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6 Change Management Best Practices to Learn from Big Brands

6 Change Management Best Practices to Learn from Big Brands

Whether it’s a process, software or anything else, getting employees and partners to hop aboard a change isn’t easy. As exciting as it might be for some, change can, and most likely will be scary for others. Fostering support and inspiring engagement are crucial for successful change. And with so many moving parts, change management is one of the biggest challenges corporations deal with.

Here are our top six change management best practices.

1. Change might be the best constant in your strategy

Understanding the dynamics of change management is key to its success. Moreover, understanding that change is constant- makes it easier for organizations to be more adaptive and better evolve in accordance with the times.

In 1997 Netflix was launched, offering customers monthly subscriptions so that they could rent movies to be sent to them by mail, rendering the then-norm of charging late-fees irrelevant.

In 2007, Netflix launched its streaming services and ultimately changed the way consumers would watch content online. ‘Netflix-and-Chill’  is the  . Netflix’s innate embrace of change, is what enabled it to disrupt its field, transform and adapt to the digital world, and finally come out a winner. On the flip side of this equation you have Blockbuster. This 90’s behemoth that once dominated the video rental space went bust in 2013 due to its inability to adapt its business model and evolve. Lethargy creates losers.

Understanding that change is imminent and embracing it, is the number one change management best practice, and the hardest to internalize and apply.

2. Create a strong vision

Crafting a strong vision starts with analyzing your company’s needs; what should be streamlined, what should be enhanced.

Bill Clinton understood and applied this in his 1992 presidential campaign against sitting president George H. W. Bush. James Carville, Clinton’s campaign strategist, coined the phrase ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ constantly using it to remind Clinton’s campaign workers what their campaign focus should be about (in addition to ‘change vs. more of the same’ and ‘don’t forget health care’)

Clinton’s campaign leveraged the US economic recession to successfully unseat George H. W. Bush.

While you probably aren’t running for president, it is still imperative that you analyze your company’s needs; identify what should be streamlined, and what should be enhanced. Study the potential challenges this change will lead to, and develop strategy to conquer them. Use these evaluations to outline your goals and create a clear vision. Keep it short and engaging. Try to paint out what is wrong, how you are going to fix it and how the company would look like after the change.

For Clinton, three short phrases summed up a rigorous analysis and well thought-out strategy to rally support around a vision and win the presidency.

3. Define governance and assign roles

Governance is the framework and the set of predetermined processes for making decisions and implementing them. Structures, roles and responsibilities must be established throughout each company tier so that stakeholders are kept engaged.

In 2017, Southwest Airlines rolled out its first uniform update in twenty years. To ensure that the new uniforms were functional and comfortable for employees as well as a proper representation of the brand, the airline created an Employee Design Team that worked with corporate apparel maker Cintas. Once the design was completed, close to 120 employees tested different options over six-months, in order to determine the best fit and functionality. In total, it took three years to complete the update. During this change everyone had a clear role, everyone had clear responsibilities, and everyone was engaged.

Assigning leadership roles at every level is of equal importance. Doing so ensures that committed individuals will influence the rest through example. In having the employee team influence the design, Southwest instantly created a team of 120 committed change ambassadors who then influenced the entire company through example (more on this in 5).

 4. Keep everybody in the loop

In order to drive commitment and support it is crucial employees throughout the company stay updated during every step of the process. This will eliminate the potential issue of employees feeling that they are being kept in the dark, and will foster openness to the process.

Keeping lines of communication open goes a long way in successfully executing a change management process. Create or use an existing platform to keep everyone on the same page – a newsletter, messaging board or a notification tool will do the job.

5. Inspire and motivate Champions

‘Changepions’ as we call them, are the lifeblood of the process. The more stakeholders you can motivate and inspire to get other employees on board, the smoother the process will be. By identifying them and providing them with more engagement and training, you can accelerate the process even more.

Change advocates come in all shapes and sizes: It might be a front-line employee who explains the impact of the change to his colleagues; at times it will be a floor manager who helps an employee to understand how he will benefit from the process; it may also be a leader who sells his team on the process.

Southwest airlines set the bar real high here, as well:

Gary Kelly, the airline’s CEO, gives a personal ‘shout out’ every week to one employee who stood out and went above-and-beyond to provide exceptional customer service. The company’s magazine, Spirit, features a monthly story of an employee who transcended the (exceptionally high) standard of customer service. Lastly, as part of the airline’s efforts to inspire its workforce, internal corporate videos are filled with real examples that help employees understand how they can personally implement the company’s purpose, and how it looks and feels when done right.

6. Constant evaluation and course-correction

‘Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face’. this astute observation, made by former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, holds true in the business world, as well. You can craft a strong vision, process and KPIs, you can define governance and assigned roles, you can keep everybody in the loop and inspire your champions, only to be suddenly blindsided: one of your C-levels resigns, or maybe something the competition does directly affects your change. Real-time tracking and course-correcting will enable you and your organization to swiftly bounce back on your feet and headed toward the desired change.

Change management is constantly changing. As technologies mature and knowledge grows, we will gain new metrics, systems and processes to further improve change management itself. But if there’s one thing you should take from this article is that in the age of data, everything is performance-based, meaning – you will need to measure, analyze and optimize to perfection – ideally in real time.


About Centrical

Centrical is an Employee-centric Performance Management Platform – the “fitness tracker” for the Connected Workforce of the Future.  Centrical empowers employees to boost their work performance through hyper-personalized goals, real time tracking and data-driven feedback and coaching. Deployed with the world’s leading organizations Centrical helps managers drive up employee value day by day. To find out how Centrical can help transform your organization go to or book a live demo.

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