excellence (CoE) and or a Change Advisory Board (CAB).

  • A CoE is responsible for sharing knowledge and maintaining the standards that have been agreed to as an organization based on best practices and industry standards. Download “A Practical Guide to Creating an Effective Salesforce Center of Excellence” from 10K to get ideas on how to get started on this. Typically made up of highly-skilled experts in their field.
  • A CAB is responsible for providing oversight and guidance around change management activities, specifically things like evaluating major repeating issues, proposed changes, gauging potential risks, and offering implementation recommendations. Check out this article for more details from WalkMe. Typically made up of IT and Business representatives that include: a change manager, user managers and groups, product owners, technical experts, and possible third parties and customers (if required).

Monitoring Change Phase Actions:

  • Entry Step: Transfer ongoing ownership of product(s) to appropriate team
  • Exit Checklist: Evolving business needs demands larger initiative (breaks off as a channel feeding Choosing Change)

Some good things to consider in this phase: do we have a Change Advisory Board (CAB) or Center of Excellence installed, are the results of new deployments what we expected, what is the data saying vs our baselines and assumptions, do we have the right skill sets, is the business evolving again, are there more issues than are typical, why?, what are new outcomes needed for enhancements (and are they in need of a new project / company initiative)

Monitoring Change Phase Stages:

  • Support: system is setup to receive and review incoming questions, issues and needs.
  • Maintain: issues are addressed, solutioned and delivered, the backlog managed, data governance in place, (ideally, automated testing and monitoring technology in place).
  • Enhance: assessment process is followed to collaborate and prioritize enhancement and optimization deliverables as the business evolves
  • Assess: a change committee is receiving summaries and meeting regularly to confirm where issues keep bubbling up and when enhancement needs are evolving into a larger issue to be reviewed as leadership decides if new outcomes are needed (if so, it moves out and enters the “creating change” phase!)

Hopefully embracing a structured framework that delineates phases, ownership, and outcomes, you can help your company navigate change with clarity and purpose! In this dynamic cycle of change, success is not merely a destination but an ongoing commitment to collaboration and transformation with purpose!