Change Success Factors and Their Role in Change Management

July 31, 2015

Written by:  Scott McGrail

For a change to be successfully carried out, we know that there needs to be a concise and consistent level of communication. This was highlighted in A “Quick Start Guide” to Change Communication . Expanding on this; it is important to focus on the surrounding pieces of the puzzle to ensure that the complete “Change Package” is being delivered. This package is made up of key change success factors and the attributes that they are built upon. Those six change success factors are Identification, Assessment, Ownership, Planning, Learning, and Measuring.

To begin, it is essential that you know where you are going and why. You need to have a vision and a clear understanding of the supporting vision criteria. The vision criteria will include the attributes that make up the business case and should all be addressed during the Identification period. They should be succinct and comprehensible, telling the audience what is happening and why, without being wordy. An example of a vision statement could be:

“We are introducing a new HRIS system to centralize functionality and improve the end user experience.”

Now that your employees know what and why things are changing, it’s time to truly assess the change and to examine and understand the impact that it will have on the organization, its employees, and perhaps its culture. This assessment will include thorough stakeholder identification as it is important to understand who the stakeholders are and to involve them in the discussion.   This will help begin fostering a sense of investment and ownership in the change, as well as allowing questions to be asked and hesitations addressed. This can be completed through sponsored social events such as lunch or breakfast and will help with the vision becoming something that is shared amongst all (one can hope) the stakeholders. A change impact report should be prepared in order to assess and prepare for the different risks and issues so that you can properly prepare for them.

As the vision is shared, stakeholders are identified and a clear understanding of where you currently are (as is) and where you are going (to be) are established. It will be very important to ensure that the proper level of ownership is adopted. Own the change and set the direction from the top! Management needs to spearhead the venture, acting as change leaders, setting the direction from the top and fostering an environment that facilitates engagement of the stakeholders. The change may involve multiple roles. The individuals assigned to the roles should know what it entails, as there is no room for assumptions. Leveraging responsibility assignment tools such as a RACI matrix can facilitate communication in this phase, ensuring that there is no doubt who is doing what.

No venture should be initiated without a plan, and the same applies to change. The planning success factor includes a strong change plan to capture the multiple elements of the change(s), acting as a centralized repository of information related to the change(s). This could include the communication plan, risk assessment, RACI matrix, learning plan, and stakeholder management plan. Depending on the nature and complexity of the change, the change plan can be simplified or built upon in order to achieve the appropriate level of detail.

Change inherently means that there will be a difference in the way people complete their responsibilities, meaning that there will be training and a learning curve. Learning factors are crucial aspects of a successful change as you need to maximize end user adoption and ensure that the change will be here to stay. End users need to have a training plan mapped out related to their specific role, including the timing of the change. It is important to adopt somewhat of a “Just in Time” approach as you want the training to be relevant and fresh in the minds of the participants. To minimize push back and negative perceptions, users need to have the skillset to properly capitalize on the change, including an understanding of potential limitations and their associated workarounds.

Assuming all change success factors have been implemented and that the change has been successfully carried out, it is time to complete the measurement of the change’s success. This success will be aligned to each and every organization and the nature of the change that they have undergone. Measuring employee adoption, the speed of that adoption and user proficiency are all good metrics, but as each change will emanate from a unique vision, the success criteria and measurement approach will also be unique. The key performance indicators should be laid out at onset so that you ensure their appropriate measurement through the lifecycle of the change. These points should be tied to the nature of the change and its goal.

Here are a few key points to remember when you are about to embark on your next change:

  • Have a clear vision
  • Share that vision with the organization
  • Set the direction from the top, and engage below
  • Train appropriately
  • Communicate clearly, consistently, and frequently


Scott McGrail

Scott McGrail is an experienced software implementation project manager with strengths in process assessment and change management. When not mapping processes or tracking progress on a Gant chart, he can be found enjoying the outdoors with his family.