Updated: July 19, 2023 - 10 min read
Today’s Product Managers have to contend with the constant need to adapt to emerging technologies, changing consumer preferences, and intensified competition amid the economic slowdown. This means that change management is now front of mind for all Product Teams, not just those in the fast-changing world of tech.
Change management can be a challenging process—in fact, most change management initiatives fail. According to Harvard, 70% of these transformations are unsuccessful. But, why do most of these initiatives fail? The answer is simple, managers tend to undermine the real impact individuals have in direct relation to how successful any change process is.
Want to prepare your organization for change? Product Team training can get you there.
What is change management (and how can you do it right?)
Change management refers to the steps you’ll need to take to modify or change an important part of your team’s structure, focus, mission, or scope of responsibility. This could be the company culture, internal procedures, underlying technology, infrastructure, or any other crucial element. Depending on the nature of the change, this process can be:
Incremental, small-scale improvements you can apply to improve your team’s strategies, products, processes, and workflows. Examples of adaptive modifications include adding a new team member or enacting a new work-from-home policy to foster a more flexible working culture.
Significant in size and scope and frequently denote an unusual and, perhaps, abrupt change. Examples of transformative change include opting to renew your innovation culture policies or launching a new product.
Change management is crucial for Product Managers as it impacts team members' performance and success by considering their perspectives and needs. Successful change management means:
Being able to effectively navigate and lead through change (in and out of your team) ensures that your team members understand the reasons behind the change and will deliver products that remain relevant, competitive, and aligned with market dynamics. This understanding motivates individuals to stay updated, adapt their skills, and contribute to the success of the product.
Successful Launch & Adoption of Product
Mitigating resistance, addressing concerns, and securing buy-in from team members and key stakeholders. You’ll be able to achieve successful product launches and adoption when introducing new products or features as Product Team members are more likely to embrace and champion new products or features when they feel involved and their input is valued.
Identification & Risk Management
You’ll be able to identify, anticipate and address potential risks and challenges. Change management involves understanding the impact of change on various aspects such as user experience, company culture, and team dynamics. Involving the Product team constituents in this task makes their perspectives and expertise leveraged, enhancing their sense of ownership and responsibility.
Fostering a Culture of Innovation
Enables you to foster a culture of continuous improvement and innovation within your Product team. Effectively managing change will encourage experimentation, learning, and adaptation, empowering your team members to embrace new ideas, think creatively, experiment, and contribute to driving innovation within the team.
Improvement of your Skillset
Mastering change management equips Product Managers with agility, resilience, and the ability to drive successful product outcomes. While developing these skills, you’ll be able to inspire and guide people from your team through change, enhancing their own and their team's ability to navigate complexity and deliver value to customers and stakeholders.
5 Steps to effectively implement change management
You’ll need to be ready logistically and culturally to seek and implement change successfully. To achieve the best product outcome, keep in mind that cultural groundwork must be done before delving into logistics. Each step in the change management process considers the impact on team individuals and contributes to their success in different ways.
Step 1: Determine & Identify
Determine who will be affected by the change, directly and indirectly, by doing initial impact research. Then, identify the specific areas of the product that will be affected as well. Involve your team as much as possible to dote on them with a sense of ownership and understanding that will encourage their active participation in the change process. Your main goal here is to assist your Product Team in recognizing and understanding the need for change.
Pro tip: Getting this initial buy-in from the team who will assist in putting the change into practice, will reduce friction and resistance on upcoming stages.
Step 2: Develop & Anticipate
Developing a comprehensive plan outlining the steps, timeline, and resources required for the change is key for you to triumph in promoting change toward an innovative working culture. Your team’s involvement in this stage secures their commitment to the change and prepares them to tackle challenges proactively.
Pro tip: Foresee potential obstacles and develop strategies to avoid, get rid of, or lessen them.
Stage 3: Implement & Communicate
You’ll need to focus on motivating your team to take the essential actions to carry out the initiative's objectives throughout the implementation stage. Make sure to acknowledge any immediate successes and remember to keep on highlighting the goal of this initiative until everyone is 100% on board and cooperating.
Step 4: Embed & Oversee
Once the change initiative is over, you’ll need to oversee your team’s performance and put off any going back to the previous situation or status quo. Integrating changes into the company's culture and procedures ensures everyone is aligned with the new ways of operating. This is key for operations like workflows, culture, and strategy development. Without an adequate plan, there’s a significant risk of members reverting to the "old way" of operating, especially during the transitional phase.
Pro tip: You can easily avoid backsliding by integrating changes into the company's culture and procedures. Tools that will help change stick are new organizational frameworks, controls, and reward programs.
Step 5: Assess & Iterate
You’ll learn whether a change attempt was successful, unsuccessful, or had mixed results by doing analysis and evaluation, or a "project post mortem." This stage provides insightful information and lessons to use for the next change initiatives.
Ask yourself: Were project objectives met? If so, is it possible to duplicate similar success elsewhere? What went wrong if not?
Don’t forget to include your team members in the analysis and evaluation process, so they can gain a deeper understanding of project outcomes and are able to replicate successes, and avoid previous mistakes.
Tips to excel at change management
Full disclosure, nobody is naturally skilled at change management; instead, this is a skill that is normally developed over many years of practical experience.
In light of this, here are some questions that’ll help you assess your own performance as a change agent and acknowledge potential improvement steps. After each round ask yourself:
What’s driving the change? You need 100% clarity on the why. Without this knowledge, it may be challenging to properly address the underlying problems that called for change, which might undermine your chances of success.
Is my plan bulletproof? It might be challenging to carry out a change campaign without a thorough plan and clear strategy.
Am I being sufficiently clear? Effective communication with your team members and important stakeholders is necessary for successful change management. Creating a communication plan that takes this reality into account will be your best ally.
Have I identified all potential roadblocks? While it's hard to foresee every potential problem that might crop up with a project, it's generally a good idea to take the opportunity to anticipate them and develop mitigation techniques before you get started.
Change management examples: The Dos & Don’ts
Effective change management is crucial for companies to succeed in transitioning, and we can examine the experiences of Netflix as a representation of the DOs and Kodak as an example of the DON'Ts in this practice.
Netflix embraced change by transitioning from a DVD-by-mail service to a streaming platform. Netflix's change management success can be attributed to several key factors that impacted their Product Team’s performance positively:
Dos: Netflix's Change Management
Clear Vision and Strategic Approach
Their clear vision and strategic approach allowed individuals to understand the direction and purpose of the change to anticipate market shifts and pivot their business model towards streaming.
Their agile and adaptive culture empowered everyone to experiment and iterate quickly. This culture created an environment where individuals were encouraged to take risks, learn from failures, and adapt to emerging technologies. The freedom to innovate and respond to customer feedback empowered the team to contribute their creative ideas and expertise, enhancing their performance.
Their customer-centric approach, driven by data and analytics, ensured that the Product Team consistently delivered content and features that resonated with their audience.
Hiring Top Talent
Their emphasis on hiring top talent, transparent communication, and continuous learning and improvement further strengthened their change management efforts. It also reflected Netflix’s commitment to assembling high-performing teams while enhancing individual performance.
Unsurprisingly, the focus Netflix had on helping members individually become part of that transition, enabled the company to navigate change successfully and emerge as a dominant force in the streaming industry.
The contrasting outcomes of Kodak's failure and Netflix's success highlight the impact on team members and the significance of considering their perspectives. Here's how each factor in Kodak's failure relates to individual performance and how Netflix's success demonstrates the benefits of involving individuals:
Don'ts: Kodak's Change Management
Lack of Recognition and Adaptation
Kodak's inability to recognize and adapt to the digital revolution in photography hindered individual performance. By disregarding emerging technologies, Product Team members were deprived of opportunities to expand their skills and stay relevant in the changing industry. In contrast, Netflix's recognition of market shifts allowed individuals to proactively embrace change, fostering a sense of purpose and motivation.
Unlike Netflix's culture, which encouraged the Product Team to experiment, collaborate, and contribute innovative ideas, Kodak's resistant culture impeded individual performance by inhibiting innovation and stifling creativity. The focus on protecting existing revenue streams limited everyone’s ability to contribute and adapt to evolving market dynamics.
Slow Decision-Making Processes
Kodak's slow decision-making processes hindered individual performance by impeding timely responses to market changes.
Hesitancy to Invest in Emerging Technologies
Their hesitancy to invest in emerging technologies further limited individual performance. Without the necessary tools and resources, individuals were unable to explore new avenues, innovate, and meet evolving customer demands.
In conclusion, this handful of unfortunate choices prevented Kodak from adapting to new markets and resulted in a loss of market relevance and its subsequent disappearance.
The key learning from the contrasting outcomes of Kodak's failure and Netflix's success underscores the critical role of individuals in effective change management. To be successful, Product Leaders must recognize the importance of each team member in driving organizational success. Kodak's downfall resulted from its reluctance to adapt and embrace the digital revolution, reflecting a failure to engage and involve everyone in the transition.
In contrast, Netflix's achievement in the streaming industry was fueled by its ability to recognize market shifts, empower Product Teams to innovate and cater to evolving customer preferences. If you are able to value your team members' individuals, embrace their expertise, and foster a culture of adaptation and innovation, you'll effectively navigate change, seize new opportunities, and drive success.
So, if successful companies like Netflix or Slack are doing it, mastering the art of change management is also for you! Be it through fostering an innovation culture, adapting to new technologies, or the ever-changing user demands, it will set you and your Product Team to thrive in the ever-evolving Product Management landscape.
Make your organization change-ready through custom Product Team Training.
Updated: July 19, 2023