Successful change management might be dependent on different factors such as motivated employees, adequate change management budget or even great communication plans and strategies.

But really, what are the top contributors to change management success?

This question seeks to help us understand and prioritize the parts of a change management approach that are most critical to achieving successful outcomes on change projects. According to the Prosci’s 2016 Best Practice Research Study the following were highlighted:

  1. Active and visible executive sponsorship
  2. Structured change management approach
  3. Dedicated change management resources
  4. Integration and engagement with project management
  5. Employee engagement and participation
  6. Frequent and open communication
  7. Engagement with middle managers

It is of importance to note that these are the same contributors to success identified in the 2014 edition of Best Practices in Change Management, with a few small changes in the order. Here’s the history of the top contributors over time:

FINDING!

From the data above, since 1998 the number one contributor to success has remained the same: active and visible executive sponsorship. It is easy to dismiss this finding as obvious but it is critical to observe the consistent acknowledgement of active sponsorship as the top most contributor to change success. Since 1998, for nine research studies in a row with over 4,500 participants, sponsorship has remained number 1.

INTEGRATION AND COMMUNICATION

The only other change to the contributors from 2014 was a slight move up of integration with project management (from #6 to #4) and a slight move down of frequent and open communication (#4 to #6). Does this mean that frequent and open communication is now less important? No. Communication has been a top contributor since 2000, and we all know from experience how critical it is.

The practice of effective integration between change management and project management has become more common in recent years. In fact, integration with project management only appeared as a top contributor for the first time in the 2014 report, so it is relatively new to the list. As organizations integrate change management and project management more, and with more sophistication, the benefits become clearer, and so its status as a contributor to success is on the rise.

A PRECURSOR TO SUCCESS

In the 2017 study, participants did call out an important secondary contributor to success: Many participants identified that without an organizational awareness of the what and why of change management, implementing the top contributors proved difficult. Building the awareness of the need for change management was foundational. Demonstrating the ROI of change management, articulating the business case for change management, and citing the potential of improved project success all helped to build this awareness.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU

The top contributors help us prioritize. Just because an aspect of change management doesn’t show up on this list, say conducting a change readiness assessment, does not mean it’s not an important part of a change management approach. However, when we have limited time and resources, these contributors help guide how we use our energy to get the most results from our efforts. If you run into resistance to an element of your change management approach, for example “we don’t have time to engage employees,” pull out this finding list.

History tells us that, if we want successful change, employee engagement is non-negotiable.