Top success factors in effective change management

The 13 critical success factors describe what is necessary for a well-managed change


LaMarsh Global has been at the forefront of change management for 45 years. Before there were methodologies, certifications and toolkits, our team has been documenting and understanding organizational change to better support companies through the entire process.

The culmination of LaMarsh Global’s experience and research is Managed Change – a comprehensive methodology that can be applied to organizational changes of all types and sizes. At the root of Managed Change is our definition of the most important factors of an effective change.

These critical success factors inform our methodology and are used as guiding indicators of project success and the overall change capability of an organization.


What is a successful organizational change?

A successful change achieves the desired state while avoiding, mitigating or accepting unwanted impacts to stakeholders or the organization that can inhibit or prevent the change.

Although the definition of success focuses on achieving the desired state, success also depends on sustaining the change after the project deadline or the final after-action review meeting. A successful change is sustained until there is a deliberate decision to revise the desired state or introduce a new one.

Effective change management rarely erases all risks or issues that arise during or after the initiative. Organizational change is simply far too complex, rapid and multidimensional to achieve perfectly. When people are impacted or involved with a change, their behaviors and beliefs can influence the outcome. Change management strives to understand and manage these risks to improve the likelihood of project success.



Why do changes fail?

A simpler definition of a successful change is one that avoids failure. In parallel to our observations and research into what makes a change successful, we’ve given keen attention to why organizational changes fail.

Failure is the consequence of people not accepting or adopting the change at hand. The target degree of acceptance across stakeholders depends on the nature and goal of the change, so universal enthusiasm is never the ultimate goal.

We consider any reasons that may contribute to a level of acceptance or adoption below the target a potential risk to the change. Measuring the severity and culmination of these risks provides leaders and change practitioners with an indicator of the likelihood of success, and routinely measuring the risks is the prime indicator for progress.

Managed Change contributes to the ongoing identification and prioritization of risks that can contribute to failure.


Top organizational change success factors

By combining the characteristics of successful organizational changes and the common sources of risk, our change management experts have defined 13 critical success factors. The critical success factors were developed to:

  • Emphasize what is most influential to the success of a change.
  • Shift language to focus on what is necessary for success (instead of what is necessary to avoid failure).
  • Summarize the goals of Managed Change, our change management methodology.

This list of factors evolved as our change management methodology expanded and refined according to the changing needs of organizations. They continue to form the basis for Managed Change.

  1. Strong case for change – The reason or purpose of the change makes sense at the time to all audiences.  
  2. Impact of history is acknowledged – The causes or perceived history of poorly managed changes in the past are identified, analyzed and mitigated as needed.
  3. Impact of culture is acknowledged – The culture of an organization is taken into consideration when planning the change, and this may require change as well.
  4. Definition of the desired state is clear – All elements of the desired state (structure, process, people and culture) are defined and understood by all impacted people.
  5. Transition dip is acknowledged – The potential unwanted impacts of the transition are identified and mitigated if possible.
  6. Impact of multiple changes is understood – Other concurrent or overlapping changes are identified, and the impacts are analyzed and mitigated as necessary.
  7. Leaders are effective at all levels – Every leader involved understands the change and commits to fulfilling their role and responsibilities.
  8. Change practitioners are capable and willing – Change practitioners are ready, competent and have the resources necessary to support the change.
  9. Risk is identified and analyzed – Potential risks during and after the change are understood.
  10. Risk is mitigated effectively – The change management plan includes strategies and resources to mitigate the identified risks.
  11. Organization is competent in managing change – The organization has the resources and capability, from internal or external sources, to manage the entire change.
  12. Project management is effective: The solution implementation team is engaged, capable and incorporates the change management plan into the overall project plan.
  13. Decision-making structure is operational: The role and responsibilities of all leaders are defined, and the change governance and decision-making structure are clear and operational. 

Leveraging data collected through the project’s lifecycle, Managed Change strengthens the critical success factors of every change initiative.


How to assess the success factors

Measuring the critical success factors allow practitioners to:

  • Assess the scale and complexity of a change.
  • Prioritize any risk mitigation actions.
  • Monitor the progress of change readiness.

At all stages of an organizational change – most importantly before and during – data is gathered to assess all the success factors. Managed Change includes processes and tools to gather and assess data, including:

  1. Strong case for change – Review the state of the organization today and why the change is necessary.
  2. Impact of history is acknowledged – Review the successes and failures of previous changes to identify what perceptions people have about the probably success of the current change.
  3. Impact of culture is acknowledged – Review the state of the organizational culture today and identify how the culture may impact the success of the change project. (See more about culture change.)
  4. Definition of the desired state is clear – Gain alignment among leaders on the definition of the desired state and goals for the initiative.
  5. Transition dip is acknowledged – Identify the impacts to the business and stakeholders that may arise during the transition  and plan strategies to minimize any negative impact.
  6. Impact of multiple changes is understood – Review all concurrent changes that are impacting the same stakeholders.
  7. Leaders are effective at all levels – Assess the skill and willingness of leaders responsible for the project or managers of people that are impacted by the change. (Download a leadership assessment.)
  8. Change practitioners are capable and willing – Assess practitioners that are supporting the change initiative and leaders.
  9. Risk is identified and analyzed – Collect and prioritize all identified sources of risk. (Read more about change management risk assessment.)
  10. Risk is mitigated effectively – Monitor the progress of action plans that strive to mitigate, avoid or accept risks.
  11. Organization is competent in managing change – Review the organization and change management team to ensure there are the necessary skills, knowledge and resources to effectively manage change.
  12. Project management is effective: Review the organization and project management team to ensure there are the necessary skills, knowledge and resources s to implement the solution.
  13. Decision-making structure is operational: Review the decision-making structure to ensure there is clarity who makes decisions and how issues are elevated.


Organizational change capability

The critical success factors are focused on what is necessary for the success of a project, but they can be used to evaluate an organization’s capability to change.

Organizational change capability means the ability of an organization to plan, design and efficiently implement all types of change, while minimizing potential negative impacts on people and operations. The intent is to achieve the desired business and cultural results from change and deliver maximum ROI.

Building change capability aims to embed the skills, knowledge and processes necessary to strengthen each factor. Alongside the progression of competency, building change capability also develops an organizational culture that strengthens each of the critical success factors.


Subscribe for exclusive insights for change leaders & practitioners 


Related posts

Start with the organizational change capability maturity assessment from LaMarsh Global

Successful organizational change requires two key ingredients: the right solution and the...

Proactive change management is emerging as the key to success in Agile-based projects or...